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!