Covid-19 – before resuming sailing

I doubt there are many more desperate to get back on the water than this particular club sailor. I’m lucky that my club is not far away, sails on a pond of mostly walk-home depth and where the shore is rarely more than 100 yards away, so hopefully I’ll be back on the water soon. Which got me thinking about before I launch…

One of the key aspects of sailing for me is the need to take personal responsibility. That includes deciding whether the conditions are too much for us or our boat or our (family member) crew. In these strange times, it also means thinking harder about our personal safety and appraising the risk, not just in sailing, but in getting to and from our boats and then avoiding catching or inadvertently transmitting the pesky virus.

We all have different (often strong) views as to the Covid risks, with some being particularly cautious and others believing we should be easing our way back to some sort of normal life, rather than continued lock-down. We’ve had enough division of late with the Brexit debate; I hope we can respect each others’ opinions and choices on this rather than set off a further wave of conflict and stress. 

If your club/water remains shut, tempting as it may be, please don’t go rogue and sail anyway. If you have to travel a long way to your club, think about whether the trip is really justifiable. 

But with those tests passed, I propose a few further checks before actually going sailing, checks that we normally tend to be a bit too relaxed about. It seems common sense that we should doing everything we can to minimise the need for safety boat services – indeed, there might not be any if you are ‘free’-sailing. So here are some checks I recommend strongly before going on the water:

  • Read the weather forecast and satisfy yourself that you, boat and crew can handle the conditions before leaving home
  • Pack your tools and boat spares – you might need them when you get there
  • Also before leaving, tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back
  • Assess the conditions again when you get to your club. Wind direction and tide can make more difference than wind-speed sometimes
  • Think about taking a (charged!) mobile phone, sealed in something waterproof and secured somewhere accessible. You could even switch your SIM to that older phone lurking in a drawer somewhere
  • Some suggest fitting a masthead float to reduce inversion risk (or mast-in-mud syndrome). I tend more towards thinking that if you think you need a float for these reasons, you should skip going out; sail another day instead
  • Check the boat over very thoroughly:
    • Check tanks are dry, all bungs are in, hatch covers on and buoyancy bags inflated
    • Check standing rigging – ensure wire is not fraying and all split rings/pins and shackles are secure. Check chainplate fixings too
    • if you use a bobble-knot on the main halyard, shift the knot a bit in case the rope is damaged internally
    • Check halyards for damage and excessive wear, dodgy shackles etc
    • Check toe-straps carefully all over, for loose seams, fixings, ropes et al 
    • Check rudder fittings (on hull and stock) are secure and wobble free
    • Check the tiller extension universal joint for the start of splits in the rubber
    • Inspect the rudder blade for suspicious cracks. Likewise daggerboards. If in doubt, check the centreboard; I recognise that is harder to do
    • Check the corners of each sail, satisfying yourself they are not going to pull off. Ditto spinnaker chute patches
    • When the boat is rigged, do a further inspection of everything, satisfying yourself all is hunky-dory (particularly look for missing split rings and loose clevis pins)

If any of these checks highlight a problem, fix it, using your tools and spares if needed. 

If you cannot fix it, put the boat away and cover back on. Note what you need, order them online and come back another day when you have the bits and can fix the problem.

Before launching also:

  • Make sure you have the right clothes on. If in doubt, layer up. Easier to shed layers if you get too hot than the other way around
  • Our hands are going to be softer than if we were sailing every week. Even if you don’t normally wear gloves, think about taking some in case. Blisters are a pain in more ways than one
  • The sun is getting strong and we’ve perhaps forgotten what to do when out and about for longer than an hour – put some sun screen on exposed skin
  • Make sure your are wearing a decent buoyancy aid that fits and won’t simply float up over your head if you go in the water
  • My experience with crash-hats is that they take some time to adjust to – initially increasing your chances of failing to duck sufficiently. So wear one if you are used to it but bear that experience in mind if you are new to them. Don’t think about using a cycle helmet – they add far too much height
  • Put a couple of metres of decent dyneema or 4mm rope either in your pocket or somewhere safe in the boat in case you have to jury-rig something
  • A spare shackle and some plastic tape might be worth having aboard too

When launching, you are going to have to deal with your own trolley, unless you have a family member with you – this may change our ingrained habits of collaborating and helping each other.

Don’t sail too far, stay out too long get tired and so start making mistakes.

Inevitably, I cannot guarantee this list exhaustive or covers every risk and contingency. Remember, it’s all about taking personal responsibility and applying your own common sense. With a dash of extra prudence thrown in please.

Enjoy your sailing and stay safe.


Frensham Laser Open 13-Sept 2015

Lasers at Frensham Pond – 13 Sept 2015

Well that was tricky. My brain still hurts, trying to fathom what was going to happen next. It may well be the same for OOD Katie Shorrock. How do you set a course when the breeze is either an unsteady NE or unsteady SE, but virtually never anything in between, but still provide a decent beat or three? If you set different angles beats, Murphy’s Law says it will be SE on a NE leg and vice versa. Plump for one angle and the danger is there are no beats at all.

Nonetheless, the race team managed to provide us with four proper, challenging races as the wind flicked and grew to hiking strength and faded every random-number of minutes. Would the next phase come from the right next time or left again? Who knew?

In race one, FPSC’s own vice-commodore, Colin Dutton was on fire, leading and seemingly extending all the way for a comfortable win. The pile-up at the first leeward mark perhaps left Colin grinning to himself as he serenely sailed off. Seems someone need a bit of a rules refresher too – you can’t unilaterally shout “no room” to 5 boats inside you all asking for it, gybe and shut the door on everyone. After that, things settled down a bit. Winner for the last two years, David Jessop had a great battle with Simon Hamment, also of Papercourt for second and third, with Simon coming out on top. Clive Eplett recovered from his failed ‘round the outside’ plan at that leeward mark for fourth.

In race 2, it was Clive’s turn to hit the front for the first lap or so until Katrina Gilbert judged better whether it was right-wind’s turn or left-winds turn again, to take what looked like a safe lead – until the final 100 yards under the shore which made for a tense finish that Katrina eventually held. On a day where big gaps could appear then contract and even invert,  John Peck of Silverwing led home the next group, followed by Dominic Hall (Papercourt), with 1, 2 and 3 in race 1 finishing 10, 7 and 8 respectively.

Inevitably, the best-looking breeze of the day appeared whilst we enjoyed lunch, but, as forecast, there was, mostly, more breeze than in the morning. This time, Simon Hamment led from the off, initially chased by Clive, who was then overtaken by Nigel Rolfe (Burghfield). But oh no, there was no hoot as Simon crossed the line. The dreaded OCS, giving Nigel the win, Clive second and Frensham’s Rob Beere 3rd. David Jessop was 4th and Matt Hill were 5th. And where was Katrina? Almost unbelievably, ashore with a broken top-section and ripped sail. In a F2?

I don’t think anybody had a clue what the scores were before the start of race 4. The racing was obviously intriguing enough to keep everyone interested – there seemed few breakers for the early shower anyway. The SE now seemed far more dominant, so Katie moved the start-line and gave us yet another course to try and figure out. The line was port-biased, but was that more pressure on the right? At the gun, the pin was pretty congested (was someone OCS?) but the leaders at the first mark, Colin and Clive  had tacked onto port as soon as, taking a nice port-lift and pressure into the mark. Again there was no stopping Colin, horizon-jobbing everyone for the second time for the day. Matt Hill found his own private SSW to overtake Nigel and pressurise Clive for second, but not quite grasp the place.


Multiple champion Roger Gilbert once said to me there are three aspects of success, getting there, staying there, doing it consistently. When the scores were counted, Clive’s (4),2,2,2 trumped Colin’s 1,(10),10,1 (wrong sort of consistent), with David Jessop grinding out 3rd overall with 3,(8),4,6 and Matt Hill taking 4th with a (8),5,5,3. The relatively high scores, with 10 different boats featuring in the top 4 finishers show what a tricky day it was, with great racing throughout the fleet. 11 visitors was a recent record for an FPSC Laser Open, so many thanks to all those that travelled, swelling the fleet to 23 boats, so please come again. We hope Frensham provided you with some memorably challenging racing; it’s never over until it’s over on the Pond!

Preparing for take-off

Great pic of yours-truly taken at RS Southerns run in the bay by Parkstone YC

RS100 509 in the RS Southern Championships 2015

RS100 509 in the RS Southern Championships 2015

Is this what makes a ‘winner’?

I’ve always argued that the journalists concept of ‘will to win’ was total tosh. My view was more that winners absolutely hate losing, which is a far different thing.

But, chatting to a local, virtually unbeatable, king of the river the other day he hit me with a new one: “I’d retire tomorrow if I knew no other <person> could win”. So in this instance, it is the thought of someone else winning that is the ultimate anathema, the unthinkable prospect that keeps out there and at the front.


FPSC Solo and Comet Open 16-6-13

Full gallery here P1020035

Champagne sailing

at the Frensham Pond SC 60th birthday race

P1010917 copy

Sailing the 100 yesterday

Shame the laser is in the background


I love this pic from last night

Good looking tack from Stuart too



A medal race? Bad idea! So let’s have 2

Against the wishes of sailors, ISAF now wants to make Olympic regattas and the like have 2 double points medal races after a series of only 6. It used to be 10+1.

You can read more here

Now according to its own website, ISAF is responsible for:

  • the promotion of the sport internationally;
  • managing sailing at the Olympic Games;
  • developing the Racing Rules of Sailing and regulations for all sailing competitions;
  • the training of judges, umpires and other administrators;
  • the development of the sport around the world; and
  • representing the sailors in all matters concerning the sport.

So under which of these headings does a 6+2 mickey-mouse-ification come? Certainly not any of the last 4. You can “manage the sailing at the Olympic Games” more easily without this nonsense, so it can only be “promotion of the sport”.

But how encouraging would it be if the commentator had the guts to say:

“well here we are at the pinnacle of sailing, with another double points race under the cliffs where the conditions will be extremely unpredictable and random.

 Just to appease the great god television and add some ‘drama’ there is a pretty fair chance the best sailors at the regatta will not actually win, so keep watching folks and see who has 8 years of blood, sweat and dedication go up in smoke because some bureaucrat thinks their tears will sell more soap powder.

 Iain Percy and Bart Simpson (RIP) were so robbed at Weymouth in the Star class but disappointed the advertisers by being extremely sporting and gracious about it. Where was the drama in that? Accordingly, ISAF have now doubled the anti, hoping someone will actually entertain the mob and throw their toys out of the pram this time.”

Terrific thinks the viewer, I must take up sailing. Looks like a fair and fun sport. Or not.

So what about some equally silly ideas for other sports? Now golf is in the Olympics, perhaps we could have some ball-chasing dogs let loose to run-off with Tiger’s ball up the last fairway. How about a bus stopping randomly in the velodrome? These would add drama and make the winner less certain too.  

If ISAF actually wants to promote sailing, it needs to enable kids around the world to find out for themselves that sailing is the ultimate sport. It  needs to realise that its Key Performance Indicators are not about Olympiad TV viewers but the number of people, around the world who participate in sailing, whatever the flavour, whatever their age, gender, ability, or shoe-size. And it needs to get the message across to the masses that sailing is not a sport exclusively for the rich but can be enjoyed on a shoe-string by pretty much anyone.

A good start would be to point out the Americas Cup is an irrelevant, anachronistic multi-billionaires ego-trip and as much to do with sailing as Apollo 11 was to do with a garden firework.

Then drop this ridiculous idea. I’ve always said that sailing is simply not a spectator sport. But the tech is now available to change that – put some telemetry on the boats and push it onto the web.

Oh, and put team racing in the games – now that is a a thrilling watch



This weekend

…the Club Sailor is taking the RS100 to Paignton for the POSH2013 regatta