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IOM Ranking Coalhouse Fort - Finally I am free of the starting demons

How do I describe my performance at the ranking event at Coalhouse Fort. A game of two halves. I think the story of this sailors weekend is about finding the right mindset and translating what I do in light weather into windy weather. The boat and equipment is all top notch now. The main development needs to be in the skipper.

The Venue

Coalhouse Fort is an old fortress dating from the 1860's to protect us from a French invasion and used in the 2 world wars. A gun is still in place surrounded on the Thames side by a seawater moat. You can see the detail on google Maps and it lies on a stretch of the Thames called the Lower Hope. On Saturday I felt I was named after that stretch, i.e. No hope. The only downside of the venue is it lies in a North/South direction curling round the fort so it is hard to set decent windward leeward courses courses in our prevailing winds. There is excellent parking with about a 300 yard walk to the water side so you have to take all your kit for the day with you. You could launch anywhere although it was a tad shallow in places around the edges.

Despite the wind directions over the weekend Graham Bantock designed some excellent courses although I have to say I was not a fan of the running starts which we had in a few races although this did limit the general recalls

The racing - Saturday

It is strange how you can perceive yourself as a victim when your mindset is not in the right place. Whether it was the fact I had been cutting hedges for two days or just not with it I do not know but I continued where I left from the Nationals and failed to make a single successful start. I felt psychologically damaged. Here are some extracts from my notes on the day.

Seeding race

Reasonable start but off the pace on the beat and the run however chose the right gate on the last turn and made up places to be above mid fleet and in A heat.

A heat race 1

Running start. Got to leeward mark in mid fleet and finished well to stay in A fleet.

A heat race 2

Running start. There was a puff on the left end of the line which pushed most of the boats there into a 50 yard lead. The gaggle on the right were left stranded in no wind. To be honest I should have seen the wind as all the good guys were on the left. So back to B fleet

B Fleet race 3

Sailed well to get promoted back to A Fleet.

A fleet race 3

Really bad start and then sailed in a personal vacuum to finish last. Back to B fleet

B Fleet race 4

A bad start with two collisions. I am so bad at this game. Stay in B fleet

B Fleet race 5

Same story as race 4

B Fleet race 6

Clean start but my plan was wrong and rounded first mark near back of fleet. Made it back to 8th just missing promotion.

Race 8 and 9

Over line at start.

So you can see I have the ability to take myself out of a race almost before it has started. Clearly there is something wrong with the way I think about this game. I won at Bourneville and win easily in club racing in a few different locations but when it comes to the big races I am tightening up and not doing the right thing. There is a difference between knowing what to do and getting on and doing it in a relaxed easy manner.

The racing - Sunday

What a difference a day makes.

After a good nights sleep the day dawned bright and sunny with only lights winds. Would the pond sailor use his talents? You bet.

There were 25 boats and we were split into 2 for the seeding race. I finished 5th but only the top 4 went into the A fleet. It mattered not as I was promoted straight into the A fleet with a 3rd in the first B fleet race. Results of 5, 6, 1, 2, 4 made for a good day.

All the starts were good. Top speed, right end of line and heading in the right direction. The 2nd place should have been a 1st as I had a good lead but was becalmed on the run and was overtaken.

So here was a sailor with the right mindset today and it all felt so easy. I think the reason why I sail better in light weather is I have time to think and am hopeful that now I have broken my duck so to speak I will get better in a breeze.

One observation. In a conversation with a fellow competitor, I asked how long he had been sailing IOMs and model yachts. He answers, since 11 years old and had raced all manner of model boats through his life. I have some catching up to do so maybe my results have not been bad, I am just developing.

Final thoughts

Everyone is beatable provided you can exploit your sailing skills.

For me I think I need a lot of boat handling practice over the winter, especially holding position on a line in a breeze and chop

The extra sail ties on the main made a difference to the sail set and I could use less jackstay tension.

Keep using the standard sail settings even if things aren't quite working for you. The likely hood is, a lack of performance is the way you sail your boat.

Stay out of trouble.

The lessons are taken on board and I move on to Nicks Knots open at Frensham Pond this Wednesday, the Emsworth Centenary race On October 9 and the next ranking event at Milton Keynes on 23/4 October.

The Results table. (Note I was sailing a Britpop not an Alternative)

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