Whitstable Training 2005

The Merlin Rocket Association organised race training for the burgeoning Whitstable fleet on 18 June. Class racing coaches John Bell, Graham Williamson and Alex Jackson, assisted by local Merlin sailors Bob Long, Tudor Owen and John Borman, laid on an exhausting programme for 16 boats, twelve from the home club. Some of the trainees were new to Merlins, one team having only acquired their boat three days before.

After a general introduction on rigs, the trainees split into groups. John Bell took helms through starting tactics and boat control, while Graham and Alex took crews through their responsibilities. Alex produced an outstanding handout which should be required reading for all Merlin sailors.

The fleet went afloat in almost perfect training conditions to put theory into practice. After two hours of starting practice and rig adjustments on one lap triangular courses, lunch was taken ashore followed by a discussion on spinnaker gybing. By the afternoon the sea breeze had built from the east to give champagne conditions. Windward-leeward courses were set with the aim of achieving 5 gybes on each downwind. Finally a two lap triangular course was set with deliberately very tight reaches to test aching bodies to the limit. Graham was present throughout proceedings with his all-seeing video camera, while Alex nipped from boat to boat passing on invaluable advice.

Due to technical difficulties with the clubís TV it was not possible to debrief with the video but later in the evening most of the trainees assembled at the house of Howard Paterson for a spectacular BBQ and were able to watch themselves in widescreen splendour.

It was a fantastic days training and the general standard of sailing improved noticeably as the day progressed. Everyone took away valuable lessons as well as aching limbs and some spectacular bruises. It is not often that you have the chance of being coached by a championship winning team and a top of the fleet crew. This is what the Merlin family is all about and it was very much appreciated by all those who took part. Thank you very much chaps.

Report: John Cooper