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RS600FF Racing Circuit at Hayling Island Sailing Club

by RS Class Association 23 Apr 2009 16:35 BST 18-19 April 2009

Absolutely peachy conditions for foiling manifested themselves for our first open of the year at Hayling Island Sailing Club. We were particularly pleased to be sharing our course with the foiling Moths – the first of several shared events this year.

A few things made this event a first for many of us. Having foiled happily in the confines of Chichester Harbour, this was the first time that several of us had ventured into the bay and dealt with waves. The first thing you realise is that you are going to need more foiling height out of the water to get over the waves so you dive into boat and give the main foil thumbscrew a turn or two. A trial sail upwind and things are better – you are clearing the waves and everything is going really well. Turn downwind and you are trapezing off the front of the rack and wondering whether the class might allow a further extension forwards to keep that bow down. After a while you realise that the wand mechanism is doing its job and the boat is under control – and you realise how much faster the boat goes when it has precious little foil in the water!

After the preparation the racing begins. The Moths make an impressive start with virtually all 20 boats up on foils at the gun. We line up for our start and bang we are off! Some of us trip off to the right of the course and make an educated guess at the layline taking the tide into account. One thing about foiling upwind is you have to allow a little more angle to get yourself up onto the foils. Once up, given sufficient wind, you can sail as close as to the wind as a normal dinghy. You can bear off slightly, send it to 13-4 knots and then the apparent wind will allow you to sail almost head to wind for a time before having to repeat the cycle. The other thing is windward heel; the more of it the better. Unlike a Moth where you have your feet safely planted under a toestrap, in the 600FF you are trapezing and the pendulum effect can mean that with heel your feet come away from the rack. Trapezing really high allows you negate this effect.

Anyway, at the top of the first beat, Alex Knight shows the way round the first mark but where is Sam Pascoe, our current National Champion? The undoubted foiling 600FF master, took a trip up the foredeck and stuck his beak in the briney right by the top mark. I resist a smurk as I pass him, but sure enough he is through me going up the next beat. Alex wins the first race with Sam second and David Smithwhite third.

The wind begins to lighten during the afternoon and foiling becomes marginal at times. When not foiling the 600FF becomes a normal 600 and I start remembering the light weather tricks I learnt when I used to sail the 600. Number 1 is to get that transom out of the water! This is even more important with the 600FF as the rudder gantry adds considerable drag.

Race 2 shows normal service resumed as Sam keeps the boat upright and wins with Alex 2nd and Dave third. All very good but newbie Gareth Davies, ex-Musto Skiff sailor from Stone SC, is the one who really impresses with a fourth. He has sailed his 600FF only 6 times and looks like he was born to it. I reckon it will not take him long before he is challenging Sam and Alex.

Races 3 & 4 have Sam and Alex first and second, but race 3 sees me pull something out of the bag (perhaps a little more effort made downwind?) to get a third. Dave gets third in the fourth race.

Day 2 dawned with 16-21 knots in the course area and a correspondingly choppier sea. It would have been worse but the breeze thankfully is offshore. The 600FF has the ability to reef by removing the mast extension and rolling the sail up, and we would normally be reefed in these wind strengths. But this is race day and the blood is up so we are all out there with full rigs.

The first beat is hard. This is because in winds over 18 knots the amount of drag produced by the full rig makes foiling difficult upwind. Downwind is a lot easier and the boat is surprisingly well behaved. It’s only when you turn round that you realise how windy it actually is! Fortunately the wind eases for the last two races and things become more manageable.

Sam is in his element and no-one can catch him – four bullets complete an (almost) perfect weekend. Alex Knight chases him round in second, demonstrating how he has got to grips with the boat since leaving his successful career in the Moth (top Brit at the 2008 Moth Worlds). Gareth Davies revelled in the conditions on Sunday to get three thirds which secured him third overall.

All in all an extremely enjoyable weekend and we are looking forward to the Weston Open Meeting on the 23rd/24th May.

Overall Results:

1st Sam Pascoe, Carbon 600FF 1001
2nd Alex Knight, Carbon 600FF 1002
3rd Gareth Davies, Standard 600FF 824
4th David Smithwhite, Carbon 600FF 1003
5th Graham Simmonds, Carbon 600FF 1002