Rutland Race Training 2007
After a bit of a break itís about time I put finger to keyboard (not the same ring as pen and paper is there) and report on a sailing event. The Rutland Training/Open Meeting weekend took place over the early May bank holiday on the same format as last year. Training was arranged on Friday, Saturday and Monday with the Silver Tiller meeting on the Sunday. As usual the training team was led by Dan Alsop with various other top helms and crews from the Merlin fleet chipping in. We also had an appearance from Olympic sailor and coach Cathy Foster, who was checking on the standard of coaching as well as contributing some very useful rules and strategy knowledge.
Friday was cold, with occasional drizzle and a little sun. The moderate wind strengthened a bit through the day. The usual format of short races and specific exercises (follow-my-leader behind a RIB changing speed, starting within a box) was coupled with a sort out of rigs and spinnaker gear. Saturday brought more boats, up to 26. A briefing looking at starting was followed by some exercises. These demonstrated the difference between thinking you are on the line and taking a transit and knowing you are. About 50 feet in my case. Then some more mini-races round a short course. With all 26 boats out and the starts much improved the line was quite crowded and the windward mark more so. We did a debrief afterwards with a good discussion of rules and rights, both windward/leeward situations, when and how it is legal to luff, and the rights at marks. In the afternoon, the sun came out, the temperature rose to something that felt almost like May and the wind completely disappeared. So we put on sunglasses and had a look at spinnaker drills and gear on shore. That finished the afternoon a bit early so most of us toddled off to the bar, to be told the shocking news that the cask of real ale was empty and there either was not another one or if there was the bar staff were not going to open it, so after supper in the club we all went down the road to the Wheatsheaf as they had plenty of beer then wobbled back at closing time. On this occasion I was camping. See Mike Stephens report on Rutland 2005 for a graphic description of why sharing a bunk room with 7 other men who have all been drinking is not a good idea. A £5.99 Chinese tent and you only have your own snoring to contend with.
On Sunday we had a brief talk prior to the Silver Tiller meeting. There may be a report on this elsewhere, but in short it blew a bit, with a solid F5 and some BIG gusts. Richard Whitworth and Nicola Brook won so Richard was detained to tell the students how to do it. Glen Truswell and Paul Davies back together for the season sailed the reserve boat (Storm Cloud 3543) into second place, promptly selling it to Chris Martin. Dave Lee had a great day with new crew Olly Turner sailing another Let it Ride, and was conclusively the first boat from the training group, finishing just ahead of Dan Alsop once a problem with the results was fixed pushing Pat and Jilly Blake into 6th. Down at my end of the fleet a number of boats that had set out from the club had decided the conditions were a little vigorous and gone back home. The oldest boat, Water Nymph, a very original Proctor mk IX, had a blast up and down for a bit but didnít try the racing. There were a few capsizes and Andy Jones was unlucky to have the boat behind bisect his mast after he went over. I had a refreshing wash when the rudder jumped off its pintles going down a reach and had to retire as I couldnít get it back on the transom!
The morning after (the night before being again spent in the Wheatsheaf because of the continuing drought of drinkable beer in the club) we discussed what the race winners had done right and the rest of us had not. Tricky had had his mast raked as far as it would go, had sailed with the board nearly half up on the beats and had had a strategy for getting to the favoured side on the beats and had a clear idea of what was happening to the wind, referring to his compass. All very informative stuff, I have taken it in mentally, we shall see if I can do anything different when hanging over the side half way up a beat.
The afternoon session involved a lot of one to one tuition with members of the training team swapping into the various boats.
We finished with a pursuit race with the slowest boats off first, finally won by Mark and Mike in 3078 though John Donague nearly pipped them in 3574, with the unexpected sight of R. Whitworth at the front end. Dan commented how much better the boats looked and sailed than at the start of the weekend. Certainly so and the weekend is vital for anyone wanting to improve their performance and enjoyment sailing a Merlin. Many thanks to the whole training team, Dan, Mike, Jane, Graham, Richard, Liam and anyone I may have forgotten.
Report: Andrew Mills