Rutland Training

Rutland Training Reports

version 1

Paul & Sallyís Training weekend

So we packed up Thunderclap once more and headed off into the Friday evening rush hour traffic. We managed to negotiate the Hammersmith roundabout intact this time although the tension in the car was rising, no mad Merc drivers out there today! The route master told me that I should make it to Rutland in 1 hour and 40 minutes. 3 hours later we still had 30 miles to go, we were tired, I had no idea where I was going (donít they have road signs in Leicestershire?) and we were hungry.

We managed to break into the club through the razor wire and electronic gates, disinfected all bodily parts (!), ditched the boat with all the others and staggered into the bar. What was wrong? Where were family Porkins? Various excuses concerning Porkins junior and a £300 car seemed a likely explanation and so we started the serious business of drinking. Everyone was eventually thrown out at 11.30 and, as there was nowhere else to go, we all trooped off to our dorms.

The next day dawned perfect, gentle northerly breeze (a little chilly if you want to be fussy) and a few practise races to grade the fleet. "Weíre expecting great things of you Paul" said many of the trainers. Pressure? No! So, how do we start these "Great Things"? Fantastic start on the first race, perfect first beat, half a leg ahead by the first mark, win by a mile? Oh no, youíve obviously not been following the Silver Tiller antics of Mr and Mrs Flipper! Howís about sailing BACKWARDS across the start line as the gun goes and ending up last at the windward mark? This is more like it. Look who need the practise thinks the driver!

After a few more goes we are beginning to get the hang of it. The added incentive of alcoholic prizes for performance in the short races certainly helped!

Back to shore for a welcome briefing from Mr Alsop and an introduction of all our esteemed trainers. It feels a bit like a whoís who of Merlin racing with more past and present national champions than I knew we existed.

Back out on the water again for boat handling drills. The boss learning all the time here (you see, the jib does do something after all!). More starting and follow my leader and then a few more short races before lunch. This is how it should be, loads of corners, no boat speed advantage, itís all about boat handling, starting and mark rounding. The afternoon consisted of tacking and gybing on the whistle and loads more drills.

Finally it was time for tea and the pub. Most people ended up about 2 miles away in a pub, however we found a pizza van parked in the middle of a field in the dead of night serving excellent pizza. Very Twilight Zone!

Overall verdict day 1: Made loads of new friends, did tons of sailing, had a fantastic time.

Day 2 dawned windier than day 1 and we had more of the same. Lots of gybing practise again followed by a demonstration in the evening of how to do it by our national champions (Iíll omit mentioning how they fared!) and myself and Will Rainey in Thunderclap. After breaking every piece of string in our boat (Iím a little stronger than the Sally) and retying everything, we managed to put in a couple of text book gybes. Highlight of the whole weekend? Watching them both on video in the evening to the cheers of all present. It took a few days for the ego to diminish I can tell you!

The dinner on day 2 blurred into that familiar alcoholic haze which seems to form a large part of many Merlin get togethers these days. Final memory, synchronised snoring in the dorms. Not Impressed!

Day 3 was windier still. After buying lots of new string we set off for some more short course racing. Unfortunately we had a bit of boat damage meaning we couldnít go out in the afternoon, however watching from the shore, I can confirm that the standard of sailing exhibited on the water in a force 4 / 5 was superb. The sailing was fast and close and hardly any capsizing at all. Well done to everyone there!

Overall, we both had an excellent weekend, learnt loads, made some new friends and got to know some old friends a little better. Rutland was an ideal venue (well, anythingís easier than battling the tide on the Thames!) and weíll be back next year.

Thank you to all who put in so much work on our behalf.

Paul & Sally Gilbert
Thunderclap 3466



 Along with another 7 boats from Hampton Sailing Club (I use our full title advisedly as Web-bloke has a habit of referring to the Hampton Ladies Lawn Sailing and Drinking Club) I set off for Rutland Water on a chilly May afternoon.  We travelled via Hyde Sails in Benfleet to retrieve our spinnaker, which I had inadvertently torn in an excessive show of strength when Ellie couldnít pull it down at Chichester when wrapped round the forestay fittings.  I can give you a short piece of advice on visiting Benfleet in the rush hour.  We turned up at dusk and sprayed all six tyres with disinfectant before entering.  It felt like November.  Some keen people were still putting masts up and so forth.  We headed straight for the club!  The pack-bearing vagrant who had arrived at the same time as us revealed himself as Ben Alsop, scion of the mighty Dan, but of his father there was no trace.  We had been instructed to repair to the Wheatsheaf for food on arrival.  Fortunately local intelligence reports, later proven accurate, deterred us as the pub was inexplicably SHUT!  The remainder of our course gradually assembled, with the Bowen-Perkins setting the tone by arriving late, ordering an impossible quantity of beer and then revealing that Tom had managed to blow the engine of his car on the way having bought it a few days before for £300 to replace the previous 3 he had written off.  Just as we felt we were getting into the swing of it the bar closed, but it was 11:30 by the time we were dislodged by the staff finally turning off the lights.  The next morning set the pattern with a chilly north-easterly breeze making it feel more like February than May despite the sunshine.  Short briefing and then out on the water for a series of short races round a triangular course.  Back in for an early lunch and then out to practice regulating the speed of the boat, strung out across the lake following Dan like imprinted ducklings.  Then practising starts properly.  After we had done this a few times we were all so good at it that we were all on the right side of the line before the start!  (Salcombe black flags here we come).  That evening 15 hungry Hampton sailors set off for the Wheatsheaf in Edith Weston, as instructed by Dan and Scotty, to find food.  BUT!! with the change of management that had closed the pub the previous evening there was no food to be had save packets of pork scratchings.  Off we set into the dusk to find a cafť.  It had closed 10 minutes before we arrived, but locals said there was another pub down the road that did food.  The truth was that a hotel a mile away did food.  Though a bit gobsmacked by our arrival, they coped brilliantly, and most of the course participants found their way to it eventually.  We nearly drank them dry, but the manager seemed incredibly pleased about it all. I blame foot and mouth.

Next day still the chilly NE wind and a little more of it.  Out on the water quickly for some more short races and then on to do tacking and gybing practice.  All in a line, all tack on the whistle, then as soon as you are up and running, whistle goes again, another tack; you get the picture.  Reasonably straightforward, but then the same for gybing with spinnaker up.  The trick for me was keeping the boat completely level; I have had to unlearn a lot of river sailor's manoeuvres, this was one.  John Bell then swapped with Ellie and we went off to sort out my helming.  John showed me what it meant to get the boat flat and powered up - by now it was blowing a steady F4 - and I had to unlearn my tendency to pinch all the time.  Downwind was a revelation.  After a question about which string did the business, up went the kite.  There were a few little waves running down the lake by now.  With encouragement I bore away on the next one to pass and with some mighty pumping of the spinny we were off!  Can't do that on a river, alas!  The wind was getting up all the time and so after tea the Champions (John and Graham) went out to demonstrate single pole gybing in a blow while Mike Calvert took Paul Gilbert's boat with Flipper crewing to show the way with 2 poles.  John and Graham's swim was duly captured on video for all to watch in the bar later, amid much ribaldry and what the Germans call Schadenfreude.  The evening that followed was the Course Dinner.  These events do get a bit hazy in the memory these days.  I remember winning a quiz and tying some yellow ribbon, but I still donít know why.

Last day.  Still perishing cold NE wind and yet more of it.  The sailing club was meant to be having a regatta, but our 20 Merlins outnumbered them.  A quick race and then sailing round a square course: two beam reaches, a run and a beat.  The added feature of this one was the compulsory 360o turn on every leg.  Bear in mind itís now blowing the top end of F4 with some interesting gusts.  We got a bit carried away with just planing down the reaches till called to order by Jennie King stalking us in the RIB.  Then on to the final series of races.  For this the slower folk like me had the benefit of a start a minute ahead of the hotshots.  Sadly, in the first race I hadnít paid attention to what we were doing and set off to the wing mark instead of down the run when leading!  Another thing to learn Ė just remember to sort out the course because after all this training you might get round a mark in the lead some time!  Unfortunately I couldnít repeat the performance, but I have to say we were going upwind better than ever before.

Prizes and smiles all round at the end.  What did we learn?  Firstly practicing a lot of things we do not terribly well once in one race every weekend and never come back to get right.  I learnt a whole series of ways to lose places at the windward mark, but with all the short races you go straight to the next thinking, ďright, donít do that one againĒ.  Starting; over and over again.  Then boathandling skills over and over again.  I must have put in about 70 or more gybes over the weekend, probably 30 on the windy last day.  If I canít keep the boat flat gybing and bearing away now itís not for want of trying.  I got a few bits and pieces of my rig and control lines sorted with more modifications to come.  You can put up with a badly-placed cleat or line if you use it 2 or 3 times on Sunday but when you have just done 10 spinnaker gybes you realise how much easier it is if everything works 100%.  So finally folks, just a repeated thank you to all those in the class who give up their time to help us mortals sail faster and get more from this great sport and great class.

Andrew and Ellie Mills, Elusive 3347


Copyright MerlinRocket 2001.