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..

49er Fail

3 09 2009

A quick depth check? Looking to see if the foils are aligned or free of weed? Maybe it’s a case of “my head is hot..”. Either way, I’m not sure this is the fastest technique I’ve ever seen…

Giving the foils a quick weed check

Giving the foils a quick weed check

Proof that Alex Thomson is nuts

27 08 2009

Here’s a little proof that Alex Thomson is either nuts, or is a natural in PR. An inspired idea showing his style, and for want of a better phrase, his balls of steel:

Thanks to the Daily Sail for the image

Royal Torbay Yacht club: RS800

25 08 2009

Consistency was key at the Royal Torbay RS800 UK circuit event, as a wide variety of conditions challenged competitor’s brains as well as their boat handling skills. With the RS800 nationals looming ever nearer, this was the final chance of competition for the 12 boats attending, which was evident in the highly competitive start lines and aggressive boat on boat tactics seen all weekend.

Day 1 provided varying conditions, blowing 15 to 18 knots with a few 20 knot gusts recorded across the course. Race 1 was dominated by the pairings of Schooling and Kingsworth, Ellway and Bick, and the Visser brothers. Ellway and Bick showed blistering upwind pace, rounding the windward mark 1st in front of the Visser brothers before extending down the run. Meanwhile, Schooling and Kingsworth, rounding further back in the pack, pulled a huge margin back with some superb gust spotting down the run to round second. Up the second beat, Schooling and Kingsworth pulled ahead to round first, with Ellway and Bick rounding several boat lengths back, chased closely by Visser and Visser. Following numerous place changes, the final run saw Schooling and Kingsworth holding a lead over Ellway followed by Visser. Chasing down the final run, the Visser brothers gybed on Ellway and Bick to move into second before heading inland to pick up more pressure. Gybing back, they crossed Schooling and Kingsworth by inches to take the race win.

James Date and Toby Wincek took the lead role in race 2, with a race win over Schooling and Kingsworth, and Laurie and Gemma Fitzjohn-Sykes. In the breezier conditions, Date and Wincek drove the boat out right to hook into the breeze shifting off the cliffs, playing the tactics well to take a well deserved win.

Race 3 saw the Visser brothers retiring due to illness (unfortunately, not beer related). Sailing home, they witnessed a master class from Schooling and Kingsworth as they sailed to their 1st victory of the event. After a strong start, they crossed the fleet to head inland towards the cliff, tacking back into a strong lift to take a significant lead which they extended throughout the race. Truly an impressive show of boat speed and fleet control, Schooling and Kingsworth never looked challenged. Mike Chapman and Paddy Adams sailed fast and smart to finish 2nd ahead of Ellway and Bick.

Day 2 brought partial sun and light breezes to the Torquay coastline. Ross McKerchor and Phil Lasko turned on the class to lead a large proportion of the race, only to be beaten narrowly on the upwind finish (after a shortened course) by the ever speedy Schooling and Kingsworth. The Visser brothers, after having to return to the line following a premature start, sailed back to the lead on the final beat, only to be pipped on the line by Mckerchor and Schooling charging in from the right. The three boats crossed the line within the space of a second, chased closely by the very rapid team of Ellway and Bick.

The 5th race (with enough breeze to twin wire in places) saw the most place changes of the entire event, with boats jumping from 1st to mid fleet and back over the space of a single leg. Again, Schooling, Ellway and Visser seemed to have the upper hand as they tacked out left to hook into the stronger breeze on the final beat. Tacking back, the breeze veered right, and continued to go. Stuck furthest left, the Visser brothers lost ground on the long leg to the mark. Schooling, however, managed to get back right just before the big shift came in, and rounded 1st to win the race and to hold onto their commanding lead in the series. James Date and Toby Wincek played the final beat perfectly to finish 2nd and jump up to 4th overall in the standings. With a superb last run, Chapman and Adams gained places to move ahead of Date and Wincek to finish 2nd, and second in the overall standings to leap frog the Visser brothers.

Ben Schooling and George Kingsworth sailed a superb series to discard a 2nd place to win the RS800 UK event with 1 race to spare.

Although only a relatively small fleet made the journey, competitive sailing and testing conditions made the trip well worthwhile. Special mention must go out to Royal Torbay Yacht club, who put on a highly enjoyable event, and provided perhaps the warmest welcome ever experienced at a sailing event.

Unlucky number 13

6 07 2009

I’m not a superstitious person and, contrary to expectations, I don’t have any stupid routines that I have to follow to avoid the world from ending.  I’ll happily sail around in a green boat in a green wetsuit, safe in the knowledge that bad luck is the least of my concerns (looking like Kermit the frog/Tin-Tin hybrid would be my primary concern…).  However, just prior to launching for the first race at the Lymington RS800 event, I admit to a quick mental doubl- take when we were handed tally number 13.  No, not in a “OH MY GOD WE’RE GOING TO DIE” way, but more in a “wouldn’t it be ironic if we have some sort of bad luck this weekend?” thought. I walked away  and dismissed the thought, safe in the knowledge that 13 is just a number.

Anyway, I won’t get into a full race report for this post, I’ll save that for my next one, but I’ll just give a quick summary of our event.

28 boats hit the water on Saturday morning and sailed out into 12 knots of South South Westerly breeze and strong flooding tide.  With bright sunshine, it was a day for sunglasses and sun screen, a good tidal understanding of the western Solent, and a couple of solid transits for the startline.  We got off to a good start, rounded the top mark second, but dropped one place in the last 50 meters of the last lap to finish 3rd, thanks to an inspired move by Spod and Guy.  In the second race we had a superb first beat, but with the wind dying down the run, we were caught by the boats chasing us and dropped 3 or 4 places, finishing 6th. Ok so far, not a bad start.  Everyone seemed to have an inconsistent few races, so we knew we were well in the running, joint second and one point off the lead.  We wanted to finish the day with another top 3, but with the wind almost completely dying we guessed that there were going to be a lot of points taken home for a few teams, so we had to make sure it wasn’t us.

I’ll write about the 3rd race in the next post.  We started well, put our nose in front of the fleet and were in contention for a top two rounding.  However, by the top mark we were in 12th spot thanks to a combination of forces that I’ll go into later.  However, we salvaged a 7th, and went home joint 3rd with two other boats.

On Sunday, we got off to another good solid start in 15 to 18 knots of breeze, finishing with a 3rd.  A big mainsheet wrap at the final top mark dropped us from an easy 2nd down to 6th, but we pulled back three spots on the last run to scramble a third place finish.

With two more races to sail, we decided to aim for another solid result before going all out for the race win in the final race.  After the first race  we guessed we were in third, so another above average score would hopefully solidify that position, and if not, would give us a chance to fight for it in the last race.  However, and this is where the luck comes in, as we hoisted for the second lap in freshening  breeze, our kite snagged on the jib somehow, tearing a panel out. Within seconds the whole sail had given way, and we were forced to abandon the race.  With another two laps left to race, we thought we may have a chance to change kites and get back out, so we rushed back to the slipway, rigged the new kite, and headed back to the startline.  Yet, as we rounded the headland, we saw the other boats lining up for the final race start. We were 6 minutes late for the start, so had to sail back home counting two DNFs in the last two races.

I don’t for a second think the tally number had anything to do with the kite ripping, but I think it’s ironic that bad luck strikes when we have a supposedly unlucky tally number.  Still, the key learnings from this event are more obvious:  We decided to sail with our training kite which was getting pretty old, trying to avoid damaging or ageing our new kite before Carnac.  We didn’t mind the loss of pace downwind, although it was fairly evident when we were in the pack, but our focus at the moment is on Carnac and the Nationals so everything else is just preparation. Still, with a decent kite I’m sure we would not have snagged it on that hoist, and it would have been nice to finish strongly.  However, we learned a hell of a lot this weekend, made some sharp tactical calls upwind, were fast in a straight line and in maneuvers and made some big tactical gains downwind, so the end result was good enough for me.


British Grand Prix: Is Formula One turning into the America’s Cup?

21 06 2009

Just a quick post.  I’m just watching the coverage of the British Grand Prix, and thinking about the fallout between the FIA and the main Formula One teams.  I’m starting to realise that this may begin to mirror what has happened in the America’s cup.  When teams become more powerful than the event organisers, you have a power struggle which can impact on the entire sport.


With teams controlling so much power over the governing body, you just need a difference in opinion to spark a break down in communications.  Just like the America’s cup, teams should not be able to hold the sport to ransom when things go against them.  However, for this to happen, the governing body HAS to listen to what the teams want, and it is here that I feel the issue is.

I don’t claim to have the answer to this, and if I did I’m sure I’d be a rich man.  However, I do know that the teams and governing bodies seem to forget that the people who matter the most to them are not the sponsors, manufacturers, FIA or team owners, but the people who tune in every weekend to watch the racing.  What they are doing is damaging the sport will driving away fans, and it is this consideration that they should be making.  Instead of arguing amongst themselves, they need to step back and think “the fans want this, so lets do it”.  Both Formula One and the America’s Cup need to stop arguing amongst themselves, and think about the fans.


JP Morgan Round the Island Race: Yacht racing vs. Dinghy Racing

19 06 2009

I’ve been throwing skiffs around the race courses of Europe for what feels like years.  We’ve been training from Lymington every weekend, virtually without fail, for the past 4 years.  We’ve been ordered off the water by the Coastguard twice because it was too windy, broken rigs, narrowly missed being run over by charging ferries, and generally made a nuisance of ourselves in the Solent for a fairly long time. Yet, why is it I’ve never taken part in the Round the Island race?  I’ve done a day of Cowes week, once, and that’s it.  I feel like we have done a hell of a lot in Dinghies, but when it comes to Yachts we really haven’t scratched the surface.

I guess some people just get well and truly stuck into dinghies and never branch out.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.  I’d far prefer racing a dinghy to a yacht, but I think to count yourself as a proper sailor you need to have spent hours racing both Dinghies and Yachts, and this is one area that I’d like to add to.

If anyone has a place on a Yacht at some point this summer, let us know.  We’re tactically pretty good, Jus drives ships like his hair is on fire and I’m good at getting them going fast.  Just don’t try to get me up the mast, that’s not going to happen. 🙂