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.

Friday, 19 July 2013

The 10 month itch

So not many posts from me recently, for some reason after 10 months of solid posting I appear to have lost my blogging mojo.  Certainly there has been lots of sailing:

- The Slipper Junior Regatta.  95 children on the water, 60 adults helping, 25 children in their first ever race. 
- Lots of club racing, mini-series, handicap racing
- Another visit to TSC, racing in F1 in 4 knots of tide (not my finest race!)
- Lots of training

But I have lost the motivation to blog, and not quite sure why.  So maybe I'll take a few months off and see if the appetite to blog returns.

I wonder if other bloggers have similar dips in motivation, I'm sure Tillerman can provide perspective on the issue!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Windy Junior Training at Slipper

Today the older Juniors took to the water for some training in a testing force 6.  Some of the adults were out racing and clearly finding the conditions a challenge, I noticed the legend that is training-partner-Claire coming back with a liberal coating of Sweare Deep mud at the top of her 4.7 rig!

Anyway, here is a little vid of the juniors ripping it up in the Little Deep area. 


Some highlights:

- Note how controlled Josiah and Finley are in the Teras, whilst beam reaching to the training area.  Nice flat boats and good technique. 
- The Toppers can be a real handful in the stronger winds, and they are difficult to tack in the choppy waters.  But Finley, Amber and Jessica did fantastically well, and at times were outrunning the ribs!
- The Feva is being sailed nice and flat, those guys are hiking to the max.  No lack of effort in that boat, going nicely quick.
- Lots of capsizes, but that's to be expected when sailing in such testing conditions. 

Well done to all those who went out, and thanks to Jemma-the-cameragirl today.  Hopefully we'll get more footage of the other sailors next week!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The first starts for our FNO junior sailors

Every week in the sailing season, our club runs three training sessions for the juniors in the club - Friday Night Oppies (FNO), Sunday Morning Oppies (SMO) and Sunday on the Tides.  Overall there is about 120 juniors in training, and a huge number of volunteers who instruct, provide patrol boat cover, and perform many other jobs to make it happen. 

This year, I'm the SI for FNO fleet, and also instruct the 'Start Racing at Slipper' group.  These are children who have passed their RYA Stage 2 and are looking to get involved in some racing with their peers at the Junior Regatta in a couple of weeks.  This week, we looked at starting, and I promised to put a video of their starts online.  So here is the first one, this is the first ever start for these sailors and they did fantastically well.

After lots of practice, here is the last start of the day.  Check out the competition at the pin end of the line, when Haribo's are involved those sailors are epic.

This group clearly has talent, when one of them becomes the next Ben Ainslie this footage will be gold dust.

Friday, 21 June 2013

More evening racing at TISC

As we were taking our boats down the slipway to launch I was heartened to hear some of the other sailors  discussing aspects of sailing psychology prior to the race:

Hugh : "Honestly Tim, I can't get my arousal levels high enough for a light wind race.  I feel like I'm disadvantaged from the start, despite trying all the techniques outlined in the excellent book by Derbyshire et al. Perhaps I need to develop some meditation techniques.".
Tim : "Its difficult in the 100 as well Hugh.  Arousal levels are disappointingly low until I get the kite up downwind, and then I find the levels so high that they are difficult to manage."

It is good to know that my musings here are relevant to other sailors in the fleet, although I think training-partner-Claire will not be happy.

So Thursday night we had a shifty F1-2 SW that looked that it could die at any moment.  The RO set a short course, the first leg being a beat/close reach against the full flood of the tide.  At the start the fleet split into two along each side of the channel, and the first lesson of the day was learnt - it pays to start at the pin end of the line.  The guys that started there were definitely advantaged.

Bryan and Sarah are relatively new to their 400, but had an excellent race to finish second overall.  A healthy lead over the first leg was nearly relinquished with an early tack into the tide an East Head, but they held their nerve and were first 400 home, showing good boat speed offwind. Tim had a great start in his 100, but fell slightly behind on the upwind legs.  Once the kite was up he tore home and scored a creditable 3rd place (not really the conditions for the 100 handicap I suspect).  For the slower boats like the 2000's it was a difficult race due to the flooding tide - beating against the tide in light winds gives no chance on handicap.

I thought twice about sailing because of the light winds, but I'm glad I did - as repeated so often on this blog, there is no better way to survive a working week than evening sailing.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Evening racing at Slipper

After the intense racing at the weekend, it was good to get back to Slipper for a quiet evening race. Or so I thought, a F4-6 offshore NE and 18 other boats made for less than quiet racing!

Northerly starts at the club always involve a short 40m beat to the first mark, and it is always a starboard rounding.  The short beat means that the majority of the fleet all converge on the mark within 20 seconds or so, and port/starboard and 'no tacking in my water' rules come sharply into focus.  Of course this invariably means that many sailors are letting others know of their position vis-a-vis the rules, and I'd be surprised if the shouts coming from the Stratos couldn't be heard in Southampton!

Some excellent performances:

- Sam Tweedle won the race in his Radial, and very well deserved.  He dominated the pin end at the start, had great speed all round the course and took the win by 5 seconds on corrected time.  I get the impression that this may be a common result in times ahead, the rest of us need to up our game!
- Matt Johnston was out in his Phantom, and despite an absolutely appalling start worked his way into second place on corrected time.   Good to see Matt getting to grips with the boat, but needs to work on cruiser avoidance.  And being near the line at the start.  ;-).
- Stalwart of the Laser fleet John Fifield was in attendence and placed 4th, despite a quick dip at a windward mark.  Excellent result.
- John Excel and Patrick Bapty powered their way to 5th place in their Stratos, with an impressive start and first beat, and good offwind speed.  And a thorough knowledge and enforcement of the rules approaching windward starboard rounding!
- A great result for Helen Weekes in her 4.7 placing 7th overall - it was very windy down at Sweare Deep and Helen was flying on the reaches.
- And finally a quick mention for the dream team of Alex and Barnaby Thorsby who made a guest appearance in their 400.  Spinnaker problems meant that they lost time mid-race, but otherwise that boat was flat and fast.  And full of performance improving pretzels.

My race was mixed, good start and first leg but managed to capsize just after the first windward mark in a particularly spiky gust.  But remembered to NEGU and made it through the fleet to finish 3rd on corrected time, just behind Matt and Sam.  Very close racing with Matt, the boats are very similar speeds, apart from dead downwind where the 300 has an edge (something I suspect will change as Matt gets more time in the boat). 

There is no substitute for club racing midweek, we are so fortunate.  Maybe time to join the social sailors this evening for a quick practice session if anyone fancies it.

Monday, 17 June 2013

RS300 Sprints at Rutland :

This weekend I traveled to Rutland SC for my second 300 event of the year: the Sprints.

The format for the Sprints is unusual.  The first day is all about seeding for the second day.  The sailors are split into fleets of 6-8 boats, and sail two rounds of 4 races each.  The results are used to determine the fleets for the second day (Gold and Silver), and do not count towards the finals.

The racing is full on, with lots of short intense races.  As soon as a race completes, there is a short respite of 5-10 minutes before the preparatory signal for the start of the next race.  The race course is very busy, this weekend we had 21 RS200s, 15 RS400s, 16 RS300s and 3 RS100s all on the same track.  Lots of interesting encounters with the other fleets, and confused chop everywhere.

Saturday was properly windy, f5-6 for the most part but with the occasional squall beyond that.  Some of the 300 fleet found the conditions too much, and opted to sit out some of the racing.  The final race of the morning saw an enormous squall hit on the final run, certainly too much for me (but persevered to finish 4th in the race).  Somewhat battered, we came in for lunch and the wind die to a very pleasant f3 and sunshine!  But as is often the way with these things, as soon as we got back on the water the wind piped back up to similar levels to the morning, and we ground out another 4 races.  Everyone was thankful to get to the pub in the evening.

Sunday was better weather-wise.  A very shifty F3-4, bright sunshine, beautiful conditions.  6 races back to back with 10 mins between.

So the objective for Saturday was to qualify for the 'Gold' fleet, by finishing in the top 4 of the fleet.  Managed this OK, finishing 4th in my fleet.  Given the windy conditions I was pleased, and frankly just happy to get round the course in one piece.

Sunday was more interesting.  The 'Gold' fleet was probably the most competitive fleet I've ever sailed in, the fleet (myself excepted!) are experienced and skillful 300 sailors who have placed well at a national level.  The race was determined by the start and first beat and I had my arse handed to me on almost every race!  Ended up scoring 8,7,4,6,4,6 and placing 7th overall with 35 points.  The shifty conditions made for a high scoring regatta, with 3rd to 8th separated by 10 points.

- Overall, the weekend reinforced the amount of practice and racing that I need to do!  The better sailors in the fleet were quicker and tactically more savvy.   Time to re-evaluate what is required from training I think. 
- The racing was very close, with all boats finishing a race within 30 seconds on some races.  So small increments in speed or tactics could make a significant difference in placing, which is heartening.
- I can forget the concerns about being one of the lighter guys in the fleet.  The difference to the fleet leaders was the similar in the strong and light winds. Technique is the dominant factor, not weight.
- Pleased with fitness, not tired today and probably sailing tonight if I can get a pass.

Points for reflection:
- Thought I was quick before the weekend - I'm not quick!  But not miles off the pace.  Tim Keen in particular had great pace and height upwind. Matt Sharman was just lightening downwind, and overtook me to leeward twice!
- Thought I was OK at starting before the weekend - I'm not!  The pin end was favoured for many starts, and I lost count of the number of times Steve Bolland got under me with 20 seconds to go.  Also, the other guys had better pace off the line.  Losing half a boat length on the line equated to 7 places as you were spat out the back of the fleet.
- Didn't get to grips with the shifty conditions.  But the top guys did, the top two were always in the leading pack.

Overall a bit of a learning experience, its the most intense and competitive sailing regatta I think I've done, thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and the company of the 300 fleet, they are a great bunch.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

300 Log: Never, ever give up

I read somewhere recently (I think it might have been Y&Y) of a sailor who had NEGU written on the boat, just as a reminder that anything can happen in a race and its not over till its over. 

On Saturday we had a race in an offshore f4-6, with big unpredictable gusts coming off the land.  I knew it would be a challenge when I was running to the start line, a particularly vicious offering just flattened the boat (despite trying to bear away with it etc, this was just a slam dunk in a micro second).  So I needed a bit of a dose of NEGU before getting to the start line, let alone during the race!

A lot of the 300 events are inland on lakes, so getting used to this type of conditions is to be welcomed, but I have to say its difficult to be positive whilst clearing salt water from the sinuses.

Date: 8th June
Venue : Slipper
Race : Handicap race, about an hour
Tide : Flooding
Conditions : F4-6 gusty NE, wind over tide chop.
Result : 3rd of 20

- Good start, especially as I was trying to fix elastic on the boat with 1.5 minutes to go.  Managed to be first off the line at the favoured end, and pulled out a small lead by the first windward mark.  Could tack without impeding the boats behind (it was a short leg with a port rounding, always interesting).
- Managed to stay in a positive state of mind despite a pretty awful first three legs.
- Downwind in the consistent strong wind in the channel was fast with no dicey moments.

Points for reflection:
- 2x capsizes on the first long downwind leg (approx. 2 miles), both when a strong heading gust hit the boat.  Tried the '4th dimension' bear away to fully by the lee but to no avail, the boat was in charge!  Not sure whether to be concerned or not,  be will try and find similar conditions for a practice day (maybe today actually).
- I knew the cockpit of the boat needed re-waxing before sailing and didn't make the time to do it.  Slipping all over the place in the boat.  Not good and avoidable.
- Will need to spend some time writing down the setting for the new boom, it feels a bit more sensitive to small adjustments given the reduced travel on the mast.

Jonny will have won the race in his Laser 2000 (not sure who was crewing, it wasn't Barbara), he sailed a very consistent race and I'd be surprised if he didn't have a huge winning margin on handicap.  There was also a well sailed 200 at the head of the fleet, who managed to fly the kite on some very marginal reaches, I suspect 2nd place and very well deserved. 

Stayed out to practice for an hour after the race as a penance for the two capsizes, lots of windy gybes and downwind work, very enjoyable.   No racing today, but some wind for a practice.  Then off to the next 300 event next weekend, lets hope some of this high pressure wind stays for the Sprints.

Friday, 7 June 2013

300 log: Champagne sailing at TISC

Date: 6th June
Venue : TISC
Race : Evening handicap race, about an hour
Tide : Flooding
Conditions : F4-5 gusty NE, flattish water in the Thorney channel, but reasonable chop in the main harbour (wind over tide).  Bow burying completely upwind.
Result : Might have sneaked 1st of about 12, 1st 300 of 3. And remembered to sign on!

Fantastic sailing conditions in the harbour today.  Bright sunshine, 15-20 knots, and a course that took in all points of sailing.

A couple of off-the-water cock ups marred an otherwise perfect sail.  Firstly I managed to scrap the back of the boat along the concrete pathway to the slip, more gel required.  Second I wrapped my newly varnished mast around the post that marks the end of the slip, giving the post a jaunty aspect in the process.  Third, my new boom survived less than 10 seconds on the water before getting scraped along the barnacles on the same post.  No lasting damage, but annoying nevertheless!

Very close race with Dave around the whole course tonight, separated by less than 10 boat lengths for the full race until he decided to go for an additional lap at the penultimate mark.  Of course, 300 sailors look after their own and I hailed him back to the course, but had sneaked out enough of a lead to keep ahead at the finish ;-)

- Very pleasing upwind speed.  Had a drag race of about 3/4 of the mile upwind from John Davis to East Head, lost nothing to Dave and might have even reeled him in by a few lengths. 
- Very pleased with the new gybing technique (new to me anyway, making space before a mark and going into gybes flat out on a broad reach).  5 or 6 gybes without incident in some breezy conditions.
-Good (but not exceptional) downwind speed.  Managed to get planing by the lee for the best part of 1/2 mile.  No dicey moments in some challenging chop.

Points for reflection:
- Downwind start.  Started out of the tide at the windward end of the line, first across the line.  Dave started mid-line, and took 10 lengths at out me in the first 500m.  The ability to go high/low and the cleaner wind in the middle of the line outweighed the tidal advantage. Interesting.
- Need to sort out settings for the new boom, hadn't realised the extent to which I depended on the graduation numbers on the old boom.

So another great evening sail out of TISC, makes working Friday's more tolerable.  Next race at Slipper on Saturday, training session with Matt on Sunday.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The new 300 boom

A post that I fear will only be of interest to 300 sailors!

I bought a new boom for the 300 a month ago, the class has moved to full carbon spars and updated the aluminum section boom.  Unfortunately the first fitting of the boom wasn't great, it transpired that holes had been drilled in the wrong place by the manufacturer, so I've been having a dialogue with LDC about the best way forward.  Anyway, I've been given carte blanche to drill holes in the boom to make it work, previously a problem as the boom came with a sticker saying "Drilling holes invalidates warranty". And LDC are discussing with Selden and looking at a replacement in the longer term.

So this is what I've done.  First the vang arms needed to be moved forward:

The bolt is now in the middle of the local reinforcement on the boom.  Relocating the bolt gave me cause for concern, due to the proximity of the old holes.  But I've maxed out the vang and it seems OK - there is a lot of carbon in that part of the boom.

Next I relocated the block that takes the vang and downhaul at the front of the boom. Rather than drill holes for a new eye, I ended up going with some rather precise brummel splicing to use dyneema to hold the block in place, thereby distributing the loads over the full cross section rather than two rivets.  The outhaul eye under the boom keeps the dyneema place.  The vang and downhaul control lines are aligned to the mast.  Also took the strops to the Frankenstein bolt as opposed to holes on the boom, again minimising local stresses on the boom.

This is the final set up :

Much less travel is required on the mast to get the same mast deflection, which will hopefully translate into more space under the boom.  Downside is that I'll have to work out new vang settings, but thats not such a hardship.

First outing on Thursday at TISC.

Monday, 27 May 2013

300 Log: No result, but an excellent race

Date: 25th May
Venue : Slipper
Race : Down Harbour Handicap race, 2 hours
Tide : Flooding
Conditions : F0-4 N, mostly flat water apart from the main harbour bay, which had chop from all directions
Result : Would have been 1st of 20, and 1st 300, but for forgetting to sign on (again!)

Fresh back from Minorca Sailing, my lovely wife gave me an immediate pass out for a local race, I am blessed.  12 mile course from Emsworth down to the Itchenor channel, and back via Sandy Point.  Downwind start and first leg made for interesting tactics - very difficult to nudge out in front when covered by the fleet (who are getting the gusts first).  Very variable wind strength, I had 5 minutes near SW Pilsey in absolutely no wind, getting bounced around by the chop.

- Good start.  Started just behind Matt on starboard at the pin end, and was first boat to gybe to port (for clean air).  Managed to eek out a small lead in the first mile of the run, just enough to stop getting covered by the fleet, and then stretched to a reasonable lead by the half way point.
- Pleased with downwind speed.  Set up the boat for maximum instability (no vang, leech slightly in front of the mast), and really concentrated on finding gusts and catching small chop.  One dicey moment in a gust, but that's the price you pay for having the leech in front of the mast!
- Pleased with reaching speed, although the wind was at that marginal point where I think being a lightweight helped with early planning.  Going high in the lulls and low in the gusts gave a substantial lead by East Head (mostly lost in the dead wind zone by SW Pilsey on the return).
- It appears that a week full time sailing has helped with fitness, no problem with the final 2.5 beat straight leg hiking most of the way.
- Nicely relaxed and focussed (Claire has stopped me using the SOA terminology)

Points for reflection:
- Upwind speed not great, thought Dave took a substantial amount out of me on the return passage.  Went out for a practice session today and concentrated on upwind speed, convinced I should be footing more, but need a bit of boat-on-boat to confirm.
- Must start remembering to sign on!

But all in all a good race, a rare win over Dave which is always heartening as it demonstrates a little progress and improvement.

Practice session today was good, managed 4 fully planning gybes which is a first.  A bit scary as the boat needs to be properly gunning to keep the speed through the turn.  Finally I see why people compare the 300 gybe to a windsurfer, there is a similarity.  Next sailing at TISC, can't wait!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Some thoughts on the RS100

The majority of my time at Minorca Sailing was spent either sailing the RS100 or windsurfing (we had strong winds nearly all week, the windsurfing was excellent).  I'd been thinking about the RS100 as an additional boat to the 300, and thought I might post up a bit of a review.

- Really nice boat to hike.  The profile of the sidedecks make straight leg hiking relatively easy and comfortable (compared to the 300 anyway).
- Accessible as a first time single handed asymmetric dinghy.  My baptism was a couple of days of f5, and the boat isn't too much of a handful.  The exception is gybing, it takes a little time to get the process and timing sorted out.  Have to be really careful not to come out too high, the gybing strop helps gybe the main early.
- Beautiful to sail downwind, the boat feels light, balanced and fast.  Easily keeps up with faster boats, and seemed to sail deeper.  Great fun.
- Well thought out and easily adjusted controls.
- Seems to perform well to handicap, but that was on a windward/leeward course.  RTC sailing might well be different, you really need dead downwind legs.

- Not a great boat to sail upwind, felt slow and lethargic (even when permanently footing).  Given that 60% of racing is upwind, this is the one point that I think would stop me buying a 100 - its just not fun beating, as compared to the 300 anyway.
- The boat is underpowered on reaches, until you can fly the kite.  No surprises there.

Not a boat for me for club racing, I'd get too frustrated with the upwind performance.  But if I wanted to do a circuit, then maybe - I imagine the class racing is good. 

I sailed the 300 yesterday for a race around Chichester harbour, finished sailing with a huge smile, I'll be sticking with the 3 for the moment. 

Monday, 20 May 2013

We arrived at Minorca Sailing late on Friday, first time I've been here and wasn't quite sure what to expect. Ses.Salines is a very relaxed village, nice low rise buildings and villas, and all the locals very friendly. The hotel we are staying in is perfect for a holiday like this - friendly, good showers, and every room has a balcony to dry wet kit.

Sailing wise we have had an interesting mix of weather. Saturday started with a force 6/7 and horizontal rain, it felt like the winter weather had followed us from England! But by 10:00 the rain and disappeared, and we were left with a nice f5, maybe 6 in the gusts. Mike and I went windsurfing for the morning, and when the wind moderated slightly in the afternoon decided to get started on the single handed assymetrics, me in a 100, mike in a Musto Skiff. Much learning and much swimming. Sunday was supposed to be a lighter wind day, and in the morning it was. We had a session on tacking and gybing the assymetrics, surprising difficult, you must don't have enough hands. But we are improving slowly.

Claire, Noel and Mandy are all in the laser groups, with training and racing everyday. Claire has decided to master the radial rig in stronger winds, and has impressive bruises to show for the experience. Noel and Mandy have been out in some very strong wind and are certainly improving.

Of course, sailing in strong winds is not without risk, mike nearly broke his little toe.
You might think that is is due to some horrendous capsize in his Musto Skiff. Not the case. Details are sketchy, but it is something to do with an altercation with the bidet in his en suite.

And just to prove how gusty the offshore wind is, check out this video of Claire's knock down at the windward mark.

No wind this morning, hence the post. But plenty expected for Tuesday and Wednesday, the plan is to set a speed record for a tandem windsurf board in Fornells bay. Stand by for medical reports

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Blow, blow, thou winter wind ....

"Blow, blow, thou winter wind
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude."
That's right, you come to this blog and you get a taste of the gentler arts, as well as some ramblings about sailing.  It's poetry for this post, but next time I might post a video of my free-form-jazz-exploratory-dance.  And the Shakespeare is appropriate because despite it being May, we still seem to be getting the cold winds associated with earlier months in the year.
Business as usual at Slipper today, with 20 boats on the water for a local harbour handicap race.   F4/5 SW, and a 1 hour round the cans.  Some performances to report:

- In the battle of the ISOs, Andy and Ed edge Mike and Emma.  Andy made the brave decision hoist at the final mark, and managed to shave the corner of Thorney Island without going aground.  I have to say that I lost concentration at that point in the race, as I was so convinced that Ed was going to be making a trip around the forestay.  But he didn't and they went on the win the race by a good margin.  Slightly disappointed not to see any luffing into mud banks etc.
- Now then, is that a Laser Radial in third place, ahead of Merlins and 200s?  Excellent result for Sam Tweedle, first Laser variant and a fine display of sailing skills.  After I finished I decided on a bit of practice and caught up with Sam as he was running down to the finish line - he was absolutely on it, planing down the short chop and showing great boat speed.  So Lasers can win at the club, but it takes time and perseverance to succeed.
- Great to see Gareth and Abi back in their 200, albeit with a little dip before the start.  But that's forgivable, the wind piped up to a F6 for a short while.  Lots of smiles after the race.

That's it for club racing for me for a while, because it is only 5 days to Minorca! 

300 Log : A mixed race at Slipper

Date: 12th May
Venue : Slipper
Race : Handicap race, 1 hour
Tide : Flooding very slightly
Conditions : F4/5 SW, relatively flat water though
Result : Would have been 3rd of 20, but for the catalogue of errors below

Two reasons for me to sign off as RTD today:
1.  Passed a passing mark on the wrong side.  There was a cruiser busily anchoring 5m from the mark, I was so busy explaining why he might be best served by moving that I missed the mark myself.  Barbara and Johnny tried to hail me to return, but I thought they were whooping in delight at the fine conditions.
2.  Managed to capsize onto a mark (foot caught on footstrap mid tack), righted the boat but neglected to complete a turn.  Only remembered that I should have done so when someone commented after the race that they were surprised my sail stayed intact as it hit the buoy.
3.  Helping all the Juniors get their boats out of the water just before the race and forgot to sign on!

But the sailing was OK.

- Really pleased with upwind speed.  Tiny bit faster than the Merlin, still in touch with the ISOs.  Definitely pays to sail a little freer in those winds, it feels like close reaching upwind rather than beating.  As soon as you bear off just a few degrees, the boat livens up.
- Good downwind speed, and no dramas.  Quite happy to sniff out the stronger bands of wind and not close to tipping it in.

Points for reflection:
- 2x capsizes.  First involved catching footstrap elastic on a tack, second involved falling over in the midst of a gybe.  Both silly, but not a great cause for concern.  Need new hiking boots.  And a better sense of balance.
Mediocre start.  Managed to get a good space to leeward, but too shy of the line and didn't really make good use of the space.  Stopped the Merlin from climbing over me, but I reckon if I'd been on the line I could have made life difficult for the ISOs.

But a pleasant enough sail, what better way to finish the weekend.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

A Phantom comes to Slipper

Today there was a 'blue riband' race in the Slipper calendar - the Pine Out of Harbour trophy race.  It involves a jaunt out of the harbour into Hayling bay, and then back to the club.  Probably 15 miles, taking in the challenges of the harbour entrance and mixing it up with the Glyn Charles pursuit race being run out of TISC.  The forecast was for 25 knots, but more importantly the recent gales have created significant waves that would make for very difficult conditions in the bay.  So I gave it a miss, but a couple of Slipper boats joined the ESC fleet.  Andy Gould was in full frothed-up mode, and came back from Sicily specifically for the event.  He said (and I'm in no way making this up for the purpose of blogging, this is absolutely accurate): "Having been on the cruiser in the med for a couple of weeks, I was getting concerned that I was losing competitive instinct.  My froth levels had decreased from cappuccino to skimmed-milk-latte, hence a return to the UK for a race.   I'm currently at full-drinking-chocolate-with-whipped-cream, levels have never been higher".  Very high SOA. Good to see Andy and Vicky back for a short while, but such a shame that they will not make Minorca in their cruiser.

Andy and Emma P got back in one piece albeit looking slightly shell shocked, John and Simon in their Stratos got as far as the harbour entrance before deciding to retire, I think there was a 420 out from Slipper but I didn't see it finish.

Given the decision not to race, the alternatives were windsurfing, or sailing locally in the harbour.  To be honest I would have preferred windsurfing, but Matt J had been pestering me with text messages to go sailing, as he wanted to try his new Phantom.  After weeks of indecision between a 300 and a Phantom, the Phantom was purchased on the basis that it is a better carrier of weight.  Training-partner-Claire and Noel were also out for a sail, in matching Lasers.

Interesting sailing in 20-25 knots.  The upwind speed of the 300 and Phantom was remarkably similar, the 300 quicker on a close reach, the Phantom certainly quicker on a beam reach, and edging it on a broad reach.  The Phantom was a lot more stable when the wind got up.  The Phantom handicap is 1012 with the 300 at 995, so great to have another single hander in the fold.  Anyway, we left the water with one very enthused Matt, which can only be good for future training sessions.

The wind should abate a little for tomorrows race, hurrah.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

No racing tonight, but a very pleasant alternative

It's gusting to 40 knots in the harbour tonight so I didn't go down for the evening race at TISC, it was sure to be cancelled.  But with a dog to be exercised, and a lack of rain, I decided that tonight would be the first fishing trip of the year.

When we have been sailing over the last week, there have been a lot of terns in the harbour feeding on small fry in the margins and channels.  Where there are feeding birds, there are also likely to be predatory fish underneath. Also, with the rise in water temperature the crabs are moulting their winter shells in preparation for growth in spring and summer - fish love a peeler crab.  Usually all of this activity seems to happen in early April, but this year has been cold and so we have a later start.

Bass are the fish that come into the harbour for both crab and fry, and usually the larger bass can be found early in the season.  So I thought I'd spend a quiet hour seeing whether there were any about.

To cut a long story short, several nibbles and one good take that resulted in a landed fish.

Cook is on steroids at the moment for an itchy skin complaint, and they make him ravenously hungry.  I know that look on his face, its a "it looks edible and I think I can eat it, but will I get told off?" look.  Yes you will get told off Cook, paws off.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

A weekend of two halves

Last Friday, Mrs R decided that it was time to book her ticket for the New York marathon in November, and she extravagantly lashed out on travel plans.  As a supportive husband I welcome this expenditure from our limited family purse, funds spent on sport is A Good Use Of Money.  But opportunities to justify 'maintenance' expenses on boats are rare, and I made haste to order a new boom and sail for my boat whilst Mrs R was caught up in the excitement of the NY trip.

My friend Rich K works at LDC, and was able to bring the boom and sail to the club at 08:00 Saturday morning, which was great as it saved carriage costs.  So as well as the opportunistic purchase, I was able to swing an early morning sailing session out of Thorney.

To be honest, if it had not been for the boom/sail I might have given it a miss.  20-25 knots, cold, wind against tide, and gusty.  But sure in the knowledge that I would feel fulfilled after a sail I went out, and as ever once out it was fine (there is something about the flapping of sails on the shore that develops a high s-o-a).

Richard and Tom were out in their 800 and planed away up harbour, no chance of keeping close in a hiking boat.  I stayed in the main Itchenor channel and practiced bearing away to by-the-lee in the steep chop and gusts.  No 300 insights to report, but I did have a great sail and a rather surprising lack of capsizes.

Sailing back to Cambermet, I spied Richard and Tom having an almighty wipe out on a gybe, it looked painful even from a distance.  On returning to the club, it transpired that they had broken some lines on the spinnaker pole and could not fly the kite.  But Tom did say to me afterwards (and I am in no way making this up for the purposes of blogging, this quote is absolutely verbatim): "To be honest Mark, it was a bit much for us today.  Richard didn't have enough product in his hair to deal with the salt water, and I'd chipped a nail, so we decided to come in". 

Summer came back to the harbour on Sunday, and I went for a sail with Claire and Matt in the evening sun and dying sea breeze.  Never seen so many cruisers moored off Pilsea Island, the array of food aromas was marvellous.  Slightly surprised by the number of boats who moored bang in the middle of the channel.  None of the cruisers invited us aboard for a beer, but maybe that's because we weren't sailing Lasers (where I understand beer is the drink of default).

No sailing Monday through very light winds, so I decided to varnish my mast.

9 days to Minorca.

300 Log : More racing and practicing at TISC

Another great race in the harbour, the evening sailing at TISC is fantastic this year.

Date: 2nd May April
Venue :TISC
Race : Handicap race, 1 hour
Tide : Ebbing moderately  for the duration of the race
Conditions : Southerly f2/3
Result :3rd of 18, 2nd of 4 300's

Another lovely evening race out of TISC, really enjoying the sailing there this year.  The ability to sail at all states of tide is great (already sailing this coming Thursday on a spring low will be interesting).

Four of my 300 brethren made it onto the water, so we had a fleet within a fleet.  Dave Acres was sailing, and remains the benchmark for progress.  Once again he beat me, but only by 15 seconds over an hour, and I did have opportunities to win (that I squandered!).  So close racing and a reasonable result.  LOS = 8/10.

- Learnt more about the start line at TISC.  Starting at the club end can be hazardous because of the steeply shelving mud banks.  I went hard aground about 30 secs before the start, and started 30 seconds late.  This gave a great opportunity to get practice sailing back through the fleet, see how I changed a negative to positive there.
- First time for a while since I have sailed against Dave A and was pleased with relative downwind speed, certainly took a reasonable chunk out of his lead on the downwind leg.
- Reasonable upwind legs, although I felt I wasn't getting the best out of the compass on the first beat.  Second beat much better, easier to pick the shifts. 
- Claire has mandated that I stop blogging about states of psychological arousal, she finds it distasteful.  But it was nice and low.

Points for reflection:
- Spent ages working upwind to get past Dave, and then threw it all away by overstanding the final mark.  In retrospect I should have covered for the final third of the beat.   No opportunity to pass on the final leg - the tide kept us pinned to the bank.  So another race where a single mistake defined the outcome, this is becoming a habit!
- When the wind is light enough for us both to be sitting in the boat (ie, not hiking), there is very little difference in boat speed irrespective of body weight difference.  When I'm able to get hiking first, that's when being lighter in the boat helps, and that advantage stays until we are both hiking.  That window is about 2 or 3 knots.

So once again it is down to consistency.  That said, at the same point 2 years ago Dave was taking 2-4 minutes in every hour out of me, so in terms of overall progress in the boat I should be pleased.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

300 carbon boom

Photos to support the post I've made on the 300 group board.  Won't be of interest to non-300 sailors I'm afraid!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

300 log: More evening racing at TISC

Date: 30th April
Venue :TISC
Race : Handicap race, 1.5 hours
Tide : Ebbing hard for the duration of the race
Conditions : Initially SE F2/3 (for 20 minutes), dying to nothing (for 1 hour), then NE F2/3 (for 10 minutes)
Result : Probably 1st of 12ish boats, 1st of 4 300s.

- Good start.  The tide was ebbing hard and taking the fleet over the line, so good time on distance was required.  I practiced the start at least 15 times, and got off the line 1st by a couple of boat lengths.
- Good speed all round the course.  Spent lots of time tweaking to get the top tell tale flying on all points of sail, surprising amount of vang required.
- Good read of the tide to find the best route round the course, and sneak around buoys laid in adverse tide (if you didn't make it, you were done for the race).
- Very low state of arousal, which is good because the whole arousal thing is getting a little wearing.

Points for reflection:
- Missed East Head when in first (navigation in this part of the harbour is not my strong suit), and lost 6 boats as a result.  But in a way this was good news, as it meant I had to work back through the fleet, and that's good practice!
- Could definitely have used a wind indicator at the top of the mast when the wind dropped below 2 knots. Frank Bethwaite writes about using a balanced feather, I wonder how you make one.

So an interesting race, it is just nice to get out midweek.  Finishing a race in the dark was novel.  Next race Thursday!

300 Log: Reflections on the Bough Beech open meeting

So a quick post for the positives and reflections of the open meeting last weekend

Date: 27/28 April
Venue :Bough Beech SC
Event: 300 Open Meeting, 7 races of approx 45 minutes each
Tide : No tide.  Its a lake.
Conditions : Saturday, N f3/4, Sunday SW f1/3.  Very shifty, at times with 50 degree shifts.
Result : 3,4,7,1,2,3,5.  4th overall, 3 points separating 2nd from 4th, but 1st some way ahead.

- Great downwind boat speed.  Could count on being faster downwind than most other boats, very useful tactically and very pleasing that the winter practice has paid off.  Only person standing up downwind, which surprised me.  Seemed to sail by-the-lee more than most.  Put it in once when the tiller extension got caught in the outhaul (breaking the extension), but that is a one off and hopefully will not be repeated.
- OK boat speed upwind.  I thought my lack of weight would be an issue when the wind increased, but didn't feel like it was much of a factor.  A couple of boats had an edge on me, but shifts and tactics were far more important.
- Reasonable starts.  4 good starts, 1 OCS, 1 average start, 1 poor start.  Happy with pin end starts, need to get much better at time on distance for starboard end starts, and sorting out starboard end laylines etc.  To much pin ending at the club line, thats the problem! 
- Its good to have the first open out of the way, and a reasonable result.  If nothing else, I've found lots of areas that need practice, which is encouraging.

Points for reflection
- Too 'highly aroused'.  On Saturday my best race was the final one of the day, when I was mentally tired.  Didn't try to think too much and just on with it, and seemed to do better as a result.  On Sunday, my best race was when I was called back for being OCS, started in last and as a result all expectation on result was lifted.  Came through the fleet to get 3rd (nearly 2nd).  Not sure why I was wound up, perhaps putting all of this stuff public on a blog isn't helping!
- Mixed boat handling.  Very noticeable that the event winner had much smoother boat handling, especially on mark roundings.  I lost count of the number of times I worked hard to get an inside overlap and then lost a place through a poor rounding.  But at least it is something that can be worked on easily.
- Mixed decision making on strategy.  There were times when I knew the right thing to do, but got carried away with tactical situations.  For example on the Saturday it always paid to go left on the run (more wind), but I went right twice to protect wind and lost multiple boats in the process.  Big picture would have been better.
- Never got to grips with the wind.  It was all over the place and difficult to read, and very different to the sailing I'm used to.  Started to improve by reading the wind on water, and looking at other boats/flags (many thanks for the tip Tim!), but never had it dialled.  Will be consulting Steve C in due course, as to the best approach for shifty lake winds.
- More mixed decision making on tactics.  There were a couple of boat-on-boat decisions that were rash.  For example, I tried to nip inside Martin (481) on a downwind leg whilst overpowered on a broad reach - it was always a 30/70 idea, and would have been far better to hang back and wait for a better opportunity.  Ended up with the leech in front of the mast, skewing to windward and fouling the boat I was trying to overtake - not good for either me or my 300 brethren.
- Still need to get sorted on changing gears.  Being pent up leads to tight sheeting and over-pointing, not fast!

So a good deal to reflect on, and some new areas to practice.  Can't wait for the next open, most likely in June.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Training-partner-Claire muses on a weekends racing

I was away at the weekend, so Claire has given a report from the local racing scene.  Kudos to Claire for sailing a 2.5 hour race in winds up to 32 knots and keeping the boat upright!


Saturday saw the first down harbour and short course races. This, along with a good breeze, meant there were many eager sailors in the dinghy park, diligently taping their course cards down and generally bimbling around. Our happy sailing mood plummeted when we got to the start line and found the race officer had opted for an S (for secret or surprise) course for the down harbour race. In common with many of the other prospective starters I was pleased with my organisation in actually remembering the course cards and hadn’t got as far as bringing a pen. And with my memory not being what it was I managed to memorise the first 3 marks and that was it. Still, I thought, good incentive to keep up with the faster boats so I have someone to follow. Some of the other racers sensibly opted for the short course instead. 

So 13 boats set off down harbour, with a northerly wind blowing 15-23 knots it was a speedy downwind leg to Mill Rythe then some fun reaching across to Johns Folly and back, then upwind to Channel. Though I did have in the back of my mind all the time that the upwind all the way back was really going to hurt...Having no idea where I was going and having lost sight of the 29er, 400s and Finn,   I was pleased when I saw John and Simon in their Stratos, and the Lasers of Max and Lester ahead go to Channel, assuming we were then heading for home. But no, there was another lap to Johns Folly to go – more fun reaching though so no complaints. I was just starting the loooong upwind home when an ominously dark cloud appeared overhead and it became proper windy (32 knots when we looked later). John and Simon had their ‘maiden capsize’ but managed to right the boat in about a millisecond thanks to super speedy reactions! It was pretty wavy, my laser was being a bit battered around, and Emsworth looked an awfully long way away, but the wind calmed down a bit after a while – still  I have never been so pleased to see our ‘home buoys’ of Tye/Shepherd etc. So my race took 2hrs 40 mins – definitely needed a long afternoon nap after that one. Big thanks to the patrol boats who kept an eye on us and a good win for the 29er ladies who got home 50 minutes before me.

The more sensible racers who had chosen the short course also enjoyed gusty close racing around the more local buoys. Great to see 9 Slipper boats out for this race all racking up points for the short course series which is sure to be hotly contested. 

Sunday saw a pleasant force 4ish breeze and a 3 race series hosted by race officer supremo James Mant and a crack team. They set a nice long start line for the 25 starters and a triangle/sausage course. There was close competition particularly in the RS200s – just 20 seconds separated these 3 in Race 2, and in the Laser fleet with 13 Lasers out. The race team, with judicious use of the shorten course flag managed to get 3 good races in, and they only needed to use the black flag once. A great result for Paul and Caroline Fisk in their RS200 who were third overall and first Slipper boat. 

So a really fantastic weekends racing – many thanks to all the race officers, and patrol boat people who made it possible. Next races are the Pine Out of Harbour Race on the 11th May – this normally requires pre-registration – more details nearer the time – and Marsh 3 on the 12th May.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Initial observations from this weekends 300 open

So a quick post with initial thoughts on the weekends sailing at Bough Beech.

1.  300 sailors are Very Nice People
No aggression on the water, shouts of encouragement to other members of the fleet, and a very social bunch.  Even at crowded mark roundings, there was a gentlemanly discussion about who was entitled to what, and then we would all execute as agreed.  A marvellous meal on Saturday evening at a local pub in good and amusing company.  So if you have a 300 and you are thinking about an open I thoroughly recommend it, I was made to feel very welcome.

2.  Lake sailing is very different to Sea And Harbour Sailing
Here is what happens when you sail with windward heel on a lake: you get headed by 45 degrees and stop, up to your neck in water (I had to waterstart the boat, a la windsurfer).  There is no rhyme or reason to windshifts, but when they do happen they are major (forget worrying about 5 degree increments on the compass, we are talking 40+ shifts here).  The legs are 300m long, instead of 1+ miles.  But here's the curious thing, its great fun.  The variable wind means that the fleet stretches out and then concertinas up, everything is close quarter manoeuvring, and there is lots of boat-on-boat tactics.  I loved it, but I'm not very good at it.

3.  Its all about Not Making Mistakes
We had 7 races this weekend, and I led four of them at some point.  Each time, I threw the lead through a mistake that could have been avoided:
- Capsized when trying to be greedy on an inside overlap, fouling another boat in the process (sorry Martin, I just get carried away).  Lost 5 boats.
- Knew to take the left side of the run, but didn't because I was worried about being covered by the boats rounding behind.  Lost 6 boats in 200m.
- Managed to thread the tiller extension through the gap between the outhaul and boom on a gybe, capsized and thrashed the extension.  Lost 4 boats.
- Won one race, essentially through a good start and not making any catastrophic mistakes (it was the last race on Saturday, by which time I had started to calm down from my state of what the psychologists would call 'extreme arousal')
The event was won by the most consistent sailor.

4.  Never use a old mainsheet as a makeshift toothbrush
After refreshment on Saturday evening, I made it back to my van only to find that I had neglected to pack a toothbrush.  On scouring the van for a suitable substitute, I elected to use the end of an old mainsheet as a makeshift toothbrush, pressing the toothpasted polilite against my teeth with an index finger.  This was not a good idea, I could still taste the Thorney mud when I woke in the morning, and it didn't help with a hangover.  That said, thankfully I didn't go with the second option, which was a sock I found at the bottom of my kitbag.

More reflections on the racing and performance tomorrow, if Mrs R catches me doing excessive blogging after a weekend away I'll be properly for it.

Monday, 22 April 2013

First 300 open this coming weekend ....

So this is the first open following winter training, and the second event I've done since I've been sailing the 300.  I'm looking forward to it, but with a sense of nervousness and trepidation (obviously developing a state of 'high arousal').

The sailing is at a club called Beech Bough, a 250 acre reservoir in Kent.  I'm no judge of inland waters, but 250 acres sounds Quite Big, and looks to have attracted a good number of 300 sailors.  The weather looks a bit mixed, it strikes me as one of those forecasts that is pretty much meaningless 5 days out.  But if the forecast is correct, it shows a nice variance in conditions.  But one thing that is certain is that it will be cold on the Saturday night sleeping in the van!

The last time I sailed on inland waters was crewing at the ISO Inland Championships, which was held in a gusty October force 6.  After the umpteenth tea-bagging upwind, I declared to my helm that this was to be the first and final event in my inland sailing career.  [I should point out, the tea bagging was not his fault, the heading shifts were significant and immediate, and we couldn't see them on the water before they hit, they seemed to come down onto the boat from on high.  Horrible].  Unfortunately the entire 300 open calendar appears to be on lakes this year, so I'm breaking the declaration and embracing the challenging conditions of my 300 inland brethren!

If I have a bad day on Saturday, I plan to get fully involved in the refreshments in the evening to the point of not being able to operate my iPad for blogging. Come to think of it, I'll have the same approach if it is a good day.  So no updates before the end of the event.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

A new boat for the family fleet

Junior training starts at Slipper next week, and the youngest in our family has just got his first boat.

This boat was given to us by some friends at the club, as it needed considerable TLC.  In a windy race, the mast had dislocated from the cup holding it at the foot, and destroyed the front thwart.  The insurance company had written it off as beyond economic repair, but we like recycling old boats and thought we'd have a go at fixing it up.

Like all of these projects, I thought it would take 8 weeks but it ended up taking the best part of a year.  I wanted to learn how to spray gelcoat and refinished the hull and deck as well as fixing the thwart.  And of course the boat needed a new rudder and centreboard.  Looks like new now, but give it 3 weeks and junior training and the insurance company will be writing it off again.

Most of the jobs on the boat weren't really suitable for Oscar to help with (spraying gelcoat isn't nice), but he spent time helping me clean the workshop.  And tracking my progress with to-do lists, there's a budding project manager.

As to the boat name, he choose "Toy 2 Many".  "Eggy Chocolate Rampage" was a close second, and I have to say I was disappointed he didn't go with it.  One happy sailor:

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

An unsolicited observation : "You should stop sailing that g*y boat and start sailing a Finn"

The clocks have changed, and evening sailing is now a reality.  There is no better way to break up the working week, and for the past two evenings I've been out sailing 300s with Matt.

Matt is still prevaricating about what singlehander to buy - D1, Finn or 300.  I sense a leaning toward the Finn as he thinks it suits his build, but there is a little 300 scene in the harbour now, and class racing is attractive.  A rather unexpected intervention into the selection process took place on the water tonight - we came across a couple of X boats in the Itchenor channel as we were beating to Rockwood, the leading X gave Matt an unsolicited observation : "You should stop sailing that gay boat and start sailing a Finn".  Both Matt and I were somewhat taken aback, not so much by the comment, but the fact that an X boat appeared to understand he was on port tack and kept clear. Highly unusual!

As to the sailing, we had two evenings of F4 warm winds, maybe up to F5 in the gusts tonight (looking at Cambermet I see there is now 31 knots off TISC, that would have been exciting).  Wind over tide, so some nice short chop to play with offwind.

Matt is getting used to the whole by-the-lee thing, but still looks terrified sailing downwind.  Upwind he is rather quick and I will discourage further practice lest he improves further.

Some observations from my sailing:
- I forgot to put the wind indicator on the boat tonight, and so sailed without one.  The result of this was that I spent far more time looking at waves outside the boat than a wind indicator inside it.  Speed downwind was good, planing most of the time.
- Lots of chop in the channel going upwind, with the bow of the boat underwater in the steepest of chop.  Even with weight back in the boat it felt slow, Matt seemed to be punching through with more speed and momentum, but that might be down to weight difference I think.
- Have started to mess round with outhaul upwind, letting a little outhaul off as the vang comes on seems to keep power in the lower sail.  It seems to me that putting vang on naturally reduces camber in the lower sail and less outhaul is required to maintain the same depth off the boom.

I've sailed 6 of the last 7 days, legs are tired, and need a day or two off I think.  That said, good practice for Minorca!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A checkpoint on downwind sailing

Saturday was a windy day, and I mounted the GoPro on the bow to have a look specifically at bear aways and downwind sailing - it remains the area that I think needs most improvement in stronger winds.  I've sent the output to Steve Cockerill to see if I can get some Boat Whisperer advice, but in the meantime I thought I'd post up my own analysis.  This is the video, all faffing and upwind/crosswind sailing has been deleted, its just downwind.

I should point out that the wind was coming over the Thorney shoreline, so the water state was quite benign.  But the wind was offshore and very gusty, F4 in the lulls F6 in the gusts.

Some points re the bear aways:
- Not enough hiking in the first half of the bear away.  The trouble is that there is a balance between getting the boat heeled to windward to bear away, and an ability to get back in the boat from a hiked position before it skews away and capsizes to windward.  The centripetal force generated by the turn makes it difficult to get back in.
- Each bear away seems to take forever, with over cautious sheeting and heel.
- On a positive note, I'm getting better at sorting the rig before turning, and getting well back in the boat to get the bow out.
- Another positive note, the manoeuvre looks quite controlled (even though it felt like a knife edge at the time).

And the downwind sailing:
- Some OK transitions from BR->BTL and vice versa
- At times the boat looks very slow sailing BTL, and it might have been better to come up to a BR to get momentum going again.
- 2x capsizes due to the need to bear away excessively to BTL and beyond.  Not sure what I could have done to stop them, hopefully Steve has ideas.
- Finally look to be kicking the 'steer the boat under the mast' habit, there is no footage that sees the bow nose diving or underwater.
- The video seems to make it look as if I have a degree of control.  In the boat it certainly didn't feel that way, it's a very intense experience that requires total concentration.  The psychology books would have described my state as 'highly aroused'.  I would describe my state as 'bricking it' and 'nearly being sick with fear'.  'Highly aroused' doesn't quite cover it.
- I've calibrated the mainsheet, and have marked the position of the 'F5 Knot' to stop the main going too far out downwind (and capsizing the boat to windward).  Seems to work, as I've not capsized to windward for a while.  But the downside is that you can't sheet out loads if the boat wants to head up.  For the moment, I'll take it - the occasional head-up is a good trade for stability.

So lets see what Steve has to say, given his input in the past I've learned to expect the unexpected!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

How hard can it be to calibrate a tactical compass?

No racing this weekend as there were two open meetings at the local clubs - a Feva open on Saturday and a Tera open today.  I wondered if the Feva open was going to be held as the forecast for Saturday was brutal, but 16 boats made it to the start line and raced in gusty f4-6 conditions.  I thought some of the adult sailors  at the club would take the opportunity to come out training, especially given the bravado of the Slipper Laser fleet at the instructor-curry-evening on Friday. But no such luck, it appears that the Feva and Tera sailors are a more hardy and salty bunch than their parents!

Despite the lack of racing I was fortunate to be able to get out on the water over four consecutive days in a variety of conditions, from a very pleasant force 2 on Thursday to a rather less pleasant f5-6 on Saturday.  but spring is finally here, temperatures are up, the sun is out, and the promise of warmer days is finally with us.

Anyway, some observations from the sailing:

- One of the objectives for the early season is to get better at using a compass, and I thought I'd use the lighter winds on Thursday to sort out tacking angles - you need to get the tacking angle figure to set up a tactical compass.  How hard can that be, all you have to do is take a bearing on one tack, go about, take the bearing on the other tack, and subtract A from B.  The problems are that tacking angle varies by wind strength, tide appears to play some role (but I can't work out why, this isn't a GPS compass, its a Tacktick Micro), and also clearly pointing/footing modes vary the angle.  My angles appeared to range from 70 degrees (which clearly isn't right!) to 90.  In the end I found that the Yahoo 300 group has guidance  from good sailors that place tacking angle at 85 degree in light/medium winds and 90 in stronger winds.  The tactical analogue compasses used by Lasers have lines set to an 80 degree angle.  I've set mine to 85 and am going to force myself to forget about trying to refine it, other training will pay better dividends!

-  Friday was windy, and I chose to go windsurfing instead of sailing, 4.7m on an 85 litre board, happy days.  The lovely thing about windsurfing is that I view it as purely recreational and don't have any objectives etc, its just good fun and very relaxing.  And a great workout for the arms when you are out of practice, so contributes to the sailing in a small way.  One interesting point is that on a windsurfer I find myself far more attuned to the prediction of gusts/lulls - unless you can read the water you end up swimming, and can't get planing as quickly.  So I guess it is a skill that is naturally acquired as you learn and progress.  Strangely it doesn't seem to translate directly into a dinghy, I wonder whether this is because there is so much more happening in a boat, and also I suppose your head is closer to the water in a dinghy and maybe doesn't have the same visibility.

- Saturday was also windy, I had to give myself a stern talking to, as rain and a f5/6 is not the most motivating of conditions.  But I'm glad I went out, managed to practice a lot of upwind processes, lots of bear aways, and a fair amount of rather terrifying downwind work.  Managed to get through the session without capsizing, although there were a few close shaves:

That's not a controlled transition to by-the-lee, it is an uncontrolled entry to a buttock-clenching gybe! 

That's not the end of the gybe, it is in fact an advanced method of checking the daggerboard for weed.  I also thought the sea water would lubricate the clew strap on the boom.  However you look at it, the boat gets to be a bit of a handful in 25 knot gusts, but going out in these conditions makes anything less seem a lot easier, so worthwhile (so I keep telling myself, I imagine an impartial observer may take a different view).

- And finally today we had sunshine, a f4 decreasing to f2 clean southerly wind, 6 boats on the water for some impromptu upwind/downwind sailing, and an excellent time had by all.  Mike, Emma, Dave and Ed were all out testing with new Rooster ISO sails, that look superb.  They are quite roachy sails, and look very open in the top of the leech, but there were no problems with either pointing or speed.  I think Emma broke one of the job cleats on the ISO, more bimbling required!  I played about with rig settings and could just about match the ISOs for speed up wind, using a little downhaul and loosening the outhaul a bit.  Playing the vang in sketchy conditions seems to work as well, the boat feels dead in the lulls until you let just a little vang off.

Some possible evening sailing later this week, Matt J is still procrastinating on whether to buy a 300 and needs some more sessions to decide.  Looks breezy for Wednesday, lets hope his mast is insured.