The Knitting Sailor


Round the Cans
June 6, 2013, 9:21 pm
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This Sunday I went sailing with my Dad. As I’ve mentioned before, my Dad windsurfed rather than sailed, and did his best to encourage me in this pursuit. I never got far, preferring to use the board as a canoe for exploring the lake.

Recently I gave it another go, but found that as I have no coordination or balance this wasn’t as easy as it looks. Essentially I spent short periods of time wobbling on a board, followed by much longer periods of flying through the air and landing in the water.

So a few years ago when my Dad started to sail and come up to the lake it was really nice to have something we could all talk about and share.

This year for the first time we are doing a series together – him helming and me crewing. I’m not bad crew usually, the ‘bottom of ballast’ is a key advantage in a boat like my Dads (Flying Fifteen) and at key moments I do indeed deploy the bottom to tactical advantage. Pass me another pie.

So this was the first race – and the weather was lovely – really hot with a 3 with a few gusty bits in it, so it was always going to be a slower race with plenty of time to chat and pontificate about how much better than the rest of the boats we were doing. Well we could dream…

But as the countdown came to an end and we got over the line we weren’t doing badly following Ernie (the fastest milkman in the west) on the beat up the course. The wind was patchy, but we had headed for the right hand side of the course where there was definitely a little more wind. Our first concern was where the first mark was – we had a vague idea but with some of the recent weather the marks are all over the place – and as we overtook Ernie it became increasingly important we worked out where it was. We sighted it and got on a good line – just as a couple of bothersome future-Olympiads in a Laser 2000 called starboard on us. We tacked and had to follow them round the mark – our only consolation being that we were still holding position in second. Catching the wind as we headed off across the lake we sailed straight for the next buoy. I don’t mind telling you we were a little stressed – we were second – ahead of four other boats (I know – poor turnout. A lot of people weren’t back from the away cruise at Tighnabruaich) – and we realised there was only one way to keep our position – get to the gybe point and get the kite up!

Little nervous about this – last time we’d done it I’d ended up spending slot of time crawling around on the foredeck in windy weather.

But against all expectations we got it up smoothly enough, and without me braining my Dad with the spinnaker pole, and with a bit if tinkering the boat took off – closely followed by Ernie and Rob (the newly incumbent sailing commodore) in a race rigged Wayfarer who had also managed to cleanly hoist and were bearing down on us!

But we made it to the bottom of the run, and with only one adventure on the foredeck got the spinnaker down, hardened up and tacked up through the gate, beating back up the course.

At this point we remembered to breathe and looked at each other going “Really?!? We’re still in second?!?! “

We lost some water on the way up to the mark, but were heartened to see the children swimming rather than sailing around the mark – but the Wayfarer was gaining – we pointed up and made the mark as the Laser 2000 took back off across the lake. With a bit of wind we were pulling away – only to find ourselves being overtaken to leeward by a bright pink Dart 18 which was steaming past in our dirty air – and glancing back Ernie and Rob were hoisting the kite – that’s right they were going to reach across and then gybe it round the mark.

With one thought my Dad and I prepared the ropes and… didn’t hoist as we plainly knew there was no way we would get it through a gybe – and besides we were nearly there – we came round the mark a little enthusiastically and did a perfect hoist at which the boat lurched up onto the plane – I was just hanging on to those sheets as we held the line right down the lake, brought it down, rounded the mark and made it through the gate in third.

We both looked at each other and started to breathe again – while being vaguely hysterical as we watched Ernie, my brother and the boat fixer finish. We even did a cool hand like we were down with the kids!

We knew we would be reshuffled with handicap, but it felt good – it tasted like victory.

And you know what? Even with handicap we came third – 32 corrected seconds behind the fastest milkman in the west and the sailing commodore – with those irksome kids in first.

So if we can just learn to gybe with that kite up….!



Nine and a bit seconds
March 3, 2013, 8:14 am
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It was the second week of the Spring Splash.  It was snowing.  It was cold.  I didn’t want to get out of bed. But I forced myself and having pontificated about, got my arse in gear and found myself launching my boat with the snow full in my face.

The wind was behind me so it was an easy get out this week, and I headed out for the start line!  There was another Vareo waiting for me – along with a few familiar faces from last week.  The wind was steady at around 12 knots – with huge swell coming in from between the piers.   If only the snow would stop.

Miraculously – it did.  And then the sun came out – and more importantly stayed out.  South Shields obviously has magic weather.

I worked out where the start line was based on where everyone else was sailing (turns out I was nowhere near the only one who had no idea what the course was – it was set on the back of the power boat in letters, but I think most of the visitors were guestimating around the buoys the patrol boat had dropped) and I even got my watch sorted to do a race countdown.  I had listened to my own advice this week and put on my SMALL sail.  And I could already tell that it was making a huge difference to me on the boat – my handling was much better than last week and I was definitely feeling more confident in the boat.  The whistle went and the countdown began!

Now – in a total aside – what is all this about a 5 minute countdown?  All the club racing we do is three minutes.  That is at all of the clubs who had people there (Kielder, Derwent and South Shields).  But because it is an ‘open’ we move to a five minute start.  I can understand this if there is a huge fleet which needs more time to get positioned etc, but this seems a little crazy otherwise – is it just me?  I bet someone will go all RYA on me and tell me why I’m wrong……!

My aim for this race was to get round the course and get a finish – but I generally reckon that you can lose a race on your start.  So I was underwhelmed when the whistle went and I had a Topper to Winward stopping me from pointing up – poor positioning on my part and I hadn’t been keeping a close enough eye on where everyone was – it was also a good reminder of why transits are a good idea – I was obviously a country mile off the line if there was room for a Topper between me and it!

So I tacked round the back and started to work my way up the course.  The sun was shining, it was a beautiful day and me and DiagoNelly were getting along famously!  After my first tentative lap I suddenly realised I was in front of the other Vareo – or rather had been as it smoothly overtook me on the winward beat.  Now I had my little sail on and he had a big sail, but there is no difference in PY.  My sail shape was horrible as my outhaul was too short – so I had no adjustment in this area at all.  And I obviously wasn’t paying proper attention as I hadn’t even realised I was ahead.

I felt sick.  With adrenalin and excitement in a good way.  No way was I going to let that pass, and I made a little time back on the downwind leg.  It was still close but on the last lap there were three of us at the mark – myself, the other Vareo and a Laser.  To say I had a poor mark rounding would be an understatement and I mournfully watched them sail off into the distance as I untied the mainsheet from my toe straps.

I finished sixth.  That’s actually out of a field of eight, so not too bad…. BUT BEHIND THE OTHER VAREO.  In fact I had watched him over the line and worked out based on my finish I was about 9 and a bit seconds behind him per lap.  That’s huge.

Second race they moved the course – I had of course only just got used to the first one, but this time I got a good start as one of the first over the line.  I was however heading for the wrong buoy.  I corrected but lost some of my early advantage.  My mantra was keep it simple.  Keep the boat flat, use your sail settings quickly and get tight to the marks.  It seemed to be working as I got round the course, but I was fighting neck and neck with the other Vareo.  He got the inside line on a mark at the beginning of the second lap and I found myself behind him for the rest of the race.  Not by much.  Shouting distance (we shouted!  In a friendly way obviously!).  And by the last beat up to the finish line I knew he was ahead.  I took a different path up towards the finish line – and must have got an advantage – as we came up to the finish line neck and neck….. and he beat me by 2 seconds.  2 SECONDS!!!!!!!

There’s only one thing for it.  This means war.  In a nice way.  Kind of.

You will notice there has been no mention here of our gennakers.  This is because neither of us used them.  I have wanted to focus on getting my elf back in my boat, sailing on the sea etc etc without worrying about this one too.  But it has become obvious that the next round could be won by whoever gets up the nerve to do this first.

I am also getting my outhaul extended so that I can correctly set my sail, and replacing my main sheet, which is a bit ‘sticky’ – it seems to be too thick.

It all feels a bit OK Corral.  And I’m liking it!  It’s great to actually have another boat to class race against and I really enjoyed racing, for which I have to say my enthusiasm had waned – there’s only so long being last is appealing for.

Roll on next weekend – and watch out – I’m coming to get you!



Who da man?
February 15, 2013, 3:14 pm
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Got a boat that’s bothersome?

Do you find your trailer troublesome?

Can you just not be arsed to pick up your own boat?

Then why not call….THE BOATFIXER!!!!

At reasonable rates and with the ability to make your life seem much more perfect, then who you gonna call – THE BOATFIXER!!!

This is the boatfixer winning many prizes at this years prize giving – he’s a lush sailor as well as doing beautiful boat fixing.

(have I done enough to justify my boat pick up yet?)



South Shields Splash preparation
February 15, 2013, 7:37 am
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Things I have done in preparation for going sailing on Sunday

• Asked on facebook if anybody else is going

• Thought about it a bit

• Checked the weather forecast from my desk – this involved both checking a website and looking out of the window, so a lot of time went into this.

• Done sit ups at least twice to get myself in peak physical condition

• Eaten some cake to make sure I am warm on the water with my extra layer of winter cake fat

 

Things I haven’t done in preparation for going sailing on Sunday

• De-grot and chase mice out of my boat

• Collect said boat from the lake

• Work out how to fix the tyre on the road trailer that has got broken over the winter so that I can collect my boat from the lake.

• Check over and re-rig my boat with kite etc.

• Pulled out my sails and inspected to ensure they are nice and sparkly

• Worked out how to get to the sailing club involved.

• Entered the regatta

• Read the sailing instructions

• Gone through and sorted out my sailing gear

 

So I am obviously SOOOO prepared!

Anything I’ve forgotten?

 

South Shields Splash



Something to write home about
August 29, 2012, 8:54 pm
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So this weekend was packed at the sailing club – we had visiting T15 windsurfers, cruising, racing, BBQing and the clubs Little Americas Cup on Monday.  It was probably the busiest weekend the club has seen for a while – despite appalling weather – veering from no wind and sunshine, to torrential rain with anything from no wind to really strong gusts coming in.

Now the Little Americas Cup is one of my favourite events – in homage to the original yacht racing in which our Olympic Gold Medal winner Ben Ainslie is competing at the moment.  Sorry – promised I would drop the Olympics didn’t I.

You’ll notice I said ‘Little’.  So don’t think this

think this

It’s a one day series ran in those infamous Toppers…… yep we’re back to those again… and the whole club match races against each other in these tiny craft, all on the same course in back to back races ran really close to shore for maximum jeering.  It can be a long day as you need to race everyone in your group and then there are semi’s between your group and the other groups and then up to a finals.

Having not done enough sailing this year I really felt this would be a great idea – especially in the sheeting rain with promises of big winds and gusts of up to 38 knots.  What I actually thought was ‘what the hell, I’m always knocked out early doors and at least I’ll have shown willing and with any luck I’ll be able to justify some cake if I’ve been sailing’.

So after an evening of preparing in the bar we were all ready to go.

Race preparation well under way

Following my recent posts about Ood’ing it’s also a really complicated one to run.  This year our Rear Commodore was back in the chair having ran this for a number of years.  And he did something I have never seen before.  Set up a course with a running start.

What this means is that the start line is DOWNWIND, round a P course and then a beat UPWIND to the finish.  I only worked out what this meant as I wasn’t in the first race, so I could watch how to do it, but the course looked a little like this -

I’ll have a P please Bob

Actually the wind and rain were a bit more wonky than that, but you get the gist!

So the clubs six Toppers were rigged and tied to the jetty and the racing began.  Each race is between two people from a group – and three of these races take place on each start.  So you get a hoot to start the countdown – which is two minutes and at the end of this two minutes the first pair set off, followed a minute later by the next pair, and the third pair go a minute after that!  Added to which to keep it fair you must change boat every race – so that there is no tactical advantage from one of the very high quality boats being set up better than another (i.e. having all its bits in working order).  The boat to avoid has usually been Jester – with a slow leak, but after some remedial work prior to last years race he went from zero to hero becoming the most favoured boat due to his racing orange colouring.

It’s not confusing at all.

On top of this watching the adults trying to climb onto these ridiculously light boats from the jetty is a sport all of its own… I wasn’t the only one who had my only capsize while trying to swap boats between races.

But the unusual course and start were not the only oddity.  This year we had the tightest racing the club has seen in at least my time.  People were doing tactical maneuvers, ‘covering’ people on the upwind leg, positioning themselves for mark overlaps, stealing wind on the downwind and generally doing things you would not expect to see.  And as its so far into shore and ran from the jetty – there are always lots of spectators waiting for their next race – cheering – and it turns out… taking notes.

So what started as a few people who had worked out some tactics, became a few more people who had also got tactics, followed by lots of people who had tactics and the tightest racing we have seen for ages.  Both the semi finals and finals all went to sail-off’s the results were so close.

Watch and learn

So why am I telling you all this?

Well firstly because I thought you would be interested in what is in our club an unusual and fun event, secondly to tell you about an exciting downwind start, thirdly to share what a great way of running racing this is for raising the standard of racing across your club and get more people involved, and lastly

Thunderous applause from the crowd

I actually came third in a proper race event.

I still don’t believe it.



I promise no more Olympics…..
August 20, 2012, 6:06 pm
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…once you have watched this.

 

 

 

 



Ooding with Ernie – the fastest milkman in the west
August 18, 2012, 9:33 am
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Well ok – he’s not really a milkman. He does however hold more trophies than anyone else in the club having swept the board (again!) in last year’s racing and this is the song we like to sing about his successes.  So last Sunday I found myself heading out to ood with Ernie and Tess (all the photos on this post are courtesy of Tess as I forgot my camera).  The plan was that we were going to be indoctrinated into the dark art of the ood.

I’ve done it before. Several times. It’s not been pretty – and I was hoping that having many hands and an expert to share the secrets would be a help.  It was.  In the first instance even just having someone who knew what they were doing having the same problems as you are is helpful – and it turns out some of it really wasn’t me!

The first difficulty is the setup. So you need a committee boat and everything that goes with the racing.  We have a pretty nifty flag stand so it only took us the half hour to find the additional shortened course and individual recall flags. This is despite the fact the same flags are used in the same boat every week.  I am sure we have flag pixies.

So then you need to find the idiot ood sheet to identify which is which.  But of course this is stuck down the back of the computer in the race office for some reason, and there is only one copy of it, so until it’s found just before launch you are guessing.

Its definitely one of these…..

Then you have to test the horn. And the radio. And the handheld radio for when the radio in the boat doesn’t work (usually when you have spilt your tea on it).

And then get all your extra kit (pencil, spare pencil, watches, binoculars, dry bag which is already wet inside, whistle and of course not forgetting your horn pressing finger).  There are other things as well but we forgot most of them, so well stick to the basics that we actually remembered.

You then need to make sure you are properly dressed – and have a buoyancy aid on.  Just because you are ooding doesn’t mean you won’t end up in the water when waving overenthusiastically at a patrol boat when the two radios you tested pack up.

So having done all this – we finally got on the water.  And now, at no charge I am going to share the secrets of the ood as imparted by the milkman.

The dark arts of the ood

Decide on your course. I always try to stick to triangles or a trapezoid.  I struggle with anything much more complicated as a competitor myself, but it turns out some races have specific requirements.    This is a great tip – turns out races are meant to be a certain length of time, and sometimes a pre-determined layout – SOOOO never knew this – so this should affect the course.  So should the type of boats.  This is when it is useful to have remembered the signing in sheet from the clubhouse so you know who is racing in what…

You can then work out where the wind is coming from and get your patrol boat to lay the windward mark.  Do this by holding up a flag and seeing how it streams.  Note – make sure you aren’t using the racing abandoned flag to do this.

Then attempt the impossible task of using a little gadget to work out where start line goes.  No, I don’t know what it’s called, it does degrees and stuff!  Having done this, start the impossible task of getting the pin dropped by the patrol boat.  Remember that instructions like ‘left a bit, right a bit’ aren’t going to help as they aren’t on the same boat as you.  This is also a good time to remind yourself that in good radio protocol you don’t say ‘Over and Out’. Or ‘10-4 good buddy’.

Having decided your course then hold it up on the board and try to make sure that you don’t fall in while attempting  to show it to boats as they sail past.  Hot tip – while doing this with boats sailing around the committee boat competitors will often shout you a question – if you don’t hear what someone shouts at you from their boat, don’t say yes in a vaguely distracted way.   You have almost certainly put your foot in it.

Now the next hot tip is about time.  We run on a three minute start.  But it’s all about the four minutes. Set the watches for four and all start them together – it reduces the things you do in the actual start sequence and also means you can check that all if the watches are running at the same time in case you accidentally stop one while waving at the patrol boat and have to rely on one of the ‘backup’ watches for times. This has never happened to me. Honest.

You can then count down from four minutes to the actual start of the three minute sequence.  Wise competitors can sail close to the committee boat to try and get a fast track into how the sequence is going as you count down to others in the boat with you.  If you find this is the case a good round of replacing the number with the word ‘rhubarb’ always throws them off the scent.  Remember this will also confuse the heck out of the others in the boat with you as well.

‘Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb!’

This next piece of advice is where I have fallen down.  Don’t ood alone.  I have normally ooded alone. Let’s be honest – I only ever do it out of lack of anyone else to do it. And it turns out this is the root of all evil.  At the start of the three minutes you have to switch off the radio, blow the horn and pull up random flag as detailed on the idiot ood sheet.   At one point in time I would also be trying to start my watch as well.   Turns out what you also need here is a minion helper to do one of these (get them to do the flags it’s scarier) while you count down and blow the horn. Continue to do this all the way through the three minute sequence while trying to not let idiot ood sheet blow away. Both watch the line for infringement and be ready to put up the recall flag if required.  Make sure you aren’t standing on it.

So as long as you get a clean start then its all good and having successfully navigated the start sequence give yourself giant pat on the back. Congratulate all others on the boat and sit back and watch the fun.  Remember to switch the radio back on ad check in with the patrol team.  It makes them feel loved.


You do get a great view of the racing and tactics while on the committee boat. So as long as it’s not cold wet and windy (hysterical laughter about the one day of sailing at Kielder that hasn’t involved at least two out of the three) then this can be the fun bit.

That’s the Boatfixer with his Dennis the Menace kite up!

But all too quickly the fast boats will be upon you – so make sure you have your pencil and paper at the ready.  There is no point using a pen.  The ink WILL run in the rain.  (of course it’s raining.  Its Kielder remember?)  Take times for each boat on each lap. That way if something goes wrong and the race is stopped for any reason or you forget to finish the race then you can still get some results.  Don’t wave at people as they go past – it looks unprofessional.  If there are two of you a good way to do times is for one to watch the line and read out tines, the other to note them.  If possible have two pieces of paper on clipboards to put your with times on – this is helpful for when one of them blows away.

Taking lap times is also a good way to get a measure of the time it is taking boats to get round – this will also give a measure of how many more laps you can sensibly run in the time remaining – if it’s taking 25 mins for one lap and its only due to run for 30 minutes then you need to think about shortening the course.  Who knew?  And you need to do this before the first boat has finished the lap you want to end on as you have to find the flag, press the horn and run it up the flagpole before they cross the line.  Realising it would be a good idea to shorten the course once a couple of boats are already over the line can mean that anyone you shorten on now will have to sit around and wait while the boats you released do the extra lap.  No one minds this – much.  Especially when it’s raining and there isn’t much wind so they are stuck sitting in the middle of the lake for 25 mins watching you watching the boats you let through before you made up your mind and cursing silently under your breath.

So whether you finish as you had planned, or you shorten the course early, the only difference with your last lap is that once they cross the line you blow your horn at them so they know they have finished.  Do not put up the shortened course flag and then get side-tracked into a conversation.  Boats WILL cross the line and you won’t have a time for them.

And that is apparently all there is too it.  Check the wind and your start line… and go again!

So what was the result of all of this?  I got a finish for every competitor in every race.  I didn’t run a general recall. I didn’t abandon a start sequence.  I didn’t; have to ask anyone if they had won.  I also didn’t go home feeling like I needed to lie down in a darkened room for a few hours.  I’m calling it a win.

I’m smiling and everything….

Ernie’s Tips

Make sure you go out onto the water well equipped – extra pencils, papers and watches are never going to go amiss

Make sure you know the length and course for each of the racing you are running.  If you aren’t sure this info should be in your race office somewhere

Display your course info clearly.

Get on with it – people are there to race, not watch you spend hours minutely adjusting a start line.

Have a friend to help with the flags and take times.

Start your sequence a minute early to give you time to prepare.

Time every lap

Be mindful of the different speed boats you have on the course and remember your race will be the length it takes you slowest boat to finish

Know where your flags are in case you need them

Concentrate – ALL THE TIME – the race might have just started but you still need to keep an eye out to make sure you aren’t surprised by any fast boats getting round a small course while you are still pouring the tea.

Get races finished and started quickly.

My Tips

Wear a hat – it makes you look more important



The OOD
August 16, 2012, 11:45 am
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This strange race is much misunderstood.  Unattractive, with a tentacled face, gleaming red eyes and requiring an interpreter they do however speak with one voice, based around their low-level telepathic field, which also allows them to project through time and space.

This is what I did at the weekend.  No really – ood stands for Officer of the day.  So on this day, once a year I have to be calm, consistent, organised, encyclopaedic about RYA rules and beyond reproach.

(OK, OK, the club changed the duty last year from ood – splitting it into to ROD and COD (race officer of the day and committee on duty) – but to me we’ll always be ood’s – there’s nothing like pushing through a lunch que declaring ‘ood coming through’ while waggling your hand in front of your face.)

It’s normally a disaster.  Last year I got shouted at for running all the timings wrong in the Stern Chase (I wasn’t – they were right – no consolation), had to check who won with the two lead boats as I wasn’t sure from the angle they finished at and didn’t manage to log finishes at all in the Ramblers series.  Fortunately the competitors were all pretty forgiving – especially when one of them twigged I had gone to hide in the race office and cry.

But it’s a really stressful day, allot to cope with on your own, and as our duties tend to be on the same day each year I always get the same challenging mix of races – two short back to backs ran on the water in the morning, followed by a one hour shore start Stern Chase (often with half a dozen and more different classes all with a different time start) with an on the water finish followed by one long race usually started and finished from the shore.

Phew.  We run handicap racing at the club too – so following all of these you then need to be able to work the race program on the club abacus computer to get a result.

After last year I swore never again.

I’ll tell you what happened tomorrow.



Hang on a minute….
July 19, 2012, 7:06 am
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…turns out we’ve been letting everyone else practice at the Weymouth Olympic venue on the run up to the games….

“The British sailors will have some home advantage, though Weymouth and Portland have not been closed off to other countries. With his “purely competitive head” on Park is unhappy with this. “It’s the worst thing ever, they should stop them at the English Channel so we can maximise our advantage. But from a whole sport perspective we want this to be a fantastic games and want people to feel comfortable here.””

The Guardian

I know we’re British – but really???

(Actually I just think it would have been fun to see how the heck we were going to stop all sailing in the English Channel.  Giant piece of red rope?  Bouncers?  Winston Churchill?)



Those Five Rings!
July 17, 2012, 8:06 am
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I can’t believe I am actually excited about the Olympics, but I have to admit to a creeping sense of butterfly’s as the first athletes arrive, the news is jam-packed with images of the venues all across the UK and we have the lovely Boris (London Mayor) popping up to add to the general madness of the event (favourite press conference of the morning – after a bus driver taking athletes to the Olympic Park got lost for 4 hours Boris’s response was that the athletes would have had “more of a scenic view of London“.  Gotta love him.).

He is as mad as he looks….

There was also an unfortunate  incident where BAA managed to ‘lose’ the Australian Sailing teams sails – surely a minor point….

As usual though we seem intent on shooting ourselves in the foot with huge amounts of coverage of things that are going wrong – but you know what?  There is always something that goes wrong – can we talk about some of the good stuff???

The Olympics have been great for Sailing in the UK with lots of additional funding for training across sailing clubs in the UK, and an amazing venue at Weymouth that hosted its first events –to ‘practice’ – last year.  I had the opportunity to go to one – the RS games, but couldn’t make it – something I bitterly regret as having heard about how fantastic the sailing was from others who went, it really was a big miss.  But what of the legacy?  Well its been a great few years, with UK Sport pumping in £22 million to the sport – this has provided training and coaching days at clubs, grants for equipment as well as some big investment in the new sailing academy.  We’ve topped the medal table for the last three Olympics, so this seems completely worthwhile…. but what about after the Olympics?  Well the indications seem to be that that’s it.  Within our own club we have had training funding to allow for an adult coaching day every year, been able to provide a heavily subsidised summer camp for the kids complete with full complement of trainers and coaches, and also some new equipment in the form of a Wayfarer and 6 oppis.  there have also been ‘Sail for Gold’ events and regattas across the country – and even inflatable torch relays taking place!

But all of this will be stopping post-Olympics – although we can keep the equipment!

So will it harm us?  I think the biggest problem facing Sailing in the UK is not all about investment – our big problems are membership and participation.  Across the North East we see falling numbers in clubs as a whole, and even in healthy clubs falling numbers on the water.  Some local clubs are now pooling resources and members to keep afloat, Open meetings are seeing few boats travelling and others hitting critical points in revenue.

So what does this mean for us?  We sail at Kielder – Britains most remote village.  That means we are a ‘destination’.  We don’t run anything during the week – because we can’t get people here!

So it’s all about the weekends, and with the weather as it has been (for anyone not local, continual torrential rain has lashed the North East pretty much consistently for the last six weeks throughout the worst drought the UK has ever seen and hose pipe bans galore), the price of petrol, and general economic doom and gloom we have definitely suffered in terms of numbers at the club of late.  But it’s not a new problem – ever since we have been at the club it’s been a continual cry – although membership is pretty steady we have  declining numbers in our racing on a Sunday, which is seen by some as a key indicator of the health of the club.  But since we joined the club now also has an active Cruising contingent who sail on a Saturday, and from the enthusiasm of just one member we are now established as a Windsurfing club – complete with new members, training centre accreditation and a dozen new boards (courtesy of another grant!).

My problem is I can only do one thing at a time.  I can either train or sail, windsurf or dinghy sail, be or duty, or go on a cruise.  So the more activities we provide the more options there are – and our club is becoming a more varied and diverse place to be.

So is this a bad thing?  I don’t know and maybe only the coming years can tell us if this diversity is what saves or sinks us.

The Olympic sailing starts on the 29th of July – we have a fantastic team and its all being televised – maybe I start the membership drive there?  Go GB!




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