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Hyde Sails 2017 Dinghy Show

Tim Sandall Interview: East Coast sailor talks racing, cruising and his Hyde Sails

by Mark Jardine on 8 Nov 2016 8 November 2016
Tim Sandal aboard his Bavaria 36 'Tortola' © Tim Sandall

We spoke to Tim Sandall, an East Coast sailor who started in dinghies and has more recently been cruising and racing yachts, about how he got into sailing, his time as an instructor, why he made the move to yachts and also about the Hyde Sails on his Bavaria 36.

Mark Jardine: Tim, how did you first get in to sailing?

Tim Sandall: I first got into it many years ago, when I was a teenager and I had an interest in boats, which largely came from a school trip we did to Grafham Water Residential Centre, which is an inland sailing lake. I went there with school, fell in love with sailing, went back and bought a boat, and it all started from there really.

Mark: What was your first dinghy?

Tim: It was a boat called a TV dinghy. It was a very small boat, it was an unheard of class and certainly not made any more. It was the cheapest thing that we could afford at the age of 14. I remember bringing it back with my twin brother, who I sailed with, on the roof of a car and being very excited. We had to build it a bit, putting the thwarts on and rudder together - things like that.

Mark: Mark: After that you moved on to Mirrors, Wayfarers, Kestrels and Larks. Which would you say was your favourite?

Tim: I think the Wayfarer was one of my favourite dinghies because it was very stable. It was a good learning boat and I did a lot of teaching in it, so I really enjoyed that. That period in Wayfarers was good, I thought it was a great boat to sail.

Mark: Mark: Then you began as an RYA Dinghy Instructor. Did you enjoy just introducing sailing to other people?

Tim: It is the greatest satisfaction within the sport. Watching other people grow and develop and enjoy what I had done was a tremendous thing. That was very rewarding. We did that for a number of years and to see that when someone understands it, and they get it, then suddenly they start sailing, they feel the wind and they feel the boat – that's a lovely thing to watch people do, and if you'd helped them understand that, it is really rewarding.

Mark: Your time as an instructor was a couple years after you had taken part in Olympic trials, so you were in sailing 470s at really quite a competitive level?

Tim: Yes we were. I think the trouble was that in those days we were teenagers, we had a gung-ho attitude, we sailed around at national championships. As a result of that we were invited to an Olympic Trial, which was very exciting. Unfortunately, if I'm honest, I don't think we realised the magnitude of what we were doing until the end of the weekend when the guys turned up in blazers with Olympic badges on them, and we thought this was probably a bigger deal than we gave it credit for. Unfortunately we just missed out – they took the first 15 people to the next round and we finished 16 out of 200-odd boats. It was quite an achievement.

Mark: The naivety of youth!

Tim: That's it, yes.

Mark: At what point did you start using Hyde Sails in your boats?

Tim: I started with Hyde Sails as soon as I got into cruising bigger boats, or that's when I became aware of them I should say. Prior to that we made do with the boats that we were sailing and what was on them. From the dinghy point of view, Musto & Hyde were what we grew up with, and when they split and Hyde Sails came in, we were aware of Hyde Sails in the dinghy world, but not as much as I am today.

Mark: More recently you've been doing quite a bit of cruising on the East Coast. What do you find the most fun part about that?

Tim: The most fun part about the East Coast is the sailing challenge. I have sailed an awful lot on the Solent and raced on the Solent. There you've got deep water, two navigational channels, and a lot of tide. On the East Coast you have virtually no depth anywhere. We've actually almost scraped the bottom six miles offshore. So I think that offers a really interesting challenge, the North Sea, from a sailing point of view.

I think your passage planning has to be bit more controlled and careful, but it also opens up a lot of inland creeks, and some of the backwaters around the Suffolk and Essex coast are really where we love to be. It's wonderful; our favourite thing is to sail from where we are, up the coast and go into Southwold Harbour which is a tiny little river entrance and you tie to the harbour side and sit in a pub. That to us is one of the nicest things we can do sailing-wise. I think the East Coast at the moment offers an awful lot of interesting sailing challenges; that's what's nice about it.

Mark: You have a Bavaria 36 called 'Tortola' which has a shallow draft, which I presume is perfectly suited for the East Coast where you are restricted with depth. What do you enjoy most about the boat?

Tim: What I enjoy most about the boat, is that it fits our requirements very well. My partner is very new to sailing and she likes the comfort and space that you get down below. With Bavaria you get a lot of boat for your money - it's very well equipped downstairs - but because of its short keel I find it is very flighty and likes to heel over, it's very responsive. To me it brings back a little bit of that dinghy challenge really. Some cruisers you can sit in them, and just sail around without doing anything. I think Tortola, our Bavaria, because of the short keel actually is a bit more flighty and you have to really sail it. And that's what I like about it as a cruiser.

Mark: And you've chosen Hyde Sails for your Bavaria. What did you notice was the main advantage of having Hyde Sails on your yacht?

Tim: The main difference was the increase in speed. To gain a knot – and we are talking about at least a knot – is worth that investment when you're doing trips to a place like Southwold, which is 40 miles away and where the timing of your arrival at the harbour entrance is crucial. If you can get there an hour earlier that makes a big difference. The other big difference is the fact the boat points an awful lot higher. So going into the wind, she is much closer to the wind because of the sails. Finally, we have a fully battened mainsail which sets very nicely in very light winds, which our other sails struggled to do.

Mark: Does having a yacht that can point higher, especially in restricted creeks, open up areas where you can now sail where you previously couldn't?

Tim: Absolutely. We have slogged up some creeks in the past, particularly on the Blackwater further south on the East Coast. We've slogged away for a long time to get there and what we've noticed with the new Hyde Sails is that the trip becomes much more pleasurable and attainable.

Mark: For 2017, will you be sticking with the cruising on the East Coast or going further afield and taking part in any racing?

Tim: We are going to do some more racing definitely, because now we have got a nice suit of sails it would be foolish not to. We did a race on the Thames a few weeks ago, the Trafalgar Race, with a few friends of ours and that gave my partner the bug. We are looking for some local events that we can join in with and we're looking forward to doing that.

Mark: If you were going to give one piece of advice to a dinghy sailor who wants to get into cruising more and owning a yacht, what advice would you give them based on your experiences?

Tim: The most important thing is to get on a bigger boat somewhere with a friend for a day trip and try it. There are some obvious differences, like the comfort factor – on a cruiser you don't get so wet. You still get the enjoyment but I think as we grow up in life we want comfort with our excitement - on a cruiser you don't have to be fit, but you can still get the satisfaction of a great sail, and it's always nice to have a gin and tonic at the gybe mark.

Mark: Tim many thanks for your time. It's a brilliant insight into getting into cruising, the pleasures and the experiences that can be had.

Tim: No problem at all.

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