Monday, 8 April 2013

A jaunt round the harbour, 300ing with Matt and Claire

After the Easter weekend sailing, RS400 sailor Matt J dropped me a line about sailing the following weekend (Matts quotes in this post are in no way made up for the purposes of blogging): "Mark, all the ladies at Slipper have been commenting on what a dashing figure you cut in your 300, I wonder if you could take me out in a borrowed boat, to see whether my meagre skills are up to the job".  OK that's not quite what he said, but we did arrange to go sailing, along with the ever reliable training-partner-Claire.

A few notes on Matt before we get into the sailing.  He has sailed a number of different classes including the Finn and RS400, and even had a brief dally with a 300 a number of years back.  He has placed in the top 5 in the 400 Europeans, and I think top 10 in the SB3 Europeans.  Given this impressive track record of performance, I thought that some video footage from Matts boat would be of interest to blog readers, but Matt was slightly reticent on having the GoPro mounted to his boat: "If you think you are putting that GoPro on my boat, you can ***********.  There is no way that you are going to post ******* video of me on your ******* blog."

He is looking to buy a singlehander to compliment the 400, and considering a Devoti D1, 300 or Finn.  Clearly my objective for the weekend was to try and sway Matt towards the 300.  We are physically quite dissimilar - I'm a bit light at the moment at 68kg, Matt is 100kg of brute force - and it was interesting to compare boat-on-boat performance.

To the sailing.  The only time we could arrange was for dead low water at Thorney, so launching was interesting given the 3ft of slip we had to work with.  "Don't worry, its only Mikes boat, I'll leave it floundering on the smelly Thorney mud whilst I sort the trolleys out" said Matt, clearly disrespecting the borrowed boat.  But we managed to get out into the channel after a bit of faffing - by this point training-partner-Claire had already self-launched and was ripping it up around Cambermet.  Sunny, force 3-4 easterly, and flat water, perfect.

At this point, the session started to feel remarkably similar to the Andy Gould sessions over Xmas.  All of my carefully planned process goals flew out the window as we immediately got into a 1.5 mile drag race to the main channel in the harbour, followed by an hour of boat-on-boat upwind/downwind cycles, much more like racing than training. It is impossible to stifle the competitive instinct in situations like this, unless the other person is also orientated towards the same goals!

But there were some interesting points of learning from the day:

- The difference in weight made less difference than you would expect.  Matt was marginally quicker upwind, faster on a close reach, but slower on any broader point of sailing.  Some of that will be technique (on both our parts), but nevertheless the boats were much closer in speed than I thought they would be.  So two boat tuning with disparate helm weights is plausible, but obviously sharing settings wouldn't be advisable.
- Upwind, there is definitely gains to be made by footing for a few lengths to get up to speed and then tweaking the boat up to point.  We both tried this and it works, but is counter intuitive to helms who naturally point. 
- Earlier this week I wrote down my process goals for the next 3-6 months.  A point of interest is that even the act of writing them down appears to have benefits.  As I approached the windward marks, my thoughts immediately focused on the aspects of a perfect bearaway, and lo and behold the body just seems to execute on them.

Will Matt buy a 300?  I sense he has a leaning toward the flashy D1, or technical Finn.  And maybe he has a chance of getting those downwind in more than a force 4 (only joking, this is my way of trying to provoke him into buying a 300).

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