Singlehander tips from Jon Emmett

26 11 2009

Whilst this blog has always featured news and tips for high performance sailing (ok, two man high performance sailing), I thought it was about time that we started to cater for all of you guys sailing singlehanders.  With this in mind, I’ve persuaded  multiple Laser Radial National Champion Jon Emmett to provide some top level coaching tips and advice for singlehander sailors.   Over the next few months we’ll be featuring several blog posts from Jon, including training and techniques for starting, upwind technique and tactics.  Furthermore, he’ll be reporting on his Laser Radial events to keep everyone interested in between these posts.

Take a look at Jon’s site, here, and if you really want to make some improvements to your game, buy his superb book Be your own sailing coach (it’s now under £9 for 290 pages of tips and advice. Well worth it)


New York Supreme Court orders 33rd America’s Cup to be sailed in Velencia or the southern Hemisphere

30 10 2009

The latest America’s cup news is that, thanks to the New York Supreme Court, Alinghi has to stop messing around with their fake sailing club and sail the event in either Valencia, or the Southern Hemisphere.  My personal vote goes for an event in Cape Town..

After the hearing, Lucien Masmejan said: “This is a disappointing result as we were certain that Justice Cahn’s May 2008 decision allowed the Defender to chose Valencia or ‘any other location’,” said Lucien Masmejan, Société Nautique de Genève (SNG) legal counsel. “Ras Al Khaimah has put enormous time and effort into this 33rd America’s Cup project. We thank them and feel sorry for this unexpected result out of the New York court”.

I’m no legal expert, so I wouldn’t dare to comment on the actual ruling, but I’m just happy that it has gone against Alinghi. Over the last few years, Alinghi have worked hard to ruin the reputation of the America’s Cup and have caused a backlash against sailing in general. It would be nice for them to stop changing the rules, get on the water, and sail.  Lawyers should be left well at home.

By reading this blog post you hear by acknowledge that I am indeed correct, and therefore lose any ability to sue me or anyone related to me. Or my Dogs. And you can’t take my boat either. These are my views and opinions, so you may not take legal action against me. Especially if you are Swiss…

Finally, heres a reminder to all Alinghi fans, sailors and America’s cup viewers. Alinghi are a great team and have built some beautiful boats. I’m looking forward to seeing them on the water competing at the next AC. This is what we are here for.


23 10 2009

As every one knows, Twitter is the latest web phenomenon and the 3rd biggest reason to get online, closely beaten by Googling your own name (who hasn’t done this?), and in number 1 spot, looking at naked girls. I’ve been on Twitter since before it was cool (many will argue that it’s not currently cool, but if you go and ask my 200 Twitter friends they’ll tell you otherwise) yet I realised today that I’ve never really mentioned it on the blog. I may only write a  new blog post once a week (ok, once a month…), but I write a lot more on Twitter so some of you may find it useful. Many of you won’t find it useful at all, however, but come and follow me anyway.

Justin was planning to get on Twitter a few months ago, and actually started Tweeting for a while. But then he remembered that he was at Uni and had real friends to spend time with. Anyway, here’s his Twitter. If you have any 29er or 49er questions, give him a shout. He also has a ridiculous knowledge of most sports, so go and test him…:

I’ve been on Twitter considerably longer than Jus, and can be found Tweeting away most working days. Come over and say Hi. Any questions on sailing? I’m all ears:
Twitter: 49er and skiff racing advice

Online sailing

20 10 2009

I get a lot of traffic to this site searching for online sailing games. I’ve decided to help these people out by giving a round up of some fantastic online sailing games.  Ok, they don’t replace the real thing, but when you’re stuck at work and have nothing better to do than stare out of the window, then maybe it’s time to give one of these a shot.

SailX is probably the most popular option.  Whilst at first look it seems pretty boring, when you scratch the surface you’ll find a smooth running, highly complex sailing simulation that covers most aspects of our sport. If you’re into laser sailing, you’re in the right place.  29er’s your thing? then they have you covered. How about keel boats? Yep, all in there.

Quite simply, you have a startline, windward – leeward course and 3 minute count down.  With multiple human players taking part, it gets pretty competitive but there’s nothing better than winning the startline, crossing the fleet and rounding the windward mark first.  SailX is a definite must try.  Give it a shot at

Online sailing with SailX

Online sailing with SailX

If you’re looking for something a bit more realistic, take a look at Virtual Skipper. My favourite version is VR1, brought out quite a few years ago.  It’s a fully 3D keelboat racing simulator and is a great way to get a bit of a sailingfix at home.  You can play online against other sailors, race the computer, compete in regattas and generally have a bit of fun on the water.  Take a look at the Virtual Skipper world here:

Virtual Skipper online sailing game

Photos from the Nationals

20 10 2009

I’m STILL to finish the report for the 2009 nationals, but I thought I’d upload a few photos taken by

These were taken on the 1st day, in relatively flat water and around 20 knots of breeze.  On the Sunday the camera boats didn’t go out, so we have little record of the huge conditions that the fleet enjoyed.  Anyway, thanks to Fotoboat for the great coverage of the event. If you haven’t checked them out yet, jump over and see if they have a photo of you.

Top mark, 1st lap 1st race. We rolled the guys in front of us here during the hoist:

RS800 Nationals @ Tenby SC Aug 09 visser 49er racing

Getting ready to gybe after the first mark rounding. Backs need to be straighter really, but we were looking for depth so we weren’t pushing it too hard:

RS800 Nationals @ Tenby SC Aug 09 visser 49er racing

Bottom mark, ready to drop.

RS800 Nationals @ Tenby SC Aug 09 Visser 49er racing

Making it tough for yourself: In search of height

19 10 2009

During a training session this weekend at Oxford (in preparation for next week’s inlands), we decided to use the flat water to work on our upwind height.  Whilst sailing in chop forces you to keep your bow down to some extent, flat waters are a great opportunity to test your boat’s boundaries, to see how high you can push it and to then put these tests into practice.

In the 49er we quickly learnt that the crew tends to move the mainsheet more than is needed, and the helm tends to steer to the jib telltails. So, when the gust comes in, the mainsheet is eased and the boat stays on the same heading. What we tried to do was to go half and half, by ditching 6 inches of mainsheet and pushing the stick a little bit to head her up.  This is a great way to sail, but it takes practice to get right (and also a really good rig set up..).

At Oxford sailing club, we decided to see how far we could push it. It was pretty gusty, and breezy enough to twin wire, so we started out aiming to ditch just 6 inches of sheet, and then moved onto just 4 inches, and then 2, constantly trying to find our limits.  It’s easy to say this before you hit the water, but in reality you always end up going back to your old methods without realising. Sometimes, making things extra difficult is a good way to learn more about your boat, so we decided to make this more difficult for ourselves by firstly marking the mainsheet (with tape) to the limit that Justin could ease the sheet, and then by giving him the very end of a shortened mainsheet (with a knot in) that would fully prevent him easing more than the allocated 6 inches. Sailing upwind in breezy conditions, Justin was holding the very end of the mainsheet tail, and was completely unable to let the sheet out more than a little bit, so was forced to keep us upright using steerage alone.

The effects were pretty interesting. Sure, everything was a bit more unstable when we hit variations in the wind, but once it stabilised we found we were sailing a good few degree higher through the gusts and using the tiller a lot more to alter our power.  We had to be quicker to bend our knees when the breeze dropped (due to our high angle, the boat was far more “on edge” so the slightest header would drop all power) but overall the exercise showed us how high we can push the boat before losing power and sailability.

Winter is definitely a time for testing new techniques, so why not get out there and try something a bit different?  Rake the rig right back, try a different gybing technique, get the crew to helm for a bit (a great way to learn more about each other’s roles), train with the rudder halfway up (teaches you to roll the boat more through tacks..), and just generally mix it up.

RS800 Nationals 2009 Day 1

16 09 2009

Tenby, South West Wales was the venue for the 2009 RS800 Nationals. With 4 days set aside for the competition, we hit the water on Saturday expecting a fairly long event and therefore aimed for consistency over the first day. An offshore, 18 knot breeze gave us a high paced blast out to the start line before we settled into our pre-start routine.

With clouds skidding across the sky, we sailed the beat twice to log some high and low numbers, before relaxing below the committee boat to watch the other sailors, trying to pick the guys who were looking fast and the guys who weren’t. Having decided on the boats we wanted to avoid on the line, we waited for the 5 minute gun before checking transits. With 3 minutes to go, we went for a final short beat to check numbers again, before dropping back to our midline starting position to line up. This is the same routine we always use, and we find that keeping it metronomic allows us to clear our heads pre-start and forget about any outside pressure.

We lined up for the first race mid-line, looking for a safe and consistent start. On 9 seconds, we sheeted in, hit the wire and got the bow down to roll the boat below and to punch ahead of the midline sag. With choppy waves rolling in, we shifted our weight back before working to take some height to allow us to attack the boat sitting to windward. 30 seconds later, we’ve squeezed up under their bow and have begun to lee bow them. Great, things are looking good. We sail the rest of the beat working the middle of the track, but lose out to the boats who started further right as they hook into more of a right shift. Rounding 6th, we pop the kite and roll the boat in 5th thanks to a quicker hoist. Twin wiring, we start working low in front of the boats trailing us, reach the gybe point and step across the boat to power on down to the leeward gate on port. Under pressure, we drop a little late around the left hand gate and have a bit of a poor rounding, forcing us to away from the right hand side back into the middle.

After clearing our lane, we go for a tack back, but pick the wrong patch of water and nail it into a wave. The wave knocks the tiller out of Justin’s hand, spinning us around and capsizing us through the tack. Damn. Anyway, we get the boat up and set off to catch some places up. With another good run we pull up to 16th by the finish.

Waiting in the line up for the second race, we noted the gusts rolling down over the course, and the large patches of light wind between them. This was going to be a race to keep your head out of the boat. Again, we decided that the quality of the fleet would make starting at the boat end a bit risky, so we lined up just under the main pack hoping to use or boat speed to get a good lane. This time we push the line a bit harder, and have to sheet in at around 4 seconds, but still manage to hold our lane and, after 30 seconds, start to impact on the boat below us. Similar to the first race, the waves are big aspects in upwind boats speed, and a number of times we pull ahead from reacting quickly to the steepest waves. With a clear lane, we tack onto port and start to attack the right hand side of the fleet. Crossing a few boats, we tack back on the right hand side of the course in a small header. A few boats have done well from starting from the boat end and heading out right. We end up rounding 8th, again roll the 7th boat as we hoist, and finish the run in 7th. With a nice final beat, we pull up a couple of places but lose out down the run to Spod and Filmour as they gybe early, hook into better pressure before beating us to the line.

So, after day 1 we finish in 8th position. Aside from the capsize we would have had a relatively good day, but we still have the feeling that we should have done a lot better..