Dart 15 Teach-in and Race Training

Date: 13/14 May 2000 Venue: Rutland Water

Day 1

Having rigged up and drunk several cups of Rutland coffee, I was pleased to see the Dart 15's arriving.

First up were David & Alison Fearnley with their Dart attached firmly to their roof rack in what seemed to be a million pieces. After a brief introduction and assistance putting their beams in I looked up and saw a few others had pulled in, so I don't remember in which order you arrived. However, Nick Dewhirst was last in, but more of Nick later.

Our host tutors were local aces Steve Sawford and Dave Stanbridge who wandered about introducing themselves, offering assistance and words of wisdom to all those setting up.

Training officially began on land in the early afternoon, the wind being non-existent. Boat set-up was the topic and we covered almost everything using Nick's partially built boat (now I see how he gets away with it!). Most people had done a reasonable job of preparing their pride and joys with poor old Heather & Adam making regular high speed trips to the chandlery to buy their essentials. Martin Ellen of Beaver was trying to persuade everyone that the black fog of tyre smudges along his hulls was not going to affect his performance and were in fact structural in keeping his "Last of the Summer Wine" Dart together.

With rigging complete we all went afloat.

It is worth mentioning now that there were a few Dart virgins among us.

Heather & Adam on #528 and Martin Holmes #624. Abilities apart from that were mixed with myself having been Darting for six months, Steve Petts ten years (I think) sailed Nick Dewhirsts' #1821 ('cos he'd sold his to Martin Holmes), Martin Ellin two years on #1712 and locals Ashleigh Reeves #1589 and Sue Antcliffe #1820 with Linda Jones as crew who had previously sailed Dart 18's.

The wind was still very slight and very shifty. A square course was set and short racing commenced with three-minute start signals. Racing proved to be a bit tricky in such light conditions, but three or four were completed successfully.

Unfortunately I had to leave the water early to get home and was towed ashore by Steve and Dave.

Ashleigh Reeves capsized more than ten times; perfecting his routine and filling his hulls with water (something he may regret the next day as he went in search of a bilge pump). Apart from Heather, who chickened out, everyone else made just one capsize.

Sailing ended for the day.

With live music in the bar I understand a good night was had by all. Disappointingly there were no stories of drunken frivolity when I arrived the next morning.

Day 2

The only hangover in sight was the one in my own head!

The fog had descended on Rutland and while sampling Sunday's coffee we couldn?t even see the water!

After morning assembly Nick announced sailing a non-starter for the time being, spoon racing was not to be affected and we all collected our knives (which confused some of us!).

A mini Rultand Water was artistically created using ropes, sail bags and building bricks and the race started. I was sceptical about this exercise, but soon learned that tactical advantages could be picked up. Dave Stanbridge was able to put his boat (knife) in any position and at any time so we were all surprised when he retired from the race, having been late for the start ultimately T-Boned by a back marker.

During the spoon racing the fog lifted and gradually the wind arrived in a very gentle force 1'ish.

Another square course was set; this time significantly larger and once again three-minute starts were the order of the day.

As racing progressed, so did everybody's confidence. Many of us were trying to be clever with the rules regarding windward boat and calling water. Nick, Steve and Dave were Dart hopping and spent each race on different boats with one to one tuition.

This proved a great success as I know we all benefited from their experience, that is apart from my front beam. With Nick "Sneaky" Dewhirst aboard I was catching Martin Ellin and Steve Petts on a run (some achievement with nearly thirty stone trying to sink us). Nick was calling the tactics of "steal his wind", "go in side them both" etc etc when we arrived at the mark with nowhere to go, but over it!

Finally racing was to be concluded with the best of two two-lap races. A bottle of wine on offer soon made us all serious.

Sue Antcliffe made two excellent starts leaving most behind up the first beat, but the final positions were: -

Race 1Race 2
David & Alison Fearnley Mark Aldridge
Martin Ellen Steve Petts
Sue Antcliffe Martin Ellin
Steve Petts David & Alison Fearnley
Mark Aldridge Sue Antcliffe

At this time, the wind had picked up to a healthy 2-3 and we were all suffering from excess sun, despite the foggy start, but it was time to go in.

A quick de-brief ended what had been an excellent weekend and the closing comments suggested that everybody had gained confidence in all areas. Picking up some helpful rigging, racing and pleasure sailing tips.

A big thank you to Steve, Dave and Nick for organising and running an excellent event.

Mark Aldridge - "Nothing Ever Happens" #1930

For more information on Dart 15's at: Rutland Sailing Club