September – The Adventure Begins

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!

Sailing with Percy

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.

Percy makes an appearanceWhat 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…

Helming with Percy… and even took part in a capsize drill!

Capsizing with PercyI’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.