Teach-in and Race Training, 13-14 May 2006

What fun we had! - The weekend could be summed up as apprehension turning to 'fear' and then to total exhilaration and that was just Saturday! The summary - 17 Sprint 15s 'enjoyed' two days with everything from Force 1 to Force 6 (29 mph gusts and you all came back with big grins - go on Lynn you did enjoy it really!).

Friday evening saw the arrival of Andrew, Chris and Peter from Thorpe Bay and Tony from Stewartby with their boats and Dean and Lynn from Isle of Sheppey with their boat (the ex- Sawford senior 1784 with the bright orange rudders and Dean's shirt to match!). With their boats ready set up they could enjoy the normal SSC Friday night social evening and then sit and watch the normal chaos of arrivals and frantic rigging on Saturday as Gary and Gerald from Thorpe Bay and Richard from Whitstable arrived among the SSC boats moving around the boat park. Whilst it was unlucky that our junior members were away on a Powerboat training course it did mean that the SSC club Sprint 15 (857) was available, so we could get Gerald on the water as he had left his boat at home (sorry it was rigged badly Gerald).

Most of the 'visitors', except Dean and Lynn, had some reasonable experience of the Sprint 15. The SSC contingent comprised a complete range of skills from John Holmes, John Suffee and Sid who purchased their boats last season through to Martin and the mighty Dutch duo, John and Kevin - three of our top Sprint 15 sailors - Joan, Geoff and I fit in the middle with some experience but definitely needing skills improvement!

Nick Dewhirst was joined by Jeff Kiddle (SSC Commodore) and Chris Stafford (SSC Sprint 15 Captain) to help out with instruction and, following the briefing and introductions, we proceeded to the group inspection to show us all the error of our ways in having boats in such sorry condition (Nick was very polite though). Following much tightening of trampolines and footstraps and replacement (or removal) of shackles we set afloat in unarig mode in mirror calm conditions and floated to the start in 4mph winds. Boy were we to be glad of the inspection!

Inspecting the boats!
Inspecting the boats!

On the water and away we go, floating around the first race. A quick jam of boats at the windward mark - now what are those new overlap rules? Sort out the mess and round to finish the one lap race like snails. Then someone turned the gas up two marks and it was F3 - now the groans are stopping and some smiles beginning. But now what, the wind has changed direction and Nick has moved the committee boat so where is that start line and where are his 'timing sticks' against the background of the sea wall- oh well, scattered start and another short race. But hey what is this, my hull has come right up, someone screamed past flying a hull and someone else has capsized (excused later exercise!) - no time to see who - now we are cooking, F4-F5.

The next 2 hours saw another 8 races and the wind stayed F4-F5 (ashore we found it had gusted to top of F6). The square course led to some fantastic reaching and much showering from the waves. Jeff and Chris went boat hopping to help the newer helms gain confidence while Nick abandoned his RO role to Bob Walker (SSC Dart 18 Captain - see they are not all bad!) and started following us around shouting for more sheet pulling. There were a number of capsizes but everyone sailed well and virtually each race saw a different finish order - but hey where was the finish line anyway! We won't mention the name of the intrepid sailor who went ashore to leave his boat sailing off - he knows we know who he is and we're sure he will be reminded from time to time back at his club.

Nick at work
Nick at work

Well everyone had said they wanted to get more confidence with their boats in higher winds and what better way to do it. Looking at the ear to ear grins as we came ashore that confidence was rising rapidly and we enjoyed the high wind sailing - despite some bruises. A couple of minor dings at marks and footstraps coming loose - but the worst damage was done by Geoff returning to the boat field, unaware that his tiller extension had bounced outboard as he marched across the road to the field he proceeded to shorten it by 18" on the gate post. SSC will have to fine John Dutch (2005 Helm of the Year) for wiping the 'hammerite' off the replacement club pole (only erected 3 days before) with one of his hulls - John this one is steel not wood.

At the post-sailing debriefing it was clear that the steady but continual rise in wind had proved to just about everyone that, despite a number of capsizes, how forgiving and controllable the Sprint 15 is even in high winds and strong gusts. The common problem was tacking through waves and beating close to windward - but everyone still had the post high wind grin! With the help of Jeff, Chris and John and Kevin Dutch, Nick talked it all through and made suggestions to address individual problems. Many would not have gone out before if the wind had been that high on launching but, having now done so, felt they would now be confident that they would be in control.

After an early supper prepared by Lesley Stafford, and her able team who provided meals through the weekend, Nick laid out his 'knives and forks' game on the floor - choosing the Instow layout (help for Kevin for the following week's racing?). Tactical movement of 'boats' on the club room floor saw some aground or caught by the tides. But, most finished the course although with a wildly different order to what the chosen start positions might have indicated - only two boats were in the right position for the start, in F1 winds and an incoming tide. The message being find out about tidal flows, wind shadow and shoals of the venue before going afloat, and know your rights of way on the water (and choose your course to avoid a call in the first place) - damn that fishing boat!

Those staying on site then enjoyed a relaxed evening in the club bar before retiring to their tents and Sunday morning dawned with overcast skies following a thunderstorm during the night. Some conscientious person locked the field gates during the evening and so apologies to those who had to climb over in the midnight rains.

We adjourned to the boat park for inversion recovery training with help from Chris and Jeff. Nick boldly stated he had never known a Sprint 15 to capsize backwards - only to be reminded by Jeff that Nick was the RO when Jeff did exactly that at SSC some years ago (still Jeff forgets things as well - like forgetting having a rope ladder at the back when you can't climb back on after capsizing in heavy seas in November!). The session followed on by lining up all the boats to inspect rig angles. This showed that 3 boats had significantly different mast rake Sid found that the moving of his chain plates by two holes (from 5th down) made a tremendous difference to his upwind performance during the Sunday sailing. We don't need Martin or Kevin to go any faster so we're glad they left theirs where they were.

Peter Haynes
Peter Haynes

On the water again about midday and what a difference, F1 but now SE across the sea wall instead of W/NW we had on Saturday. First race and only John Suffee had the right position for the start - at the line and on starboard. A real test and again we had a meeting of half the fleet at the windward mark but we all got round with just a couple of nudges ( I never did get the pint awarded in lieu of a 360) - but so slowly! I know the Thorpe Bay guys are a friendly bunch but they surrounded me! The starts for the next few one lap races became really interesting with boats all over the place - Geoff stole a march by finishing one race following straight across the start line for the next without missing a heart beat. Different tactics were tried but the wind was so variable it was difficult to see who was gaining on whom.

But then it happened again, F3 and a wind shift and Dave Lincoln (SSC Bosun), as RO, kept the pressure on by commencing the start sequences as we finished each race. The last 3 or 4 of the 8 races were ideal Sprint 15 conditions and we could all try and put into practice what we had been told. With Nick and Jeff shouting out instructions to individuals from the patrol boats each 'trainee' had the opportunity to be guided to improve their sailing.

The starts remained entertaining and I found that calling for 'water' on my wife has no effect even in front of the committee boat with the Commodore on board, he says he has photographic evidence not that I would ever be brave enough to use it. The variations of style for downwind sailing on Sunday were numerous - and some bordered on a sailing version of yoga, but do what works for you, we even saw John Dutch standing up.

Sadly eventually we had to give up due to the ebb tide - at the time some of us wished for more water though judging from the aches this evening I am glad we stopped.

The Thorpe Bay contingent, as they did on Saturday, proved strong 'adversaries' and with the improvements in performance Andrew is going to have some real competition from Chris, Peter, Gary and Gerald - although Nick may not have helped them by pointing out the shortcomings of Andrew's mainsheet block system. Unfortunately Peter and Chris had 'home duties' to attend to and missed the Sunday sailing but they did get the best on Saturday. Gerald using our club boat with only half the traveller length available was creaming around so when he is back on his own boat……! They should all look forward to some close racing.

Dean and Lynn from IOSSC were slightly disadvantaged by sailing unarig two up but had the advantage that, as inexperienced Sprint 15 sailors, they were not overpowered in the high winds on Saturday. Once Lynn has a jib to control they should make a formidable team in the two ups at IOSSC. Tony from Stewartby is the only person who I have seen sail the Sprint 15 kneeling down but he finds that the most effective for him to be able to move around and we had some close tussles at times. After Saturday's sailing he should be able to handle anything that Stewartby can throw at him - and Netley Tony. Richard sails our waters from Whitstable and, having used Nick's boat for the Saturday sailing, should have found out some pointers on boat settings to help beat the 18s in the small cat fleet - come over and join our 15s racing some time.

The improvements in the SSC fleet are beginning to show and we may see some changes in the top order for some races - especially if Joan gets into the fray at the start line. Our new boats with John, John and Sid should now be making life difficult for the experts with their newer boats all in good trim and their new found confidence.

The final de-briefing session showed that everyone from the novice to the most skilled helm had learnt something and had had fun doing so, sadly we all had to go our separate ways. Overall good sailing with a great crowd whom we hope to meet again.

Our thanks go to Nick Dewhirst, Jeff Kiddle and Chris Stafford for all their time and the multitude of very useful hints and encouragement. Remember if you came - write it all down now and check things out each time you rig the boat. Tighten that tramp and those footstraps and sort out righting lines.

Commiserations for the event go to Geoff as, following his Saturday tiller damage, on Sunday he poked the long extension he borrowed from Jeff Kiddle into his eye - black eye and bandaids. Star turn goes to John Holmes for his 3 capsize linked sequence - turn it into the wind first and hold on the windward side tramp strap when it comes up!

On behalf of the Sprint 15 Association and SSC I would like to thank all those who attended for making it a really fun event. On behalf of those who attended I would also like to thank all of the SSC members, Sprint 15 sailors and particularly all the others, who gave up their time to provide the galley, patrol boat, lookout and beach cover that enabled the rest of us to enjoy a superb but strenuous weekend. At my count 23 other SSC members helped with the running of the event and they are mainly our dinghy or Dart 18 sailors. An added bonus is that the spectacle of the fleet afloat led to two new families joining SSC during Sunday - ably dealt with by Chris.

With small Sprint 15 fleets in many clubs the opportunity for one class training is not to be missed. You can only really judge how you are performing when sailing with the same class of boat and the training weekend format is ideal and this Association training must be the cheapest you will get anywhere. If you haven't been to one try next year.

Good Sailing to you all

Steve Willis
Rear Commodore, Sailing
Seasalter Sailing Club

The Seasalter Training Team 2006
Dean Abra 1784 (helm) Double Trouble IOSSC
Lynn Woodcock 1784 (crew) Double Trouble IOSSC
Tony Skinner 527   Stewartby
Andrew Hannah 1060 Soggy Moggie Thorpe Bay
Peter Haynes 791 Thriller Thorpe Bay
Chris Maloney 1585 Crispy Sheets Thorpe Bay
Gary Sverdloff 1231 Ad Rem Thorpe Bay
Gerald Sverdloff 857   Thorpe Bay
Richard Jones 1821   Whitstable
Sid Dawson 1551   SSC
John Dutch 1803   SSC
Kevin Dutch 640   Spartacus SSC
Geoff Green 585   SSC
John Holmes 1978   SSC
Martin Searle 1331   SSC
John Suffee 1771   SSC
Joan Willis 842   SSC
Steve Willis 756   SSC