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..



Awesome weekend

16 06 2008

We’ve just finished a fantastic weekends training in the Solent.

With us leaving for Kiel week this friday coming, we trained with Rich Mason and Tom Peel over Saturday and Sunday as a final weekend sharpening up practice. Although we drove to Lymington expecting light winds, the Solent delivered a sunny, 16knot seabreeze day with short steep chop. Amazing…

After agreeing rig settings with Rich and Tom (it’s good to know what the other boats is sailing on so you can compare. We chose slightly lighter settings with a straighter mast), we hit the water to be greeted by the aforementioned kick ass sea breeze. Both boats quickly took on some turns and set off on a long tuning run. First result went to rich and Tom, creeping away from underneath us to lead by about a boatlength over 10minutes of upwind sailing. We took a few more turns and some more jib tension (the breeze was building) and set off onto another run. this time, we seemed to have much better pace, and could sail faster on a bow-down course, and higher and faster when we wanted to climb away. although our boat speed was similar in a straight line, we just seemed to react to the gusts and chop marginally quicker (and when I say marginal, I mean gaining half a meter each gust. not much, but it does add up). After a few more upwind tuning runs, we popped the kites for some downwind training.

Now, the next part of our training was obviously designed by helms, not crews. The 50 gybe challenge (invented by Team GBR coach Harvey Hillary) is a long downwind leg where boats have to, yes you’ve guessed it, gybe 50 times in quick succession. I used to think gut-busters were hard, but the 50 gybe challenge (particularly the last 15) was exhausting. Still, we got through it without looking dangerous which we felt was pretty good considering the steep chop we found just of Cowes. Although we had more pace upwind over the weekend, Rich and Tom we’re EXTREMELY rapid downwind. We struggled with our training kite whilst they had a good quality kite up, but even so, the boys have some pretty devastating downwind pace.

After the long downwind legs, we ran a 20 minute “tacking every 20 seconds” drill, which again was great practice. Both boats were very evenly matched, only gaining or losing due to the conditions on either side of the course. After 20 minutes upwind, we were still meeting bow to bow in the middle, no matter which side each boat took.

We finished off Saturday with some long races followed by several extreme shortcourse races with a set number of tacks and gybes each leg. Again, both boats were very equal, although we did manage to win more races than we lost. But again, it was generally even. Rich and Tom seemed slightly less hurried over the very shortcourse races, but we seemed to pull ahead when the course was a little longer.

Sunday dawned with slightly less sea breeze due to the lower temperature, but still gave us 12-14knots of wind to play with. Sunday was a mirror image of Saturday: Long downwind legs against the tide (with Rich and Tom showing some more pace) followed by extended tacking legs and tuning runs (again, our upwind pace seemed to pop us out in front). We finished off the weekend with some starting practice, triggers and short course races.

Overall we notched up six hours on the water, plus a couple of hour bike rides in the evenings. In the final week run up to Kiel, we are both hitting the gym each day plus logging 5 high intensity rides to top off our training. Roll on Germany!

Favourite posts

5 06 2008

I just thought I’d write a short list of the most popular posts we have written, for any guys here who haven’t searched back a few pages.  Enjoy:

10 things sailing needs


29erXX Crash and burn sailing

Big wind sailing with a head-cam

A struggle against the Solent

No wind in Grafham?

5 11 2007

So Friday night, after checking the weather forecasts non-stop, we decided to call off the event in Grafham due to a bad, light wind forecast. Instead, we headed down to Lymington Royal Yacht Club to get some training in the stronger winds forecasted down south. We managed a decent 2 hour session on Saturday, followed by a gym session and boat prep on Sunday. Included in our boat prep was the building of a camera mount to allow us to film some crash and burn 49er sailing, which we will have to start filming this weekend coming.

So it turns out that there was zero wind on Sunday, and only five knots on Saturday, which is practically nothing. Our call to train in the stronger Southampton breeze was the right one, and we ended up having a very productive weekend.
[edit] Ok, pictures in from the weekends (or single day) racing at Grafham suggest that there was virtually no wind. This is a shot of a B14:No wind at Grafham

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.