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.

Getting back on the horse (And training in Stokes Bay)

10 06 2009

Yeah I know, my blogging over the last few months has left much to be desired, so I’ve decided to make up for it with a concerted effort over the next few months.  With a number of events in the RS800, I hope to have a fair bit of content to talk about.  The last few months have pretty much just been training, and unlike in the 49er, the 800 doesn’t give you a whole load of stories to tell unless it is really blowing hard. So, to avoid boring you all to death I decided to leave the blogging until we had something to say.

Well, We were meant to race in Weymouth a few weekends ago, but the van decided to break down on the way there, so we retreated to Lymington (after packing the boat up at 11pm on Friday night) to unpack and get two days sailing in. But, with a bit of luck we will be in Stokes bay this weekend for racing so I’ll write an update then.

Training last weekend was good. We took part in Spod’s class association training day on Saturday and then fleet racing on Sunday. The highlight of Saturday was either trying to skewer Spod on the end of our pole when we went for a 20 knot gybe-pop-gybe-drop around his stationary RIB. We mis-judged the second gybe and left it a bit late. Still, we were awarded a score of 10/10 for the bail out, so that was nice. A close second to this was bearing-away in big breeze in the mouth of Portsmouth harbour, diving down a rather large wave (I admit to casually mentioning the F word about 3 times on the way down, it was that big a wave)  before slamming into the one in front. The whole boat stood on it’s nose, but crazily, popped back up without flipping over. Man, if that was the 49er we would have landed somewhere in Berkshire…

Christmas training

29 12 2008

It’s always been just one of those things.  We’ve always wanted to train more but have always been restricted by pesky things that hold us back, namely University, Girlfriends, the need to not freeze to death, etc.  At the end of every month we have a meeting (well, a few beers in the pub, but I do bring a notepad so it looks official) to decide what we have done well and whatwe could have done better.  Every single month we look back and say “hell, I wish we could have sailed more”.  Weekend sailing just doesn’t cut it, but we rarely have the chance to sail more.  However, during the Christmas holidays we have always put the effort in to make a run for the door to get a few hours in each day on the water.  We bravely side step the mince pies, leap over the pile of presents, duck under the flying, erm, ham…. (I’m not sure where I’m going with this…) and drive over to Lymington for a sail.  The last two years it was in the 49er, this year we were in the 800.

Happily, our main sponsor, motivator, back-up driver, coach and biggest fan (out of the two fans we have, the other being my girlfriend.. who isn’t big..) managed to take time out of his job  (running the world) and jumped into a RIB to take some photos.  That’s right, our Dad was out braving the cold in the SMALLEST boat you’ve seen in 25 knots of breeze and waves to shoot some photos and provide some general coaching tips.

We sailed for 2 hours in 18 to 25 knots (Easterly, ish).  Considering this was our 4th sail in the boat (Jus has had a number of Uni commitments to attend… *cough* skiing *cough*), and first in more than 14 knots, I think we did pretty well.  We were throwing in gybes, downwind 360’s, gybe drops and s-curves without any issue and didn’t capsize or get anywhere near messing it up, even when the big breeze was rolling in.  I’m fairly confident we can handle the boat in all conditions so it’s just down to working on upwind boat speed before we’re ready for racing.

Here are a few pictures of the training:



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!


6 06 2008

I’ve tried all kinds of training for sailing. Running is like watching dust dry, swimming is as enjoyable as juggling with bricks (wearing a blindfold) and don’t get me started on the “I’ll play rugby to get fit” (ok, I learned how to get punched in the face, which is a useful skill for sailing occasionally, but it’s tricky sailing with a broken back…). Sure, I hear you cry (or mutter), sailing is the best fitness for sailing, but I’ve got a business to run during the day…

So what’s the answer? Cycling. Over the winter, i was running 4 days a week for around 45 minutes at a time. Watching the seconds tick by was torture, and 45 minutes seemed to last a liftime.  Picking up cycling though has opened my eyes. A two hour ride flashes past in an instant, and I just can’t get enough. Sure, I’m now adding more carbon to my bike then you find on a stealth plane (costing me a fortune) but it’s all worth it when I hit the water in breeze and don’t even feel the pace.

Seriously, if you want to get fit then get a bike. If you want to improve the whole “how to wear a gum shield when I have no teeth for it to stick to” technique, then play rugby. Just whatever you do don’t take up running instead. Like a retarded midget, it’s not big and it’s not clever. (I’m going to hell for that joke…)

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

Weekend update

3 06 2008

Sorry about the uninspiring title, but yes this is just a weekend update.  We are in our summer training programme at the moment, which comprises training Saturday, Sunday and Monday whilst working like a beast in the evenings to keep the business going.

This weekend, Saturday looked too light to sail so after meeting in Lymington with 49er new boy Ben Paton (Ex Radial World and European Champion), we set about re packing our rudder stock, whch turned out to be the most boring job we could imagine.  The second we had ripped the old packing out (AKA the point of no return), the breeze picked up to around 6 to 8 knots.  However, without a rudder, we were stuck, so we set about re-packing the stock to sail sunday and Monday (and also re-rigging and tuning Ben’s 9er for him).
Sunday turned into the best day for sailing.  We managed 2 -3 hours in 4-8 knots, but struggled on the sail in when the wind died to zero, forcing us to beat in against a ripping 4 knot tide.  We eventually made it in with some daylight spare, so we topped the day of with an hour bike ride (a puncture forced me to go back and pick the van up halfway, so Jus could only cycle for half of it. But he did make friends with a horse in a field.  It was called Jeffery.  The horse)

Monday gave us an hour upwind sail in very light winds against another strong tide.  Again, we managed to get back in without calling our mates from the RNLI to tow us back, although it was a close thing…

Finally, we went for a high intentsity cycle to finish off the weekend.  24 miles in an hour and a half around the New Forest was enough to get us walking like drunk monkeys afteerwards, but it was great to keep the fitness levels up.  Now it’s back to work for me, and back to enjoying the sumer (rain) for Jus.  ( I hate uni students, now that I’m not one anymore..)

Daily training

9 05 2008

Due to our lack of competition recently, I’ve not had a whole lot to write about.  We’re in Hayling island tomorrow for an event, so I’ll give an update tomorrow afternoon.

To fill the gap, I’m going to give a run down of my weekly fitness program.  If you have any comments or suggestions, give me a shout.

Monday: Depending on the level of sailing on the weekend, I will either aim for a heavy weights session (if Light winds on Sunday) or a long ride (if strong winds).  I generally aim for a day off on Monday if we ripped it on the weekend.

Tuesday: 45-60 minute bike ride at sub-lactate levels.  Heavy weights session in afternoon: Biceps, chest and quads

Wednesday: 45-60 minute cycling at sub-lactate levels in morning.  Rest until afternoon.  25 minute lactate threshold ride at 180 bpms.

Thursday: Heavy weights session: Triceps, Back and shoulders

Friday:  45 minute cycle at sub-lactate levels.  If competing on Saturday, afternoon off.  if training, heavy weights session on chest, biceps and legs.

Saturday: No competition? Then training (3 hours on water) follwed by 1 hour 20 minutes cycle.

Sunday:  No competition?  3 hours training followed by 1 hour cycle.

Optimise your training program

16 04 2008

I was just thinking today about our training program.  Unlike many sports, in sailing it’s difficult  concentrate on just one skill during a practice session.  When I played rugby at school, I spent hours kicking ball after ball into touch, first on my right foot, then on my left foot.  This allowed me to really concentrate on one skill and improve it a little bit each time.  In sailing, it’s rare to be able to practice just one skill (such as a port to starboard tack) without having to break it up with other skills (starboard to port tacks, bear aways, downwind rides etc) to get back to the skill.

This got me thinking.  How does everyone else manage their practices to cover skills that need working on?  Does anyone actually optimise their training to improve on issues from the last session? Do we spend enough time practising individual skills, or just end up practising everything in one session?

Let me know your practice routines and I’ll see where you can improve.  I’m a firm believer that the key to a top class sportsman is not how he or she performs on the day, but how they perform every day, in practices, in the gym, on rest days and on competition days.  If I can add anything to your training regime, I’ll let you know 🙂

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