So, I was sat out on my Laser in the bay this afternoon, the first time I have sailed in the past two months since I injured my ankle during my Level 1 training. The skies were blue, the sun was shining, and, with a southerly breeze coming off the land, the sea was flat. At 5 degrees Centigrade (41F) it was a bit on the chilly side, but I had all my winter sailing gear on so was feeling quite toasty.
Having just spent the past hour reaching back and forth across the bay in winds of 15 knots, gusting 23 knots, throwing in a few tacks and gybes as well as hiking out just for the fun of it, I was watching a group of the club’s cadets being put through their paces around the club marks. A few of them were being overpowered in their toppers and picos in the gusts, resulting in a few capsizes. ‘Well’, I was thinking, ‘at least I have kept my gear dry and so I won’t struggle to get it washed and dried before racing tomorrow’. As any sailor knows, it is quite unpleasant to put cold, wet gear on before you go out sailing, so it was a bonus that I wasn’t going to have to sort that out this evening.
Another Laser sailor came alongside me and we set off on a reach across the bay together. I got most of the way across when a gust hit and before I knew it I had death rolled the boat. If you don’t know what a death roll looks like in a Laser, it looks exactly like this:
Did I mention it was 5 degrees and this was the Irish sea? I managed to get thrown clear of the boat during the capsize, so was having to swim back to my boat as my other mistake was to not to keep hold of the main sheet. It was at this point I realised that whilst pride may come before a fall on land, in Laser sailing “Smugness comes before a swim”.
Today is the 1st of September. I associate September with the end of summer, which never really arrived again this year. This is a time when week night racing comes to an end and sailing and other on the water activities are confined to the weekends as the evenings get shorter. Closing day for racing is only a week away followed by a whole month to wait before the Icebreaker sailing series gets going once more to take racing through to Easter next year.
Things will be different this year, as September sees the start of my Level 1 training in preparation for the Clipper Round the World race that starts next July. I will be swapping my 14 foot Laser Radial dinghy for 60 – 68 foot racing yacht and learning the basics of sailing again. Tacking or gybing one of these bigger boats (turning the boat through the wind) takes a bit more effort than the same manoeuvres on the Laser, and should result in less swimming (falling overboard from a dinghy – ok; falling overboard from a yacht – not so good).
The first week of training focusses on developing crewing skills and introduces the basic principles of sailing and seamanship as well as teaching personal safety techniques. There is a lot to learn – the pre-course reading contains over 46 pages of information including knots I need to know (I am hoping my dinghy instructor training might kick in shortly so I have one less thing to remember :)). I am really looking forward to learning how to sail a ‘big boat’ but am slightly more apprehensive about other aspects such as producing something edible for other crew members as we will all have to share the cooking and cleaning duties as well as sailing the boat.
I suspect that the one of the biggest challenges of the week will actually be learning to live and work on board a boat at sea with a group of strangers, some of whom will have sailed extensively before whilst for others it could be their first ever week aboard a yacht. Now might be the time to get hold of a copy of the book by Dale Carneige called ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People‘ – developing patience and tolerance skills will no doubt be as essential as sailing, safety and seamanship skills!
Last week, I went sailing with Percy. No, not Iain Percy, who was otherwise occupied competing in the Star class for Team GB at Weymouth in the London 2012 Olympics (although I have spent a morning on a RIB with Iain Percy, but that is another story), but Percy… an inflatable hippopotamus.
It all started innocently enough with a try-a-sail for one of the local arts groups. I was asked to take a group out for a ‘bit of a jaunt’ in the bay; I realised this would not be a straightforward assignment when one of the guys came out with his buoyancy aid on… and an additional rubber ring shaped as a hippo.
What ensued turned out to be one of the best evenings I have ever had sailing. There were water fights, water bombs being thrown, races between the boats – all the things you expect to do with a bunch of ten year olds, not fully grown adults. Somehow, Percy ended up helming the boat…
… and even took part in a capsize drill!
I’m not overly sure it was an RYA approved capsize recovery technique, but Percy certainly ensured that the dagger board was slightly easier to reach. All that was left after righting the boat was to bring Percy ashore for a well earned drink; I’m sure Percy will be out for more sailing before too long.