Sunday, March 15, 2015

March 2015 - an update on the Winter training programme

Winter Training – The story so far…

Following my comprehensive thrashing (on count-back) of a 13 year old Topper sailor in the Christmas Series, I’ve managed to embarrass myself in every race this year.
To be fair, the Big Ginger Nephew is in good form and he’s almost unbeatable in his Finn so it was no surprise that he kicked my butt in our last race.
Last week I let him sail the RS300. He stayed upright while I couldn’t find the strength to pull in the mainsheet on his Finn.
A couple of weeks earlier, the Steve Nicholson had confirmed my mental and physical frailties which I’ve been struggling to overcome all Winter.
We had a breezy Icebreaker race a few weeks ago which I was quite pleased to survive, although exhaustion in the latter stages caused me to make a number of silly mistakes, ending with a capsize shortly after the finish.

More recently, some modifications to the boat and a couple of lighter wind outings have given me the opportunity to work on my technique and I’ve improved my core fitness by attempting a push-up, falling off a balance ball, sitting on Ela’s hiking bench for 3 and a half minutes, and spending an evening assembling a so far unused rowing machine. 

Here's the programme in case you need fitness advice from an expert:
Core Stability Programme - Copyright @Team Arnell
Core Stability Programme - Copyright @Team Arnell
On the boat a lavish coating of surfboard wax (It's called “Sex Wax” which is ironic because if you smothered you or your partner’s intimate parts with it you’d be very unpopular and unlikely to have sex although you would smell of coconuts). Anyway – the sex wax is intended to stop me sliding around in the boat. I still fall over but I smell nicer. It’s all over my mainsheet and my sailing gear. It’s also all over Jack’s Finn from the time I sailed it. Jack’s mother was furious.
The “off the boom” sheeting is working reasonably well but the auto-ratchet on the cockpit floor was unpredictable. When you wanted it to hold the mainsheet it didn’t, and usually when a gust arrived and you wanted to dump some sheet, it gripped. So I spent a fairly large sum of cash (the equivalent of at least 10 lagers) on a new Harken ratchet block.
I’ve also replaced my front toe-straps and constructed some padding between the front and rear straps to hold them off the floor. So far it’s working well and I’m having to learn new, even more stupid ways to fall out of the boat.
Recording my outings with the camcorder mounted on the boom is a mixed blessing. I can review a lot of my techniques but I’m usually either frowning or making a sex face, and I spend a lot of time trying to straighten the camera after hitting the water with the end of the boom.
Overall, however, it’s been a good winter. I’m keen to get a "Tacktick" compass, in case we get something called a windshift this season, and something to hold my water bottle in place (gravity only works when the boat isn’t upside down).  Might have to ask Rover to construct something for me in carbon fibre so I can at least look like an idiot with lots of cash to spend (in other words, like a Finn sailor)
Our new Portsmouth Yardstick is 985 which is 5 points "faster" than last year. This is surprising as my contribution should ensure the RS300 fleet’s overall performance has declined since last July. The only good news is that the Finns (my nemesis at Christchurch) have been clobbered by 8 points so they'll have to find some new, even slacker, interpretations of Rule 42.
This weekend I’ve focused on the RS300 Winter Championships at Hykeham. Meaning I’m sitting here with a glass of wine looking at their results on the internet. Well done Steve Bolland.
My next race probably will be the Easter Series and I’m looking forward to the return of Luke. Time to get serious.

January 24th 2015 - Steve Nicholson Trophy

24th January – Steve Nicholson Trophy.

The Winter sailing circuit is an acquired taste. If you enjoy 5am starts, driving 3 hours each way in darkness, encountering overnight road closures and diversions, this is the life for you. If you're mad enough to bring a boat and spend your days freezing on the water , so much the better.

Today my travelling companions are my chain-smoking brother and sleepy nephew. We're in Jon's van – Jack is asleep in the back, Jon is driving. Grateful as I am for not having to drive, the van isn't a comfortable ride. Every 15 minutes Jon lights up and opens the driver's window. I don't know why he bothers to open the window. The temperature plummets to near freezing and all his assorted crap blows around inside the cab. And the smoke still hits me in the face.

After a 30 minute detour around the villages of Oxfordshire due to the closure of the A34, we finally arrive at Northampton Sailing Club. Nestled in the countryside just outside Northampton, we are greeted with bright sunshine and a moderate breeze blowing across the reservoir – better than the forecast, at least.

Jack is the only Finn here today, but there are about a dozen RS300's in a single-handed fleet of nearly 90 boats. The reservoir isn't very big and the breeze means we have a very small course to play on. To say it's busy out here is an understatement. There's an International Canoe. The skipper bails out early in race 1 and goes home, complaining bitterly about how the rest of us ruined his race. I think he's overly grumpy but he does have a point.

We head out for race 1. Leaving the shelter of the clubhouse the wind starts to increase and the gusts are very sharp. By the time I reach the start I'm feeling wobbly and nervous. The boat feels twitchy today and there are so many boats around I'm worried about colliding with someone. Telling myself to man up, I find a gap near the pin end of a crowded line and manage to get away in the front row. There's an RS600 ahead of me but not much scope for tacking away on port so I go hard left on the 1st beat. Nearing the lay-line I tack and head back into the fleet on port. The approach to the windward mark is stressful with boats all around and a very shifty breeze near the shore. I manage to tack into a gap and round the mark reasonably well placed – inside the top 20 at least.
A short reach on starboard then we gybe away onto the dreaded run. I stay low, looking for clear air as the wind increases...and increases. A sharp gust hits and the boat rolls to windward, burying her bow. Thinking a capsize is inevitable I throw myself across the boat, putting the helm down. We spin up to windward. The capsize is avoided. Shaken, I finally tack back and continue down to the leeward mark. 

The promising start is forgotten as at least 10 boats went past, including Jack, while I was pratting about. Every mark rounding is a scrum. I stay outside, sailing much further than I should and sitting in dirty air most of the time. 

Four laps later and finally I reach the finish. Battered and depressed I head ashore. Surely I can't sail worse than this?

Yes I can. Race 2.
I'm 30 seconds adrift at the start and following the fleet. The wind has eased slightly and there are no wobbly moments but there are also no gaps and no passing opportunities. I'm nearer the back of the fleet than the front and challenging nobody. Jack had a great race, finishing 20th and 55th overall, even counting his retirement in the 1st race.

The RS300 fleet did well with 3 boats in the top 10. Your author finished 61st. I've forgotten how to race. It's a long drive home. At least I didn't have to drive.