2011 Sigma 38 Class Race Training Report
Remember the call from Light – It’s only a friggin yacht race......
......was our introduction to race training Meakins-style as close to 60 expectant crew gathered in Hamble River Sailing club at 0830 for the 2011 class race training. This was closely followed by the news that:
Yacht racing is something that ranks in importance somewhere between tiddlywinks and downhill cheese rolling.
I shall file that one away with my other favourite Meakinism:
Racing is a just an excuse to repeatedly sail around the same piece of water without getting bored.
Anyway, suitably pumped up/deflated we were soon introduced to the brains trust from Festina Lente & Light. I looked around hopefully trying to identify the brains trust for With Alacrity but quickly decided it was best not to risk going there – surely the message is that the whole crew is the brains trust!
Next followed a quick briefing on the activities planned for the windless day which we were warned could involve using a lot of hydrocarbons and a new exercise of group motoring backwards to create enough apparent wind to fly spinnakers. I was a bit confused by this until it was later explained that you could often tell a sea breeze was developing in the Solent by seeing spinnakers flying to the west on windless days. Ah, now it became clear - we were going to do the mass-backwards-motor-spinnaker thing just to tease the Sunsail fleet waiting for wind in the Eastern Solent!
Barney was up last with a quick run through of some often misunderstood rules; tacking within 3 lengths of a windward mark (protest committees take a dim view) and reaching into the committee boat at the start (protest committees take a dim view). Then to stir things up he proceeded to show us the contents of his manbag – luckily there was nothing more controversial than tidal charts, a rules book, spare sunglasses, suncream, hand bearing compass & a handheld GPS (with spare batteries). Though rumour has it there were some items he did not pull out!
Soon crew were paired up with boats, those who wanted them had coaches on board who were experienced Sigma sailors and after a slightly more leisurely than usual departure (as there really was no wind at 10am) the fleet met at Hamble point at 11am and started sailing in a weak 4-5 knots of breeze.
We were assigned a not-so-secret spy from Festina Lente, it was tough to keep up the charade but I think we managed to maintain the illusion that our general ineptness means Festina does not need to worry about With Alacrity at the Nationals. We even contrived to prove this on video when Philip came over during the day asking if he could record a good example of light air spinnaker gybing – after our third failed attempt he got bored and motored off.
Soon the wind was up to 8 knots, enough for us to practice flying a spinnaker without a pole (handy for those last minute spinnaker drops at leeward marks), we even tentatively tried a few gybe hoists in amongst the tacking practice, gybe practice and general “who needs to pull what when” conversations to make the boat handling slicker.
Shortly after lunch we were into practice starts and practice races, even venturing out as far as Coronation & Stormforce in pursuit of wind. The general conclusion was that any boat can get to the front of the fleet if they start well, go the right way and don’t mess up the boat handling. The last race finished back at Hamble Point and we were at Hamble River SC shortly after 4pm for a much needed beer and short de-brief (make sure everyone knows their job, the less people talking on board the better, keep spinnaker poles low in light wind). Then it was off for a quick shower before meeting at the King & Queen for dinner and more....erm....in depth analysis.
A huge thanks to Philip & Susan for organising the day as well as Barney and the rest of the coaches for putting up with us. I really was not looking forward to race training with no wind but Philip managed to usher us towards the best of the breeze and turn it into a great day with plenty to think about for the Nationals in just 2 weeks time!