Wednesday, January 1, 2020

GPS Team Challenge 2019

In my recent review of 2019, I did not mention the GPS Team Challenge results for the year - but they deserve mentioning. In the international ranking, our "United Speedsailors of America" team came in 20th among 57 competing teams.

That's our best rank since the team was formed by combining a few smaller teams from all over the USA. One thing that helped the team improve over previous years was that more windsurfers contributed to the monthly scores (where the best results from 2 windsurfers on the same day are ranked against all other teams in 6 categories). We had 10 team members collection the coveted "jelly beans" - definitely a team effort!

There's also a bit of friendly competition within the team, and the GPSTC web site shows individual rankings for the year. Thanks to our fantastic trip to Australia and a nice long distance session in Hatteras, I was able to improve my personal bests (PBs) in all 6 categories in 2019. But that still was not enough to beat Boro in the US rankings for the year:

But I got a couple of first places, and second places in the four other categories, so I'm quite happy with that - especially considering that quite a few of the windsurfers further down in the rankings are much better speedsurfers than I am!

The lovely Nina also improved all her PBs in 2019, which included reclaiming the (unofficial) women's world record for distance. She also got the #2 spot for the most technical speed category, alpha 500 (speed over 500 meters with a jibe in the middle), and #3 and 4 spots in all other categories, with 29 women from all over the world competing in 2019:

That gave her the #1 spot in the yearly overall rankings! While the competition for second to sixth place was close (29 to 33 points), her 16-points total separated her nicely from the other women. Congratulations!

Sunday, December 29, 2019

2019 Review

That's it for 2019 - and it has been since November 12. Due to a couple of trips to Germany (first by me, then by Nina), the windsurfing season ended earlier than in any of the last years, since I started recording sessions in 2009. It will be a few more weeks until we sail again in warmer climates, and this will be the longest break in all those years, too.

But I can't complain. My windsurfing year started with sailing at Fangy's Weed Farm on January 1st, and I managed to squeeze 148 sessions into the shortened year. That includes a few days with more than one session, since I counted most foiling sessions separately. A bit more than a third of the sessions this year were foil sessions - 53 in total.

Learning to foil was definitely one of the highlights of the year, but the bigger one was the trip to Australia. Windsurfing in 20+ knots on perfectly flat water at the Weed Farm, Lilacs, and Lake George was something absolutely unique. Of all the memorable sessions in Oz, the one in Albany when Nina and I set PBs for alphas stands out - here's a picture of Nina jibing:
We did not even have much wind that day - just enough to be nicely powered on 7.0 and the big slalom board. How great this spot can be shows a recent session from the "Pesky Pinnaroos", who set a total of 17 (!) PB there just a week ago. Most of the guys who set PBs have been sailing for many years! One of the guys posted a video from that day:

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Kafka Americano

This is another non-windsurfing post .. although it may well contain some useful information for some of my windsurfing friends in the US, who may find themselves in a similar situation. To those who live in other countries, it might provide a bit of entertainment..

It started simple enough. After returning to the US, I found a letter from the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) that it was time to renew my drivers license, with a strong suggestion to do this online. That had been easy enough in the past - but we live in a new era!

A new, and apparently very important, part of the license renewal is the obligation to provide proof of legal residency. No problem, I thought - I have had US passports for 12 years now, and used my current passport just yesterday to travel back to the US. But things started going wrong after I had entered (and thoroughly double-checked) the information from my passport. I got the message that the verification of my passport had started, and that I should click "Next".

A few "next" buttons and web forms later, I was told that I had "successfully begun the renewal process", and instructed to print out a letter and take it to an RMV office. A section labeled "Documents Required" stated I needed my "US Passport for Lawful Presence Requirement".

Should be easy, I thought. Should be easy, thought the RMV person to whom I handed my passport. She scanned it. Then she scanned it again. Then again. Then she tried typing the information by hand. Only to be told that the passport could not be verified by the system. She tried to send me away without a new drivers license. When I pointed out that this was not an entirely satisfying solution, she handed me off to her supervisor.

The supervisor scanned my passport. And scanned it again. And again. Then she entered the information by hand. But her supervisory powers were insufficient to convince "the system" to verify the passport. When I pointed out that I had used the very same passport just a day earlier to enter the US, she pointed out that there was "no way" to overrule the system. She suggested that I should come back with my Naturalization Certificate.

Remembering what I had learned when reading Kafka in my youth, I understood that I should be happy  (a) to have definitive instructions;  (b) to live just an hour (round trip) from the RMV office; and (c) to have real hope that just one more visit might actually solve the issue! There was absolutely no point in comparing my situation with my wife's situation, who had been able to complete the entire process on the computer within a few minutes.

Thanks to excellent filing skills and driving a bit above the speed limit, I was back in the office before the supervisor could even finish her lunch break. Half an hour later, I walked out of the office with a temporary drivers license and a promise that the new license should arrive in the mail soon. Apparently, "the system" had accepted my Certificate of Naturalization!

A bit of research at home showed that I was definitely not the only person experiencing these problems. The local CBS station reported more than a year ago that "Drivers With New Passports Face Problems Trying To Renew Licenses". They cited an RMV spokesperson stating that "the issue seems to be isolated to passports issued within the last six months". But that was last year. A newer forum post from a software consultant for RMVs stated "any passport issued within the last 15 months is likely not going to verify". My passport was issued 20 months ago - they are not catching up, it seems! Fortunately, my Certificate of Naturalization is 12 years old, and has apparently made it into the USCIS SAVE system that the RMV uses.

So - when does your driver's license expire? If it's anytime soon, get started with the renewal, or at least make sure that you have the required documents. Most windsurfers I know have a passport, but it may not work, especially if it was issued within the last year or two. So make sure that you have one of the other allowed immigration documents handy: your birth certificate if you were born in the US, or a Certificate of Naturalization or similar if you were born in a different country.

I have had a driver's license in Massachusetts for more almost three decades now, so it was a bit annoying to spend half a day trying to renew my drivers license. But that's pretty minor compared to what some immigrants with temporary legal status experienced when trying to renew their commercial driver's licenses, as reported by the CommonWealth Journal. So I guess I'll have to count myself lucky!

Saturday, November 30, 2019


Please note: this is a personal post, not a windsurfing post. 
Time has come to say goodbye. More than 60 years have passed since this picture was taken. In my eyes, her beauty that is so obvious in this picture never waned, it only matured. Even when she was in her high 70s, comments how good and healthy she looked were common. Very few knew the true story.

She raised 4 children, sending them all to college. The first-born became a social worker, helping those in need. The second one became the first doctor in the family, as she often proudly pointed out. He was the one who flew away as soon as he was 18 - first to study at the other end of Germany, and then to the US, where he learned and turned - from a scientist into an entrepreneur. The third child, often a trouble maker as a teen, became CEO of a public company. The fourth child studied medicine and became head of a well respect child psychiatric hospital. As her children grew older and eventually left home, she devoted her energy to social efforts through her church.

Her health troubles started before the fourth child was even born. I remember many times where she was in the hospital, often for surgery. She ignored her illness as much as possible; I don't recall ever hearing or seeing her suffer until I was well past 30 years old. When her husband got sick before he turned 60, she stood by his side for the many years of decline. But seeing him suffer, and (in the final months) coming home to the empty house they had built together, took its toll: she developed diabetes. For decades, ignoring her health problems had worked well, but for diabetes, that was the wrong strategy. So she became a dialysis patient. Her hope had always been to make it to her 50th birthday; she was almost 75 when the dialysis started.

By now, her list of medications had grown to two dozens, including opiates to fight the constant nerve pain that was the consequence of other drugs, and had caused her to loose all feeling in her feet. That made dialysis, which is never easy, even harder for her. But she concentrated on the 4 other days per week. Long trips, which she had enjoyed her entire life, were out of question now, but she enjoyed her frequent trips to picturesque nearby towns, or to the theater. Even several falls that led to broken bones slowed her down only temporarily.

Last summer, she finally received medication that made her original illness almost disappear. Encouraged, but also worn out by three days of dialysis per week, she entered the waiting list for a kidney transplant. New plans were made for trips to the Baltic Sea and to the US, pending a donor match and one more surgery. But at the same time, her general health declined. Pneumonia and shortness of breath set in, with regular extended visits at the university hospital where she received the best possible care.

After a final visit to her favorite town with her dear friend, our former priest, she fell while getting out of the car. She still drove home afterwards; went to dialysis as usual the next morning; and wanted to go back home, as usual, too. But the doctors ordered a CT scan, and initiated an emergency surgery to stop bleeding from the fall. The surgery went well, and she was talking again the day after. But then, pneumonia and sepsis set it, and she slipped into a coma. 

The doctors managed to fight the infection, and she regained consciousness several days later. Her  children and grand children were at her bed every day; even "the American" and his daughter had come to be at her side. Her condition improved to the point were she was able to breathe without machine help for part of the day, and where she could answer questions with nods and head shakes. But the final ordeal had used up all of her reserves. After the initial improvement, she started being more and more tired; sleeping more and more; and needing more machine help to keep breathing.

She had often made it clear that she did not want to prolong the final stages of her life. In her living will ("Patientenverf├╝gung"), she had declined to be kept alive by artificial breathing and nutrition. When the doctors had originally intubated her, if was an immediate life-or-death situation, with definite hope for a full recovery. However, after three weeks in intensive care, this hope was almost gone. Was time to respect her wishes, and let her go? 
I wrote the above 3 years ago. We did not know then that she had contracted influenza in the hospital - one more infection that often kills, but which she beat. She fully recovered, and was back home a couple of months later.

She continued to enjoy life even as her health continued to worsen. Over the last years of her life, she had several more falls, which required a shoulder and a hip replacement. When I came to visit her two weeks ago, both of these needed to be replaced again, but her poor overall health would have made any major surgery extremely risky, and prospects for another full recovery extremely poor.

Pain had been a constant companion for my mother for decades. The opiates that she had taken for more than 15 years just barely managed to control it. But in the last few months, she enjoyed a relatively painless time thanks to medical THC, for which she was very grateful. However, after 8 years on dialysis, her body had become too weak to handle it anymore. On the morning after her final dialysis treatment, she awoke early from pain, and neither opiate pills nor THC drops helped. It took a visit by a palliative care doctor and injections of stronger opiates and tranquilizer to let her sleep. A day later, she made the final decision to stop dialysis. In this, she had the full support of her various doctors and her family.

As the news of her decision spread, many of her friends stopped by or called to say goodbye. We had a big family gathering with all her 4 kids, two grand children, and a few more family members the following Saturday, which she (and we) enjoyed very much. The support of the palliative care team helped to keep her last days free from pain. She passed away in her sleep in the night from Monday to Tuesday. 

Her four children all experienced her differently, and formed their own image of her. But she was very much loved by all of them. I will remember her as a loving and caring person, and as the strongest woman I know. Goodbye, mom.