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!