It is just over two decades ago since I really immersed myself in sailing as a sport, and concentrated on regattas with the odd offshore once in a while. Cruising was really just a matter of deliveries or returns, while I did some more dinghy sailing with the full intention of honing my skills for bigger yachts. I wonder now how I should develop my sailing on a meagre budget it has to be said. Crewing in bigger boats or sailing my own small day boat or dinghy?
The latter is something I have wanted to get back to but locally here there are only a few kids racing dinghies and it would be over an hour to get somewhere with dinghy racing. I find that one hour in a dinghy is worth eight hours helming a forty footer. The experience is just so much more immediate and you are more aware of the wind and the ‘gear’ the boat is in all the time. I went forward from my 1995 RYA level II stint at Tighnabruiach sailing school ( the old one in the toon, before Derrick went onto run the school down the sound) and bought my own Tasar and got the role as rep for Scotland, which helped a couple of folk get interested in the boat, and despite my absence, there arose even a travellers series for the first time in over a decade. I crowned my experience off with the then rare RYA Level 4 racing dinghy out at Menorca sailing, racing an RS 400 most days and trying out the B14 and 29er. After winning a race by a country mile with an instructor on board as crew, I learnt that getting ahead of the pack was a matter of focus and determination, having had an ok start in a close fleet of sailors experienced in lots of other boats even like Dragons.
At that point I should have probably invested in an RS400 and sailed near edinburgh, but my mum’s health and the implosion of the internet bubble left me a carer for in fact about a year and set me back years financially. I then got involved in the ’39er’ focus group formed by Frank Bethwaite, which culminated in the test sailings of the 59er as it became. Alas I emmigrated and the boat was not priced right nor marketed correctly, and was roundly seen as a threat by the consolidated B14 fleets who did their best to slag it on line and in the dinghy park apparently. It is a boat which requires a good deal of finesse to sail, but in fact you can sail it well with a fairly inexperienced crew and it goes like stink, being very rewarding for any dinghy sailor to hop into and blast around in, and of course it has light wind performance par excellence, beating the old 49er in sub trapeze light airs.
Going back to small boats is not just a matter of budget but also all about that hour by hour pay off in terms of learning. Our local classics then are looking more like an option and my last sail in them made me feel that they are not all that slow, being somewhere between a Piper and a Flying Fifteen in feel and handling. They are very pedestrian in light winds, but at the top of force 3 they are interesting enough and a tight enough fleet to practice my tactical skills in. I kind of was twice bitten four times shy with some look warm experiences with the fleet before, having last turned up and paid for a regatta when my supposed crew didnt turn up and the boom was split on the track of the boat I was offered. I did a nationals and we only did any good when I raced up a nice cone and ignored the tide. I was left with a bad taste in my mouth after some visiting boats made real idiots of themselves on the start line when I did have a really good position.
Now I have a pal who is interested in the boat type so I think I wil maybe roll out for the ‘home alone’ series and the autumn regattas. Next blog will be on what I expect or need to learn in general