Foreword, by Roger Gilbert

Visitors to the UK often comment on the myriad of rivers, lakes, ponds and reservoirs that litter our landscape, not forgetting our extensive coastline. Go to any one of these, however small, on a weekend from Penzance via Salcombe and the Solent to Ramsgate,  Ranelagh via Oulton Mere, Hollingworth, Abersoch, Derwent reservoir then East Lothian and on to Lerwick in the Shetland Islands (all clubs I’ve had the pleasure of visiting) and you will almost certainly witness dinghy sailors battling around their local cans. It is these smaller clubs that provide the backbone of British sailing and the bulk of its participation. Whilst a minority of individuals just ‘mess about in boats’, most are out racing – pitting their skills, wits, experience and sometimes just plain luck, against the vagaries of the elements and their rivals. Many of these racers turn out weekend in, weekend out, throughout all four seasons, irrespective of what the elements conspire to throw at them. Clive is one of these, one of the regulars, a stalwart, a club benchmark. Somehow, if he is not there one weekend, everyone notices.

As UK dinghy racers, we are very lucky to have these opportunities to race on such an interesting variety of waterways. Each club has its own quirky rules, islands, mark numbering or naming systems, wind shadows, wind shifts, back eddies, waves, shallows etc. to confound us. In return, we attempt to navigate through and around these obstacles, in our never-ending quest for that perfect beat, race or day. As we get older, unlike many other sports, in sailing we continue to learn, to discover, to make new and repeat old mistakes. No two days are the same – we never tire of the battle. There’s always tomorrow. “Today we were just unlucky – next weekend we’ll beat him…”.

‘From back to front’ provides a refreshing and light hearted insight into some of the techniques and approaches to both improving performance and gaining more enjoyment from your racing. Clive shares some of his wealth of experiences drawn from nearly 40 years dinghy racing, from Fowey to Frensham Pond, from single and double handers and small keelboats, but most importantly from ‘the back to the front’ of the fleet to address the needs of club racers. This book addresses the parts that other books ignore – it probably won’t revive flagging Olympic ambitions, but it probably will get you down to your local club a few minutes earlier and may, with luck, even persuade you to dig out that road trailer and discover the delights and frustrations of all those hundreds of other clubs, many that I have been so fortunate to sample.

See you all on the water.

Roger Gilbert

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