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River sailing - tips and techniques

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    Posted: 22 Apr 15 at 12:53pm
I've finally done it. Packed in coastal catamaran sailing and gone back to monohulls and unlike (gulp) 15-20 years ago, I'll be on a river and not an open lake.

The main reason for doing this is a young family, so time is very limited and I have Henley Sailing Club just up the road that is proving very family friendly and a just a short cycle away.

I think its going to be a totally different sport, not just new boats to get used to, but the stream, trees, shifty winds etc etc.

Just thought I'd start a thread to discuss tips and techniques for this type of sailing.......

Can anyone share their experiences?

Note - I am avoiding the inevitable 'what boat thread' in preference for going down there, seeing what others sail, trying a few out and getting something that best fits the stretch of water.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote MerlinMags Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Apr 15 at 2:14pm
Learn to roll tack really, really well.

Then learn not to abuse this power.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Null Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Apr 15 at 2:38pm
i have been a member of a small river club all my life.  It is very much a different aspect to sailing, i have seen many a top sailor turn up and get handed their arse of a ditch.  Mags is right, learning to roll tack ( i mean really roll tack) well is key.  Yuo find with river sailing you get in to a rhythm on the beats, as with any sailing area local knowledge is key.  But more so on a river.  Where knowing where the shallows are, places where flow is stronger and how obstacles such as trees etc. effect the wind.

One tip which may sound obvious is up the beats remember to play the starboard bank and rememebr that the bank is a continuous obstruction so people will call for water and expect you to give fair time and warning before shouting starboard.

In terms of boat selection, well that depends on whats local.  Most River sailing clubs are old clubs and boat choice has refined to whats best suited over many years.  Our club, Albacores and Solo's tend to be about the fastest things.  That said we have seen some success in the Graduate and lately the D-Zero, which has proved to be a good single hander for shifty narrow waterways.  Historically the British Moth was always a good choice for narrow rivers, but we have never seen one perform well at Tewkesbury particularly.

They are great places to sail with kids, often sheltered and full of wildlife.  
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Post Options Post Options   Quote ASok Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Apr 15 at 2:57pm
Thanks for the feedback.

Roll tacking...yes, I'll need to look into that again and polish up the skills. Watching some of the sailors out on Sunday in the light breeze was pretty impressive, seemed to work really hard to get the best out of each tack.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Null Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Apr 15 at 3:03pm
Yes, it seems to be legal on Rivers but else where i would suspect a River 'Roll Tack' to be completely illegal.   ha ha
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Post Options Post Options   Quote SUGmeister Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Apr 15 at 3:21pm
Roll tack roll gybe and avoid the cows drinking down towards Wargrave! 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Rupert Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Apr 15 at 8:00pm
"Water for the cow please" is somthing to get used to!

Roll tacks - these need to be for a reason. A great roll tack to keep the speed up when you finally have to tack as you pinch your way up the bank (and another a boat length later to stay out of the current) is fine, as is tacking as the shift hits. Rolling your way up the river will make no friends.

You have to develop a ninja sense of when a windshift hits - first twitch of the telltale, feel of wind on back of neck - no idea what the prompts are really, but I grew up sailing on a river and used to be very, very good at that. My favorite weapon of choice has always been the Firefly, and I've never been convinced that any boat is better at river sailing. Love the British Moth as a singlehander on the river, too.

You are right, it really is a different sport. But it is a fun, friendly one which really gets your boat handling good. Learn to pinch like hell up the favoured bank, learn to sit way, way forwards in the boat, and remember, when it has all gone horribly wrong, river clubs often have an excellent bar.
Firefly 2324, Lightning 130, Puffin 229, Leader, Topper 44496, yellow Minisail
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Post Options Post Options   Quote ASok Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Apr 15 at 11:01am
Yes, the bar does look great. That's where I expect to do most off my learning.

The British Moth has always appealed to me too. I've just never seen one in the flesh. I'll have to look up the CA web pages and see what they are all about. In the meantime, I'll be trying my hand in a club enterprise to get some time on the water whilst I sort my own toy out.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote ChrisI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Apr 15 at 11:41am
And just mind the traffic on the river...especially the hen and stag groups who have hired a cruiser for the day, and who may not be fully in control!

But it has a beautiful situation and is really friendly and it will be an ideal place to get your smaller ones on the water as early as poss.

PS I'm sure you are doing the right thing and borrowing something first to get used to the conditions but later on if you wanted to try an X1 or X0 (that are designed for amongst other things river conditions) I'd be very happy to bring the one along that we are sailing tomorrow at Hammersmith (... although maybe you are looking for a single hander in the long run?).
PPS Just to be clear that the X0/X1 is my commercial interest.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote The Moo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Apr 15 at 12:14pm
I can remember sailing on the narrow rivers of the Norfolk Broads years ago. When tacking upwind the locals always seemed to gain an extra boat length (or two) by letting the boat drift head to wind parallel to the bank and then bearing away just before momentum was lost. Mind you they were heavier boats and not the sort of thing you would easily roll tack.
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