Winter has begun and so has the training. There are at least 5 months before the first ranking events and the Nationals are in August so there is plenty of time to up-skill and prepare to take on the top skippers.
On Tuesday I sailed at Frensham where we had a lovely 3-6 knot breeze from the NNE which is straight across the lake. You can see the puffs coming across the water and can line the boat up to get the most out of them. It is very satisfying to get the line of the boat just right to optimise the route up the beat. Whist training, I apply 100% concentration from one minute before the start to the finish. It is all too easy to get caught up in the banter but this develops bad habits and you can miss opportunities. My goal is to keep the boat going at max speed and max height upwind all the time. Look away for a second or two and you slow down.
Thursday saw me at Emsworth in a competitive fleet and again we had 2-6 knots of breeze. My focus on the setup was to check all my basic setting and take the boat to the side of the lake. The I checked the jib leech was firm and with the right amount of twist. Only then do look at the main for twist downwind and then upwind. When looking at the main upwind I want the top batten parallel to the main boom and the main and jib twist to match. When all looks right I go sailing and check the set up on the water. The challenge on this day was to have the kicker to be slack enough so the leach is soft in a calm, but firm enough in the puffs to hold firm and allow the boat to accelerate and point high. To do this, I sometimes lower the mainsheet post so that the mainsheet will pull the main boom down in a puff and tighten the leech rather than just sideways letting the leech open. It is subtle tricks like this that get a little bit more speed out of the boat and this only comes with practice and experimentation. As my friend Jim Saltenstall used to say, there is nothing like hours on the water for developing boat speed.
At the moment I seem to sail consistently higher and faster than the boats around me even with well used sails. The next step is to get down to Gosport when the wind is in the right direction and line up against James Hadden and Shaun Priestley who both went to the worlds and have the same setup as me. It will be fun.
One last thought. If ever you find that when checking the main leech on a run, you find that even with a straight mast, the leech is looser on one side or the other, check that your gooseneck is fitted parallel to the mast. I refitted mine the other day and got it slightly out of alignment. The leech was so much looser on port that starboard. It took me a while to work out why.
Keep warm and enjoy your winter sailing.