JCL Blog

More Fun than Ever

I started racing sailboats when I was eight years old.  All I needed to do was start, and the rest took care of itself.  I wanted to sail all of the time and I pretty much did that with the exception of a short time when I lived in Spokane -- where there was very little sailboat racing going on.

Motivation is easy when you are doing what you love to do.

Later in life I took some time off from sailboat racing and before I new it more than 10 years had gone by.  I just woke up one day and realized that I was not doing what I loved to do, so I went out and got a little boat and started learning how to race again.  Now I am having more fun than ever, even though I am really not very good anymore.  A few weekends ago, while doing our best to finish something other than last, I turned to Lindsey and said that this was the most fun I had had in a very long time.

No matter how busy you are, time continues to tick away.

(In case you are wondering, this picture is not of Lindsey and me because we don't have a picture of us sailing yet.  Soon though.)

Anyway, this kind of thing seems to be happening in other parts of my life too.  I started my company some 16 years ago and it was a blast.  It was all I could think about and the team was great and the problems were huge and we had more fun than ever.  We learned new things, did our best, and the company grew and we did too.  

Lately, I have been thinking alot about new things and how much fun they are to start.  Right now I am working on a new project with my daughter and it too is more fun than ever.  She is super smart, fun to be around and every day is a thrill.  Each day the time zips by and at the end I cannot wait for the next day to start.  

Always work with people you like to be around.

In all of my adventures there have been wonderful people that have put in tremendous effort and I owe each of them for making things possible.  They inspired me to be my best, taught me new things, and propelled me forward.  

There is no way to get there by yourself.

How Much to Pay the Guy Driving

It is interesting how humans adapt to systems and even more interesting when you consider that humans created the systems.  The idea I outline here has a remarkable parallel in Jaron Lanier’s thoughts about how people react to computers.   It also may translate into thoughts about how much we pay CEOs.

Years ago in sailboat racing there was the International Offshore Rule.  The IOR rule was, like all of the rating rules before and hence, intended to be a fair way to handicap boats that were different so they could race against each other.  And racing rules like the IOR go through a predictable cycle just like businesses and cause people who think they are rational to do the most irrational things.  I submit that the phases for sailboat rating rules are invention, adoption, popularity, optimization, insanity, and retirement; and bear a fair amount of similarity to business cycles.


  1. Invention happens about the same time the prior rule is in the insanity phase and one person wakes up one day and says that the current way of doing things is crazy and there has to be a better way.
  2. Adoption is when that one person comes up with a better way and convinces others to follow.  Of course a better rating rule is no good to one person because the whole idea is to race against other people and without others – there is no point.
  3. Popularity comes about when enough people defect from the old rule to the new rule (in sailing this is usually a process of getting your boat measured so you can get the new rating number, and then switching to sail in races governed by the new rule instead of the old one).
  4. Optimization happens as the stakes get higher.  Now that a lot of people are sailing under the new rule and their natural competitiveness causes them to make changes to their boats to improve their ratings.  The funny thing about this is often the changes make the boats slower or more difficult to handle but the rating benefit more than offsets the performance handicap.  That is right, racing sailboat owners voluntarily make their boats slower in order to be more competitive. 
  5. Insanity comes at the extreme end of this cycle when people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to have new boats build with extraordinary shortcomings that could only be induced by the rating rule itself.  Strangely, and presumably for the same reasons that Jr. High boys find the outcome of flushing bleach down the toilet an irresistible attraction, this insanity phase can last for some time.  Eventually though the seeds are sown for next rating rule and usually by someone we usually brand as a geek.
  6. Retirement of the old rule happens as the new rule gets to the popularity phase.


Followers of Schumpeter would call this a healthy market and a productive use of resources in the pursuit of higher performance.  And they could be right.  The most insane of the boats under the old rule really cannot convert to the new rule and get sold to outlying markets where the old rule has not yet run its course.  Depending on how insane the insanity was there is a reasonable counterargument that the resources invested at the end of the cycle do not produce anything useful – excepting maybe creating a fertile environment for the new rule.

During the insane period of the IOR era the custom built boats had a distinct hollow section in the shape of their hulls where the measurements were taken that sucked the boat down into the water - so the boats were very squirrelly sailing downwind when it was windy.  This hollow section and other elements of the rule induced the designers to put up massive amounts of sail area downwind with oversized spinnakers.  So here you are going downwind in heavy wind with these giant sails pulling the boat forward while the back of the boat is getting sucked into the water by the hollow section and the combination would induce a death dance of wild rolls from one side to the other - and yes you can put the mast of a 15 ton racing sailboat into the water rather decisively.

There were only a few people on the planet that had the right combination of skill and bravado to drive one of these boats downwind in a breeze.  You had to steer very aggressively and often times at the end of a roll, right before you could wipe out, the rudder would start to lose its effectiveness and the best thing to do was just let go, watch the wheel spin wildly and then decisively grab the wheel to reestablish flow over the rudder and send you down the next wave – if you were lucky.  It was quite a thrill and even with the reverence in the business for accomplished downwind IOR helmsmen, most people were quite glad not to be driving. The strange thing is that the properly designed boats with clean lines needed less sail area, stepped up on a plane going downwind in a breeze, and actually got more stable.  And they could be driven by mere mortals and with very little drama. So, who should get paid more, that crazy guy in the IOR boat driving like a madman while everyone else holds on for dear life, or the guy in the properly designed boat with almost no visible effort and the hearts of his crew beating hard because of the thrill and not the terror? 

Bear in mind that when the IOR boat wipes out the race is pretty much over, and some big checks are going to have to be written to sail makers and the boatyard.  And the boat not designed to the IOR rule?  It would actually be going considerably faster through the water. This is why we pay CEOs so much these days – let’s hope someone invents a new rule soon and makes their skills obsolete.

America's Cup is Not the Top of the Sport

Throughout my life I have been enthralled with sailboat racing.  At times I have been consumed by it.  Lately not so much due to other interests.  

I will be watching the Americas Cup on Monday, but for all of you that do not follow the sport, please do not judge us by this spectacle.   Some of our sport's greats have been drawn into the fray -- I suspect because of the big money.  Russel Coutts, John Kostecki, and other true greats are competing.  But if you want to see who is who in sailing -- check the list of gold medal winners in the Olympics.  

The Americas Cup is a circus act.  Too weird to look away -- but not a representation of the sport of sailboat racing.