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

August 2019 Regatta

SSC ran a regatta again this summer which I took part in. Thirty three boats, five races over two days, each course different with good wind, building up on day two to quite frisky conditions. On the last race the daggerboard was humming in new tones I’d never heard before, it was that fast (grin!). Mine is 239.

There were two other Vareos which made for a bit of sub-fleet racing which was great fun.

Thanks Doug and team for running a fantastic regatta. Thanks Adrian for the fantastic pictures.

May – June 2019 Sailing

I’ve been out sailing loads the last months, racing and practising as well as instructing kids the last twelve weeks as part of my club‘s junior training.

Team racing

My race results continue to improve and I managed a reputable 3rd in the Spring evening series. There’s still work to do on consistency in stronger winds but I am getting more able in higher winds though at my weight it’s a challenge.

Current practice focus is two fold, firstly spinnaker work and among other things holding tighter angles and keeping speed up on lower angles. Gybes are pretty smooth, the faster the better.

Secondly better control and keeping boat speed on in gusty conditions. It’s all very well practising with even winds, but races never seem to have this perfect conditions (funny that!).

My fitness isn’t bad and I’m able to hike hard for decent periods now and looking forward to the longer out of the bay races. Sheet loads are relatively high on the Vareo which is also good for upper body strength, all good stuff.

RS Vareo Storm Sail, Meh!

It was the first race of the season yesterday with the same wind forecast by both the Met Office and Windfinder. It looked quite fruity from the shore, so I opted for the storm sail.

That turned out to be a mistake, firstly the wind wasn’t nearly as strong as forecast (race 11:00 – 12:00), in fact there was way more sea than wind.

Secondly I was reminded of what a dog the boat is upwind with a small sail, especially into waves and they were decent yesterday. The boat is heavy, it really needs that bigger sail.

Thirdly I’m used to the power of the standard sail so the whole sense of boat balance is thrown out with anything less. Downwind with the kite was fine but reaching was slow too.

I don’t think I’ll bother with the storm sail just for myself in the future (with child maybe) and will prefer to abandon a race if it’s too hairy rather than be too slow with a smaller sail.

Where’s the fun if you aren’t hanging off the back quarter on your toes (?) 🙂

Edit: 12th April, I went out similar conditions (14-18 kts) with the full sail the other day. So much better.