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. 🙂

August 2021

They say that fair weather never made a good sailor, and August has seen some good breezy races providing some good challenges and crazy fun.

The Swanage Sailing Club Regatta took place earlier this month which featured two days of high winds. There’s a nice write up here in Yachts and Yachting.

These were among the strongest conditions I’ve sailed in with force seven gusts and it was definitely full on.

I tried the Aero 5 sail (below) and it was manageable. The hard bit being very gusty, with a course set inshore and messy offshore wind over the town, was not being able to hike consistently. With the 5 sail there’ll be technique to improve, e.g. to counter the tippiness in lulls such as not over feathering.

I’m in 3328 enjoying the gust. Photo by Adrian Whaley.

Other than sailing, I’ve done loads of windsurfing the last weeks which works out a bunch of other muscles, and cardio at home. The next sailing event is in two weeks.

July 2021 Sailing and SUPing

I had a racing pause for two weeks, and have been enjoying instructing on Saturdays at our local club. We’ve been really lucky with light winds which make for good conditions for all the new children.

And I’ve had some cracking solo sails in the bay practising. I’m doing a bit less training in the boat but mixing it with focused stuff on land such as mobility work, legs and cardio.

We also got a stand up paddleboard (SUP) which is AWESOME, and I now no longer wish only for windy days. No or too little wind make for great SUP conditions.

There’s also a routine with swimming in the sea daily and strangely, I think I’m becoming addicted to the cold water. It has to be good for us right(?!).

12th June Sail

I had a play in the bay yesterday afternoon, there was sun and a bit of breeze. I used the Garmin Virb action cam and remembering to turn on GPS, got some data. Not seen here but I’m using it for some self coaching, trying out different things to see how speed is affected.

Lymington RS Aero Open

I sailed at my first RS Aero open at Lymington on on May 15th 2021. There’s a good write up in Yachts and Yachting.

I think they were the windiest conditions I’ve sailed in which coupled with wind over tide made for challenging and exciting conditions. Many things learned, more areas to work on and a super fun day.

Can’t wait for the next event which starts tomorrow at Weymouth. Grin!

First time trying the Aero 9 Sail

A fellow sailor snapped a couple pics of me from his paddleboard this week. It was around about 7am on a very light wind morning. What can I say? The Aero 9 is fast even in super light wind. It’s a revelation.

I stand up a lot in light winds, to see and feel the wind better

My impatience to try the 9 sail got ahead of me putting the sail numbers on, but this is 3328. 🙂

It was also a beautiful morning and I’m ever grateful to be able to do this.

First RS Aero Sail

I took delivery of an RS Aero recently and took the boat for the first real spin this morning. What a boat! So light, fast and responsive.

I reckon I’m a good weight for the Aero 7 and it was good to feel totally in control in the gusty conditions and play with the wind. Almost ironically, it’s much less effort to sail than the Vareo; gusts arrive, you feel the wind on the face and the boat instantly accelerates.

The sail controls just work and feel light and responsive. Upwind compared to anything else I’ve sailed was an absolute joy (and fast) and off wind the boat flies, and I mean flies.

Coming back to shore another Aero benefit became apparent, our slipway had a bar of sand and stones near the water’s edge but the boat and trolley are so light, recovery was super easy. No more risking back and knees.

In these current COVID-19 times where being safe and reducing risk is important (no one wants to cause RNLI or coastguard callouts), the RS Aero will increase my opportunities to sail and have fun on my own.

I love it and can’t wait to get out again.

At last, sailing again post COVID-19 lockdown

In line with government and RYA guidelines, our local sailing club is allowing a responsible return to sailing again. We’re all mindful not to put ourselves at risk in a way which might require an RNLI / coastguard call out, but it’s just a joy to get out again.

I’m a frequent solo sailor already and consider myself experienced and careful, so this doesn’t change too much for me but I am even more mindful of the conditions now. My favourite forecast remains the Met Office wind forecast because it’s so accurate and has a good gust forecast.

The picture above was taken after a long sail in late May 2020 in windy and gusty conditions where in the interest of risk reduction I used the storm sail. The storm sail has a 7m2 sail area vs 8.8m2 so produces much less power but the boat is much easier to control.

Normally I avoid the storm sail as it feels so underpowered but on this occasion it turned into a surprisingly good experience. I did lots of windward / leeward practice; the beat was easily manageable with board fully down, with boat moving just fine, and off wind with kite up the boat moved nicely too. Nothing crazy but satisfactory with a few grinning moments.

Reaching was a bit of a drag, though that might also have been the messy wind but the storm sail had me focusing hard on boat speed more rather than relying purely on raw wind power. This was good experience, and something I’ll happily do again. Getting more out of a smaller sail seems a good exercise in any case.

Sailing in 2019, a Year in Review

2019 has been a good year, I’ve done a ton of sailing throughout the whole year, passed my RYA Dinghy Instructor and have started winning the first races, also finishing in the top three for the series I entered.

Boat handling has improved considerably this year, I’m quite comfortable in much stronger and gusty weather conditions, I got the hang of the kite and have improved boatspeed quite a bit. I go sailing regularly on own super early before work or before breakfast on the weekends and enjoy being alone in the bay with the elements and seabirds. It’s always different.

The Vareo isn’t well suited to the trapezoid courses we tend to run at Swanage Sailing Club but nevertheless sailing with the kite up as much as possible has proven the key to moving up the places. The times I did capsize this year were all gybing with kite up in a blow, a bit of work is needed here.

Swanage Regatta August 2019

It’s cool to be moving up the placements and also see the practice paying off, and also figure why things worked and why the hadn’t. Whilst I’ve had races where everything worked with large gaps between me and the next boat, apart from obvious impacts such as a poor start or not hiking hard enough, losing boatlengths seems to be the aggregation of small errors; a poor tack, missing a shift, a poor mark rounding, a slow spinnaker hoist, being caught in dirty wind, misjudged angles.

There have been some races this year over 5o minutes where I beat the next boat by only a couple of seconds or was beaten by a couple of seconds. It’s motivating to be closing the gap and know where improvements can be made. Those I practice 🙂

I see plenty of areas to improve; starts, tactics, working wind shifts and tides better, and 2020 will be the year I start open events. I had entered the POSH event at Paignton in 2019 but couldn’t make it in the end with vehicle failure, I won’t miss it next year. I’m looking forward to racing with more Vareos in 2020.

I made some learnings about series races too, simple stuff such as when to take or not take risks which could affect overall placement.

The Vareo is an absolute blast and I’m enjoying it a lot and I honestly wouldn’t want a boat without a kite now. Acquiring an Aero aluminium style launch trolley recently has made a huge difference to boat recovery and pulling it around the boat park, this was the only niggle before.

Aluminium Trolley made by Mersea Trailers

Bring on 2020 and more sailing fun.

Mixed handicap cup race