Starcross Steamer Jan 2023

Last Sunday saw the first race and first open event of 2023, the Starcross Steamer, a handicap pursuit race on the Exe estuary in the UK.

Pursuit races are a great fun race format. All boat classes have a handicap, the race has a fixed length (e.g. 150 mins), slower boats start first, faster boats later with the idea being everyone is trying to catch up to and overtake everyone else. After the fixed race time, the race is stopped, and positions are taken by the safety boats.

Here’s the write-up and results in Yachts and Yachting, I sailed an RS Aero 9.

It was an early start to the day, and we were rewarded with some lovely views.

The wind arrived later than predicted, and with a closing tide window, the race was shortened to 120 mins. We launched as the wind filled in around the course and the breeze built steadily throughout the afternoon.

I switched up to the Aero 9 which turned out to be a great choice, I wasn’t over-powered, but it was fast and a decent physical challenge. My legs lasted longer than my forearms in the end, and it was my (ahem) brachioradialis muscles (upper forearm) that started aching the most.

Video by Derek Hathaway, view his Youtube Channel.

Starcross YC is a lovely venue, it was a great sailing area and course, the wind was good, and it was mostly sunny. I came mid-fleet-ish which was a new P.B. for me at opens, and not so far off the Aero 9 ahead of me.

What a cracking start to the year’s sailing :).

2022 on the water

Looking back, 2022 was a great year on the water. My main sailing goal for the year was to compete in the RS Aero Championships, a five day event. The months of training were a success and I managed all five days.

In May I did a kayak fishing course and got to paddle around Old Harry Rocks. I didn’t catch anything but paddling around the rocks was awesome. We want to do more kayaking in 2023 and try to catch some fish too.

The first open of the year was the Lymington RS Aero open in May. It was a very light wind tricky conditions day.

From May to July, I’m a volunteer dinghy instructor on Saturdays at my local club in Swanage. After weird broken up 2020/2021 training seasons thanks to COVID restrictions, it was great to get back to normal.

August had the year’s sailing highlight with the five day RS Aero European Championships in Weymouth. My training worked and I was the fittest I’d been in years going into it, and I managed the week. Read a longer write up here.

In September, it was off to Salcombe for a two day event. Salcombe is beautiful and I’d always wanted to sail there. Hugging the shore and rocks to stay out of the stronger currents involved a ton of short tacks which was hard on the knees, and tactically it was hard work.

At times it felt like orienteering, sailing off into different parts of the estuary and finding marks. It was absolutely unforgettable, and topped off with a fab dinner in the evening at Salcombe Yacht Club.

Photos three and four by Nicki Bartlett

My sailing improved a lot in 2022, which was reflected in my club results, I came third in the Spring and Summer handicap series and had some good cup results.

The biggest improvement of the year was upwind boat speed, thanks to the Weymouth Euros, I finally got the hang of keeping the boat flat and driving in strong winds (like F6), also getting the boat into the groove keeping it there. Fitness and strength plays a huge part in boat speed and I made big gains here, it’s sure fired me up for more.

Again, thanks to Weymouth, I learned a lot about sailing in shifty conditions and look forward to putting those learnings to use in 2023. Thanks Peter Barton and our friendly class for all the tips.

In 2023, I want to continue to impove upwind speed, and also downwind in strong winds. Also improve tactics and angles, and get ever fitter, more flexible and stronger.

The big event for 2023 will likely the Aero 6/9 nationals in Weymouth and the training campaign started today. 🙂

RS Aero Europeans 2022

I took part in the RS Aero Europeans this Summer, a five-day event held at the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA), the venue for sailing during the 2012 Olympics. This event was part of the epic RS Games.

I was training up to this one all year, and it was an amazing week with five days of fantastic racing. I learned so much, not just from the racing but from the chats off the water, and fellow sailors offering advice and tips.

There’s a good write-up in Yachts and Yachting and some footage on Youtube (RS Games days 12-16). Here are some of my pictures.

The 7s coming back on day four.

There’s something special about sailing in Weymouth and seeing those rings. The whole place had the most amazing atmosphere.

2012 Laser Radial Gold medalist Xu Lijia sailed an RS Aero 5 and gave a Q & A session one day on downwind sailing, you could hear a pin drop as she talked.

Days one to three, were pretty windy (F5-6). This was day two, racing started at 11am.

2021 Sailing in Pictures

2021 was still a COVID year and things didn’t get going till May. It was impressive how racing events were run within the safety guidelines, and how things like briefings were moved async and online over video and, comms was enhanced with channels like WhatsApp.

I’d like to say a big thank you to all the clubs who put on events, including my own in Swanage, and the RS Aero class for being so friendly and welcoming. It’s a great fun boat and a great class.

First Home Race of the Year April

This was a special one. We’d been ‘locked down’ in the months before and I think everyone just wanted to get out and start feeling that things were normal again.

Lymington RS Open May

My second ever open and with some pretty windy weather and big chop in the solent, it was a blast. Seeing the front of the boat submerge and nearly pitchpole at one point was memorable.

Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy Aero Two Day Open – May

It was really exciting to race at the sailing location of the 2012 Olympics. A two day event and the best bit was getting out of the harbour. We had great weather and I loved the summer feeling. Definitely a benchmark venue.

Lee on Solent Aero Open – June

A light wind day.

Swanage Regatta – August (home waters)

A home mixed handicap two day regatta with some fruity conditions, F5 gusting 7 on one day.

August Windsurfing

I had a mast problem (top piece jammed hard onto the base of brand new 5 stub) for some weeks in August, and so switched to windsurfing. We got the family doing a bit too. It was fantastic and I’m definitely going to be getting some faster kit and doing it more in 2022.

Junior Training April – July

I was the lead instructor for the Bronzes this year and thanks to a terrific team we got 22 kids started with sailing.

Ringwood Aero Open Sept

First sail on a lake and brilliant fun.

Paignton Single Hander Two Day Open November

Another two-day event, challenging light winds conditions. I do like Paignton’s waters.

Swanage Bay – Regular Sailing December

If the weather allows it, I get out at least once a week at all times of the year.

Photo Gill Richards

Another 2021 highlight

A real highlight of 2021 was watching the sailing at the Tokyo Olympics and enjoying seeing Team GB in action. I was on vacation at the time, got up early and soaked it all up.

Plans for 2022

I have a ton of things to improve with my sailing and fitness/strength and can’t wait for the weather to allow me out again to start training. Next year I want to do more racing, a few more events and improve my results and consistency at home and away.

The main event will probably be the RS Aero nationals or the RS Games. Multi-day events are really hard work and I’ll need to work up to them.

And… do as much sailing, SUPing, kayaking, swimming and windsurfing with the family as possible. Sounds like a plan. 🙂