Rutland Race Training 2006

Dan Alsop organized the 2006 Merlin race training session held at the beautiful setting and great facilities of Rutland Sailing club. Rutland is a wonderful venue as it has plenty of sail training facilities, plenty of open water, great catering and plenty of bunk rooms. This year the format was enhanced with the Merlin Open scheduled for the Sunday with training two days prior, and to finish on the bank holiday Monday. This would allow trainees to pit their new skills against the Merlin fleet.

2006 proved a bumper year for this event with 27 boats attending the course. People attend the course for many reasons, such as :

* They are new to the Merlin class and want to understand more about the boat
* To try and improve all aspects of sailing for club racing
* Teams have new crews and want to gel together
* To spend time getting to grips with new boats
* To gain as many tips as possible from the expert on-hand tuition
* ... To have fun!

Experts on hand for the training were :

* Dan Alsop - leading the training with approx 65 years of sailing at the highest level
* Mike Calvert – Champ winning helm
* Jane Calvert – Champ winning crew & missus
* Phil Dalby – Red hot crew, helm and highly qualified pub coach
* Ellie Bremmer – Wannabe southerner and crews Richard Whitworth
* Peter from Tammy – Organised and ran committee boat
* Felix Jackson - Crews Pat Blake and alcoholic
* Graham Williamson – Champ winning crew and class Chairman

The event kicked off with a warm welcome from Dan and an introduction to the trainers. As usual, everyone was asked to start with some relaxed short races that allowed the organizers to assess where to focus on. One great feature of the course this year was that the wind was very variable throughout each of the allotted days, allowing for us to concentrate on all sailing conditions. With so many boats each small race simulated an open event and made for some exciting starts and close racing. Competitors were debriefed after each session and comments made using clear video footage. There was nowhere to hide.

During the training we received careful instruction and practice on all aspects of racing:

1) Starting - understanding line bias, boat control (stopping and accelerating)
2) Tacking - making sure tacks are a smooth with a fast exit (NOT TOO MUCH RUDDER!)
3) Rudderless sailing - getting off the shore and coming back in safely, but also to help understand how to move about the boat smoothly
4) Spinnaker work - helping crews practice best methods and also (very importantly) make sure the helm makes life as easy as possible for the crew
5) Up wind and down wind tactics - sailing the right course for the conditions
6) Boat trim - making sure we are all sailing the boat flat
7) Boat tuning and on-shore drills

During the exercises and small races all participants had the opportunity to have an expert jump in the boat and show us how to do it. During the weekend, we had sessions with Phil Dalby, Paul Gilbert and Dan Alsop himself! This was great as you can decide which tips work for your team.

It really was a shame that the Rutland Open meeting was cancelled due to lack of breeze – 53 boats ventured onto the water to no avail. It was hoped the open would act as a benchmark to see the improvement for all attendees. It did allow us all to recuperate and get ready for the last days training.

Rutland put on a great Sunday evenings entertainment and kindly (or stupidly!) invited the Merlins along. This ended up getting rather messy involving perhaps a couple of ales too many. This eventually led to some very odd dancing and some stealth sheep rustling (a certain person almost managed to hide one in a tent – probably wouldn’t have been the first time though?)

The wind was fully back on Monday morning. The group received talks on boat and crew preparations then everyone was on the water for final exercises and races.

Yet again, Merlin training was another great experience and weekend for all Merlin sailors. Many thanks to all involved.

Andy Dalby