Saturday, 26 January 2013

300ing with Steve Cockerill and Claire Coussens

Mrs R could hardly contain her excitement.  After a sustained campaign of text messages and emails, Steve Cockerill had finally relented and agreed to step back into a 300 after a 5 year absence and come for a sail in Chichester Harbour.  "Come for a sail" perhaps doesn't capture the essence of the session, "sustained boat on boat racing" is probably more like it.  So on Friday morning at 0900, we put on the winter kit and set out to brave the 3 degree air temperature and 4 degree water temperature.  Not a day to capsize. Oh dear.

The sailing was exclusively upwind/downwind in a deep water channel, using the empty moorings as marks.  The wind was F3-5 SSE, gusty and perfect for practice.  Claire was also out in her 4.7, and looking good in challenging conditions.

So my observations for the day:

1.  Boatspeed upwind was surprisingly comparable, which is heartening. 
2.  Boatspeed downwind was comparable, but getting the right angles and associated VMG wasn't - Steve was better at this.  In one of our mini-races I thought I had taken 10+ boat lengths out of Steve downwind, but on looking at the video I see that he was fiddling with his toestraps!
3.  Boat handling was in a different league.  Several areas that Steve can execute that I can't:
   - Tacking facing backwards upwind.  Looking at the video, the tacks look much smoother.
   - The ability to gybe in accordance with tactical needs and wind strength.  For example, tight radius gybes round a mark (mark room but give way boat) still coming out tight and fast.  I can't do that, all of my gybing practice has been broad reach to broad reach with the intention of maintaining speed (something to do with a windsurfing background I think, BR->BR with a smooth large radius makes for easy carve gybes).
4.  Steve was using a lot more kicker downwind than me, and seemed to be more stable especially on the transition from BTL to a broad reach.  Something to think about, I'm not sure more kicker is quicker as my fastest BTL sailing appears to be with a flicky leech.
5.  Bear away.  I always try and sort the controls before the windward mark prior to the bear away, but its a real pain - if you have the sheet and tiller in one hand and release the vang, the rig powers up and you heel without having the controls to deal with it.  Steve appears to bear away and sort the vang after the bear away, which makes sense.
6.   Boat on boat practice in close quarters is very different to solo practice!  For example, when sailing angles downwind, if you are alongside another boat you can't just bear away at will for fear of infringement - its like having only half the course available and demands better technique!
7.  Steve insists that he doesn't understand the phase "lets have a breather".

Regular readers will be pleased to learn that the day was not capsize free, for both Steve (1) and myself (2).  We both had a capsize where we missed the straps and broke tiller extensions.  My tiller extension fix consisted of lots of tape.  Steve didnt bother with all that and decided to tie the end of the mainsheet to the tiller as a 'one way' extension, with no discernable difference in upwind speed.

So the summary of the session is that whilst I thought boat handling was improving, there is a very long way to go, but thats fine.  Many thanks to Steve for giving pointers for improvement, there is also talk of a Rooster blog post in the near future on his return to the 3, with video from his boat that I'm interested in seeing.

I've lots of video from my boat, but will get to it later. We are meeting with the RYA at the club this morning to try and sort some funding for adult training at Slipper later in the season!

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