The joys of freezing fingers

12 01 2009

Winter is always a bad time for sailing.  Ok, not bad as in “wasn’t the new Indy film bad?”, but bad as in “I’m cold, the wind has died, we’re being washed out to see and I didn’t give any money to the RNLI this year so I’m pretty sure they’re ignoring us” bad.   We’ve had a few training sessions were we’ve had ice literally form on the boat whilst we’re sailing, or we’ve decided to wrap up the session at around 3pm, started sailing in from mid-Solent only for the wind to drop.  2 hours later, the sun is down and I’m lying on the foredeck front-crawl paddling to get us home.

Unlike most people sailing on the Solent in mid-winter, I don’t usually have a problem keeping warm, so I have sailed many times wearing a short sleeved summer 3mm wetsuit with a rashy over the top.  This is great for windy days when I’m working so hard that I can keep warm without a wetsuit at all, however, it’s when we capsize or have a breakage that I really suffer.  Thankfully, after 3 months in the 800 we are still yet to capsize, even though we’ve sailed in up to 25 knots, so that’s not been an issue.  It does become an in issue when the wind dies though, and we’ve had a few horrendous trips home sitting in wet sailing kit paddling home.  It’s not fun.

Anyway, the point to this post is that, although sailing is tough in winter, and not always that much fun, it’s a hell of a lot more fun than sitting at home watching TV.  Just because your wetsuit has frozen solid and the ropes in your boat won’t bend around the blocks, you can still sail.  Ok, it sucks rigging up in the cold, it’s painful to walk into the water for the first time, yes your hands hurt, your ears are numb and you can’t figure out why no one else is on the water.  But isn’t it the best feeling in the world when you pop the kite and have the entire solent/lake/river (does anyone actually sail on rivers these days?) to your self?  We’ve sailed on New Years day many times before.  With horrendous hangovers, a distinct lack of balance or finesse, and wearing about ten hats, we had the entire Solent to ourselves and blasted down-wind for hours without seeing another pleasure boat (or, thank god, a sodding Jet Ski).  Yes, I threw up about 3 times and nearly got hypothermia, but it still goes down as one of the best sails of my life.  Totally worth it.

I don’t know about you, but winter sailing IS worthwhile, you just need to focus on the positives.  And give generously to the RNLI..


Training and photo shoot

5 08 2008

After trying to organise it for a long time, I finally managed to get Felix Hemsley over to Lymington for a bit of a photo shoot.  We wanted to get some new shots for the sponsors, as well as some film for training purposes. There’s nothing like filming yourself to work out what you need to imporve on, so armed with a few thousand pounds worth of camera equipment (his, not ours..) and a promise that “dude, no worries, you won’t break a thing and it’ll be dry”, we rocked up to Lymington to be greeted with torrential rain and 20 knots of breeze.  After sitting in the cab for ten minutes, the low passed over and the we stepped out into wall to wall sunshine. 

After rigging up (it’s very difficult to rig up plus ensure that the photographer is getting your best side….) we wandered over to the gruff RNLI men to find out what conditions we could expect.  “You’re going out?” he said with a grin….

“erm, yep.  looks ok to me.  what’s it blowing?”

“Hmm, 25knots, gusting 30.  If you’re going out, how about we keep the boat on the water for you shall we?  You know, just in case….”

Right.  Ok, we didn’t have much choice so we pulled the sails up (whilst trying to look all casual and unfussed as the boat did it’s best to jump off the trolley and fly away…) and launched.

After sailing out through Lymington river, both in the toe loops on a broad reach, we hit the Solent, or rather, then Solent hit us…  in the face.  With 25 knots of very angry wind and waves that just didn’t appreciate the finer arts of trying to keep a boat flat.  To avoid having to go downwind too much, be blasted off towards Cowes in the death zone (an angle to the wind where everything just seems to go wrong, in a very sharp, painful and altogether upside down way) to practice our bearaways.  However, we very quickly realised that with the strong wind against tide current, bad things were about to happen.  Besides, I was getting the “lets call it a day” cut throat gesture from Felix on the RIB, as he fought to keep his camera equipment dry and in one piece.  We decided to stay out a little longer, but it was getting to the stage where, even though both sails were completely let go, we were still nearly getting blown flat..

So after much conversation ( Me: “WE SHOULD GO IN…”    ….Jus:  “WHAT?”   Me: ” I SAID WE SHOULD GO IN!”  Jus: “I CAN’T HEAR A THING! WE SHOULD GO IN!” Me: “WHAT????!” ) we called it a day and pulled a bearaway (yes, it’s 25 knots and there are steep choppy waves around us.  Why tack when you can bear away and learn something?  Why drop the spinnaker when you can gybe drop?) and blasted back home.

The photos are now up on flickr so go and have a look.  Felix could only shoot whilst we were still in the river or in flat water, so they don’t really do the conditions justice.  We’re all very happy with the photos though, and Felix turned out to be a pretty hard nut to risk all of his equipment in those conditions.  Thanks goes out to Felix (check out his site: and our elegant RIB driver Maria Claridge.

Jesus christ lads, you were hooning it!

31 10 2007

Just remebered a story from training in Lymington a few weeks back.

It was a breezy day, withnice big waves and huge gusts rolling down the solent. We went out and trained for around 2 hours. On the last leg, we got the kite up, hit the straps and screamed downwind through the waves, taking off on each on. We gybe dropped to finish the session, and sailed in. On the shore, we were getting the sails down outside of the RNLI station, when a grisled RNLI crewman came out with a huge grin on his face.

“Jesus christ lads! We saw you sailing in. You were hooning it!”

Not sure what hooning it means, but I have a feeling he may be referring to our tendancy to take off at top speed. Thanks mister RNLI man sir, much appreciated.