Solo News Mar 25
For those who missed the training on Saturday all I can say is you may find yourselves being overtaken! Jim Hunt explained how he sets up the rig and sails and showed just what effect the various controls have. He then contrasted several of our different rigs before getting us to start putting what he told us into practice. For those who came I’m sure you gained a lot of new insights and thoughts about things to look at. I think we had ten or eleven boats out (as well as some people who just came down for the talk part). Thank you all for coming.
Jim reinforced a lot of the messages I’ve tried to give in this series – practice might not make perfect but it sure gets closer. Just racing won’t improve your sailing nearly as much as some specific practice – identifying areas that are causing problem and then practicing the resolution. Being able to repeat settings – we’ve all had days or legs when we felt the boat was going really well – we have to be able to note exactly how we had everything set so we can reproduce. Calibration marks are important so long as they are reproducible. I’m starting to realise that my Cunningham and Inhaul are not well calibrated because I tie the rope on each week. That means it isn’t always in the same place so I’m just looking at the sail not really calibrating the setting. I do better with the rig – I write that down each week (well most weeks) noting the wind strength and how the boat went. Of course it is hard to change just one thing, but a methodical approach pays off. In the car park later Jim explained how the Finn Olympic squad would sail for two hours with one boat using a slightly altered setting. Then if it looked like an improvement the others would try it leaving one boat on the old setting for another couple of hours. Only after about four hours would they agree that there was an improvement and move on.
Of course we don’t sail at that extreme level of perfection but the principles still apply. You have to make a change and test it for a while before you can really say it is better. That applies to your technique as well as to sail settings. Simply sailing better makes a lot more difference than the last minutiae of a setting. What we need is a setup that’s close to right and then to learn to sail well. That was very apparent to me at the weekend sailing at Littleton – someone had to represent the club and I’ll do some jobs another day – my results were all over the place but I take some consolation that they showed improvement. First race 21 out of 26 – second race 12th, last race led for a while and second all the way to the last beat then 5th. Same boat, not much difference in settings. The difference was that by the end I was finally starting to get my head round some of Littleton’s shifts and pay more attention to the bigger picture and less to what the boat nearest was doing. The basic boat speed was clearly adequate to as I held first or second place for nearly all the last race but I had come 21st in the first race. The difference – a good start, sailing better especially more ‘head out of the boat’ looking at what wind was coming etc. That was the also my mistake on the last beat – I started to concentrate on the nearest boat again and ended up letting him through and two others that I just hadn’t kept an eye on.
I really liked that Jim stressed that to do well you have to get on the water early, check out the beat and the wind shifts, practice a few tacks and get yourself tuned into the conditions. If you aren’t tuned in before the race what chance is there of making a really good start – and one thing both the practice races showed and my experience at Littleton is just how important a good start is. In one of the training races Dave Clark led for most of the first beat – some of us got past only really because us youngsters can tack a bit more vigorously. Good start, good concentration and awareness of what’s going on around you and good basic manoeuvring (mark rounding, tacking, gybing) goes a long way and they aren’t so hard to practice.
I realise I’m preaching to the dedicated here. If you just want to enjoy a nice sail that’s also perfectly valid – never forget that we do this for fun, but I always like to improve.
So – winter over – warm weather – sailors coming out of hibernation. There are still a lot of boats on the bank that haven’t seen the water for far too long. Cast off the winter and get on the water. As Ratty said: “There is nothing – absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats”.
Forecast looks good...
See you Sunday