Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Musings on the RS300 Winter Championships

Last weekend saw the final 2013 event in the RS300 calendar with the Winter Championships at Aldenham SC, near Watford, with 13 boats competing.  It was an interesting weekend, so I thought I'd post a few musings on the sailing.

Aldenham SC is a relatively small reservoir, and has a well established fleet of 300s, the majority of whom are keen sailors and make the effort to travel to events.  So when they have an open meeting I try and make the effort to get along, if not only to see the look on Tim Keen's (one of our Northern brethren) face when he sees how much the local pub charges for a pint.

A little about the venue.  To say that the lake is shifty and patchy would be somewhat of an understatement.  Several times this weekend, I was within 10 meters of a boat that was being lifted/headed by 30 degrees.  This made the racing interesting, as you could never count on keeping a lead, or to put it a different way, there were always opportunities to catch up and overtake.  You didn't just worry about the two boats ahead/behind, you had to worry about the positioning of the whole fleet all the time.

Some personal observations on the event:

- Small lake sailing is an art.  The conditions emphasize the need for exemplary boat handling and continually changing rig set up.  This tends to keep your head in the boat, but unfortunately you need to be fully focussed on whats happening (or about to happen) on the race course. So a small shifty venue, whilst initially a little frustrating, can be an excellent way to improve skills.

- Never ever give up.  I was fortunate enough to win a race, and even more fortunate in the way it happened.  After a mediocre start, and relatively poor first lap, I rounded in sixth and ended up in a personal lift that took me to second at the windward mark.  After that I managed to sneak through into first and held till the end.  So more reinforcement on the never, ever giving up bit.  And getting frustrated is a waste of time.

- Close sailing is great fun.  This weekend was the closest racing I've had in the 300, every mark rounding and leg was in close proximity to other boats.   The fleet are a generally friendly bunch and experienced sailors, there is little in the way of unnecessary shouting, and the spirit of good sportsmanship is alive and well.  People even do turns!

- There was very little variance in boat speed across the fleet, although Harry - who won the event - did seem to have an edge on the Saturday. 

I ended up 3rd, on a (7), 5, 4, 3, 3, 2, 1 scoreline, and I'm pleased with the result.  I was beaten by better sailors, and need to get to work on the skills that make lake sailing fun.  Next event at Sheffield Viking, which I understand is not dissimilar to Aldenham (but properly North, and a little bigger), for the 2014 Winter Championships!

Monday, 2 December 2013

More light wind Hare and Hounds

Yet another light wind for the latest in our Hare and Hound series, and again a Northerly offshore fickle affair.  I thought the 09:45 start time would put some off, but we still had a turnout of 32 which is not at all bad for an early Sunday morning.

My race didn't start well.  I got the tide time mixed up with the race start time, and consequently rocked up at the club with 20 minutes to the start, unrigged and unchanged.  After Claire and Matt had stopped laughing, they were very helpful in sorting out my boat whilst I got changed, and I made it to the start line with plenty to spare.  The first start was recalled, and so I had time to settle down before the off.

In terms of the racing, it was a day for the assymetrics.  Lots of offwind kite work in light breeze, we waved good bye at the start and I got close to the lead boats again.

Some good performances this week:

- Dave Cooper and Ed Parker-Jervis make a superb start in their ISO, punch clear of the fleet, and never look back.  3rd overall, an excellent result.

- Matt and Claire also make the best of the start and just managed to keep their noses in front and wind clear.  Another race win for their 400, again by a good margin.  Phantom is now buried in TISC dinghy park for good I think.

- HMS Stratos places second, with Capt Excell at the wheel and First Mate Goldfarb sweating the sheets.  And that's with full rations and rum piped on board before the start (the livestock was left dockside, this wasn't a down harbour race).  Excellent result.

- The 200s place well.  Paul and Caroline take 4th, but a special mention to Jonny and Barbara in their new 200, 5th place, and just 9 seconds behind the Fisks. 

- In a mirror image of last weeks race, we have an ISO OCS, this time on a black flag.  Shrieks of jubilation could be heard from the race box, which contained the recipients of the last ISO OCS (shrieks could not really be heard, I'm making that up (mostly)).  Not good news for Andy and Jamie, but they sailed the course anyway and looked to have great boat speed.

My race was OK, 6th overall.  Started at the most congested end of the line, reasonable start, but rolled by a number of assymetrics upwind.  Would have been better starting mid line with clearer wind, but the objective is to practice congested starts.  Felt quick enough around the course, it just wasn't the course or conditions for single sailed single handers I think.  Enjoyed it though, and wasn't too physical so managed to get out biking with Lillywhite later in the day.

Some good results for slipper this week, with five boats in the first six places.  Hopefully Dinghy-Secretary-Claire will be less stroppy about my going to the 300 Winter Championships this coming weekend!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Hare and Hounds 6 - Carnage on the start line and windward leg

Very different conditions for racing on Sunday, a northerly offshore wind which was very gusty and shifty.  But that didn't put off the 44 boats from taking to the water for the latest in the series.

The start of the race was interesting.  A combination of a short biased line, a short windward leg, 44 boats and a floating jetty, led to some very close quarter action for the first leg of the race.  It transpires that the start was caught on camera, just too many boats in too small a space.  We need to have a think about whether this is working for the fleet.

Anyway, some observations from the racing and results:

- Dave Acres showed a clean set of heels to the rest of the fleet, winning in his RS300 by a good margin.  Never looked in doubt after a cleanish start and good first leg, nice sailing.

- Paul and Caroline Fisk again showed continued consistency in their RS200, taking second place.  Great boat speed.  Paul and Caroline and now tied in first place with Dave for the Saturday series.

- The Commodore compounds his no-show last week with an OCS this week.  Not to mention giving his crew a trip round the forestay on the trapeze wire, as they hit a bank at 15 knots. Twice.

- Great to see three Lasers in the top ten, headed by Max Jones in 4th place.  I've always thought that the Laser has relatively harsh handicap for our sailing area (not that I'd ever publicly declare it), its pleasing to see the guys bang in some good results.

- Alex Thorsby and Tom Kennedy team up to try and work out how to rig a kite on a 400.  But once on the water their racecraft would have had them in the top 5 if they weren't OCS.  Just alongside Tim and Mel in their 400, also OCS.   And Jim and Simon in their Lasers, pushing the line a little hard guys.

I had a race to forget:

1. Terrible start.  Stuck with the new philosophy of starting at the busiest end and cocked it up massively.  Philosophy about to change I think.
2. Poor rig set up.  The wind at the top of the course was light, down towards Tye there were some meaty gusts coming through.  I neglected to increase vang as I went down the 1.5 mile run, and as a consequence capsized to windward, nearly spearing Mark and Mike in their 400 (who seemed to find the whole thing hilarious, I was bricking it).
3. Generally felt slow offwind and upwind.
4. Tried to foot through Hugh at the start of the final leg.  Big mistake.  Footing through a crew that is 15-20 kg heavier in a force 4-5 is never going to work.
5.  Ended up 5th of 44, which sounds alright, but didn't feel like a good race at all.  Result made respectable by all the OCSing of others I think.  

All of this is the fault of Claire, who made me go to a Chi Harbour Federation meeting on Friday, and forced me to drink all the free wine.  So the lesson from this race is (i) don't go out with Claire, and (ii) don't expect to do well on a hangover!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Hare and Hounds 4 - light winds, but good racing

So much to reflect on after the most recent in the Hare and Hounds series. 

Typical for Autumn weather, its either all or nothing.  Last weekend one of the races was cancelled due to 40 knots gusts (some still wanted to race), this Saturday was cancelled due to 0 knots of wind (predictably some still wanted to race).  But on Sunday there was a light offshore breeze, and after consultation with the fleet the Race Officer decided to send us out.  By the start of racing, we had a relatively consistent force 1-2, plenty to race, the whole exercise was about staying in bands and patches of wind, and staying free of other competitors.

Some observations from the race and results:

- Excellent start and result for Jonny and Barbara in their RS200, 3rd overall.  The wind was flicking about at the start, and changed the bias on the line with a minute or so to go.  Jonny and Barbara spotted this and crossed the fleet on port, leading the way to the windward mark.  Great racing.

- Great to see youth representation in the fleet with Freya and Amber finishing 15th of 27 in their Feva.  We had a relatively short triangular lap course, and could hear animated conversation and laughing from the Feva from start to finish!

- Andy Gould rocks out in his new 300.  Very difficult conditions for the 300, its unstable and unforgiving  in light winds and a continual balancing act.  Not the best result that Andy has ever had, but that will soon change.  Clearly he needs time to adjust to sailing a boat with a proper handicap.   And needs to stop all this nonsense talk of a Musto Skiff.

- Hugh Kennedy has been working on fitness and weight over the past few months, and it certainly showed in boat speed today.  Offwind speed in his 300 was bordering on offensive, the first time in a while that someone has pulled 50 yards out of me offwind in a F1-2.

- The Hare and Hounds is an inter-club competition, and it is great when all areas of the fleet pull together to represent Slipper.  So a little disappointing to see the Commodore of the club (and his sailing First Lady Emma) attempting to influence the RO to cancel, and then for a full English instead of sailing!  More commitment needed I think, and perhaps a point that I shall be raising at the AGM next month.

- Matt and training-partner-Claire take the race by over a minute on handicap, the 400 flies in the lighter breezes, and they were sailing the boat well.  But this particular boat does need to get to grips with rule 20, and the definition of an obstruction. (and the rest of the 2013 rulebook for that matter, quoting rules from the 80s is getting quite tiresome!). 

My race was interesting.  At the RS End of Season Championships earlier this month, I decided that my starts need some work, they weren't horrendous but they weren't consistently good either.  One way to deal with this is to try new things in club racing, and I've resolved to start at most crowded end of the line irrespective of which part of the line I think is favoured - I just want to practice winning the start in a melee of boats.  The start of this race was interesting, as the pin end buoy was a boat length behind the line, I was able to tack in from port in front of the fleet 5 seconds before the gun and start a boat length in front.  Matt was just so pleased for me in his 400, congratulating the fine start for the first 100 yards of the beat.  I thought I was most likely OCS, but turns out I wasn't.  I've set a target of being OCS in a couple of races, just to give myself the incentive to push the line.  Anyway, the start was good.

In terms of the rest of the race, it was all about keeping clear air, keeping in tide, and finding the patches and bands of wind.  Not the most tactical of races, but pleased with boat handling and being able to keep my head out the boat.  And what better way to spend a Sunday morning.

Next race is on Saturday, and its not going to be a F1-2, winter weather is approaching.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Time to get back on the horse

So it is Hare and Hounds time again at the club, given that this blog started with the H&H last year I thought I'd maybe revive it for the racing this year.  But first a summary of the last 4 months.  Since my last post, I have:

1.  Been beaten into submission by the water state (and better sailors) at Stokes Bay for the 300 nationals.  Nearly sold the boat.  Dave Acres sailed an excellent series to win the nationals, great for our local fleet.
2.  Been beaten into submission by the shifty lake conditions (and better sailors) at the RS End Of Season championships.
3.  Been beaten into submission by Vicky Gould for considering a Streaker as a second boat (something I might still do).
4.  Taken up mountain biking, great sport, but there are too many here that are too good at the downhill.
5.  Been windsurfing a lot.  It has been properly windy over the past couple of months.

But on the whole an excellent summer and a good start to the autumn.  3rd race in the H&H series on Saturday, I might post a runners and riders post before that.

Finally, is that Andy Gould I spy in a new 300?  A welcome addition to the fleet.  Book your seats on the millpond wall for the first f5/6 SW.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Training-partner-Claire dislocates shoulder in bizarre gybing incident

The motivation to blog is a fickle mistress, but several things this weekend provided the impetus to pen a few musings:

1.  Claire dislocated her shoulder, crewing an ISO.  And it had nothing to do with the helm.
2.  Finn Junior European champion Pete McCoy comes back to his home club to sail a 400 with the legendary jager-bomb-consumer that is Alex Thorsby.
3.  We had the longest race of the year, taking in all major channels in Chichester harbour.

All of the action this weekend happened in the Whitaker Cup, run by Emsworth SC on Sunday morning.  The race involves a course that takes in all channels in the harbour, including Thorney and Itchenor.  The first leg of the course was a 45 minutes beat, of which 30 minutes was on starboard, after which my legs had pretty much given up.  The rest was upwind/downwind, not nice in a single sail boat.

Claire was sailing with Andy Gould in his ISO, and looked to be having a great race until they reached 'Star' in Thorney channel.  Half way through a gybe Claire fell awkwardly and her shoulder dislocated.  Fortunately a patrol boat was on hand to take her back to the club, and even more fortunately a doctor happened to be on the foreshore.  He has apparently relocated a shoulder many times before, and did so for Claire as soon as she stepped ashore.  I spoke with Claire later in the day, and despite the medicinal white wine consumption established that she is OK, but consigned to light sailing duties for the next month or so.  If anyone knows who the ginger haired doctor is, please comment - Claire wants to say thank you.

Pete McCoy started sailing at Slipper and is now in the Olympic Development Squad in his Finn.  He posted 23rd in the recent Finn Europeans, and was first Junior (which I think is under-21).  Anyway all of that Finn sailing was clearly preparation for the club sailing on Sunday, which saw him pitch up in a 400 with local helm Alex Thorsby.  It is great to see sailors come through the junior and youth sailing schemes at the club, and still make the time to come club racing, it gives a nice mix to the fleet.  I note that the Thorsby/McCoy combo chose the demonstrate the latest thinking in lee shore landing technique :

I can only assume one of the following scenarios:

1.  Space in the boat park is at such a premium that some boats must now moor with the tenders on the fringes of the harbour.  And an arcane Harbour Byelaw means that they must be left with sails up.
2.  The boat was still full of water from the capsize after the finish, making steerage difficult.
3.  Alex was still slightly jager-bombed from Saturday night, and mistook a group of 20 tenders for a shingle foreshore.

My race was good.  Dave was out in his 300 and we exchanged the lead several times through the race.  He pipped me by 2 seconds at the finish in a 2 hour 11 minute race and took a deserved win in the 300 fleet, but I'm happy with my result given the f4-5 wind.