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Thought for the day - Working up a Britpop

As most of you know I had the opportunity to buy a Britpop mid 2021 to take out the one variable to boat speed that was unknown to me. It was not that my Alternative was slow, it was just all the fast designs today have a significant chine and volume at the back end and that sowed an element of doubt in my mind over my boats overall performance. Funnily enough I thought that any tiny lack of performance was in light weather rather than heavy. In a breeze on flat water, I felt the Alternative had a slight edge

The road to glory is not as simple as buying a Britpop or similar modern design and does not lead to race winning performance. Here is my story so far.

The initial set up

The third hand hull (2014 Robot build) was sound with a few scratches on the hull and bulb that I was able to polish out. It had an excellent RMG winch and fittings so nothing had to be done to the hull fin and bulb. There was no RC so I bought a Futaba I6 transmitter and receiver which I found to be excellent and replaced the rudder servo with a futaba. I coated all the connections in Corrosion X to stop any corrosion in salt water.

I had worked up good rigs on my Alternative and all I had to do was transfer them to the Britpop. The rigs are BG sails set on PG spars. The settings are almost identical between the boats. You can see the rig set up here.

I use the standard settings on the BG website and always carry a rig stick to make sure the rake is correct and therefore the boat is balanced.

There are changes made to my original rig setups which I have previously documented but the latest are from events occurring at the last ranking event where I broke a shroud and had no spare. I now have spare A and B Jibs on booms, and completing spare A and B masts with mains, along with spare shrouds and backstays. In the spring, the nationals are 400 miles from home so I do not want be the victim of a breakdown.

Once the Britpop was set up and sailing it was time to apply some magic which I hate to say only comes through experience, racing and practice. The observations below are my learnings from the 3 open meetings, Veterans champs, 2 sets of ranking races, the Fleetwood nationals and various club racing.

Where is the magic

Setting adjustment is subtle for any given condition and needs only mm's of change. In light weather I noticed at one of the the ranking events, that Chris Harris who won the day, uses more depth in the jib in light weather and I estimated it to be 25-30mm. The BG standard measurement is circa 22mm. It was the same on his mainsail, so I tried the same and saw an increase in speed with the boat pointing at the same height or higher to windward. Of course you still need to sail fast and free to maximise speed around the course.

The second setting adjustment was on the mainsail in a breeze. I have always struggled to keep the top third of the main from backwinding at the top end of the A rig, even with the jib leech well open. I found by flattening the foot by 5mm and using a bit more back stay, the top of the sail is flattened and works more effectively and does not backwind in the gusts. It seemed similar to when we used to blade out the top of the mainsail on fractional rig yachts. I slightly flatten the jib at the top end of the A rig but only by 5mm or so.

The third adjustment is with the shrouds. Starting lose in light weather they should be progressively tightened as the wind builds. The critical thing to look for is that the mast stays in column on either tack when set up for windward work and the leeward shroud should not go slack when the boat is under pressure otherwise the windward spreader will push the middle of the mast to leeward. The shrouds should not be so tight that the middle of the mast cannot flex forwards slightly when in a gust.

Check that the shrouds are of equal length when pulled down the front of the mast.

When the boat is set up correctly it rarely needs changing. I have sailed for a whole day without changing a thing. If you find yourself tinkering after each race your boat is not optimised.

The critical bit of magic is in sailing the boat.

How often do you find your boat slowing because the wind has headed and that momentary delay in course correction, loses you speed and therefor your position on the race course. To get in amongst the top sailors you have to practice and iron out any deficiencies in your sailing skills and be as sharp or sharper as the next competitor.

When I was young and a dinghy sailor, I spent nearly all of my spare time practicing. Gradually, I realised that I was beginning to develop a sixth sense for the wind and able to spend more time looking upwind to exploit the next wind pattern. In addition, I always sailed the boat at top speed and manoeuvred smoothly, whatever the wind condition and however it shifted. Sailing the boat became a subconscious action. This is how we need to be as radio sailors.

One way to develop your skill is to match race a fellow competitor, ideally one who is slightly faster than you. Begin by tuning the boats so they are the fastest they can be and then match race aggressively. Not only will it sharpen your concentration but highlight any weakness to work on in your sailing skills.

With confidence comes an ability to assert your boats positioning on other competitors. Over the year, I had days where my position on the start and the course was dictated to me by other boats. As my confidence built I began to control the position of my boat in the fleet. I learnt on the start that it was so important to be able to see the bow of your boat. Lose your boat, lose the start. I was the master of losing my boat on the start at the nationals.

Last but no least, a fit body leads to a sharp mind. Competition racing days are long and require long periods of concentration. Keep yourself fit over the winter with walking, gym jogging whatever works for you. There are hundred of apps and books to set you on your way

Put your perfomance and history into perspective. The top sailors in IOMs have sailed them for multiple decades in all manner of radio classes, there are multiple world and national champions, Olympic, world and national championship winning dinghy sailors, top RYA coaches. They are all beatable if you put the time and effort into optimising your boat and practising but manage your expectation. If you are new to the sport and have not sailed before, stick with club racing until you have the confidence to move on to opens and then try a ranking event which are great fun.

Now the winter is setting in, get out and practice while the front runners are hibernating. Boat speed will only get you so far but time on the water is essential to hone your skills. Your efforts will be well rewarded.

For me after my 1st year of sailing an IOM in competitive events the results are:

Chipstead 15th Alternative. A day to forget

Veterans 15th Alternative

Bourneville 1st Britpop

Nationals 37th out of 76 - that what happen when you are last off the line in most of the starts.

Ranking 3 19th

Ranking 4 3rd

Frensham open 1st

Ranking 5 21st 3 hours sleep in the camper the night before

Ranking 6 23rd Only finished 4 out of 9 races due to broken shroud

Current UK ranking 25. Room for improvement

In all the ranking races, 50% of my results were top ten finishes. To be honest I thought I would do better than this but given I have not sailed for 20 years and never radio sailed I guess the results are OK.

Finally if you have any magic tips to racing an IOM, please leave a comment so everyone can benefit.

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