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Cadet class winter training at Itchenor Sailing Club

by Neil Collingridge 11 Dec 2017 15:37 GMT 9-10 December 2017
Cadet class winter training at Itchenor © Spunge Nunn

In some of the most challenging conditions of the year so far the Cadet Class RYA National Junior and UKNCCA National Squads headed for the splendid Itchenor Sailing Club in Chichester Harbour.

RYA National Junior Squad

Saturday morning saw the NJS doing the RYA's fitness profiling at Chichester University. Whilst some parents stayed to listen to an RYA talk on transitioning to the Youth Classes, others who've had children already leave the Cadets to pastures new, headed to the sailing club to unload and rig boats to ensure maximum time afloat on Saturday afternoon. With the wide range of ages in the cadet classes spanning crews as young as 7 or 8 to helms as old as 16 there is inevitably a wide spread of physical ability in the fleet but it was good to hear of the encouragement helms were giving to crews and sometimes vice-a-versa to get through some demanding tests.

In the afternoon the squad headed out into the harbour for an hour and a half under the watchful eye of NJS coach Tom Mallendine assisted by former Paralympic medalist Niki Birrell who was his usual inspirational self to these youngsters. Whilst the afternoon's focus was boat speed it soon became apparent that for some of the smaller ones the focus was quickly becoming keeping warm so after an hour and a half it was back to the Club for restoratory hot chocolate, fish and chips and cake... not necessarily all taken together.

Sunday dawned stormy whilst much of the rest of the country was disappearing under a snowy white blanket and with winds peaking at 43 knots it was soon apparent that not much sailing was going to take place so after some classroom sessions on sail setting, mast tuning and all important Helm/Crew communications things were wrapped up early to let parents and sailors head home in daylight hours and to avoid some of the worst road conditions.

UKNCCA National Squad

Over with the National Squad, former cadet sailors Matt and Ben Shorrock and Sam Barr could get their sailors afloat earlier on Saturday as they didn't need to attend profiling. As a result they got one longer session of sailing in although again the weather was much in evidence. Saturday morning was bright and sunny, but very cold. After a short wait for a light breeze to materialize the squad set off into the Chichester Channel for a series of exercises designed to focus on boat speed. Upwind Riverbank drills and rabbit runs were punctuated with Gutbusters to keep the crews from getting too cold! Conditions were also ideal for the coaches to help the teams with perfecting their roll tacks. After nearly 3 hours on the water the breeze was dying and the group headed back to shore to review the day's sailing with the help of GoPro video.

The forecast for Sunday predicted 35 knots plus and unsurprisingly all sailing was cancelled for the day. However the coaches kept the young sailors busy on shore with a rules quiz and a mock protest in which the protest committee as well as the incident protagonists were all made up of Cadet helms and crews. They will hope for kinder weather conditions at the next Squad training weekend at Grafham in January.

This was the first time in many years that the Cadets had sailed from Itchenor and both the the sailors and particularly the parents were impressed with the warm welcome they received from the Club – we hope to be back soon.

One of the features of our wonderful Cadet Class is of course the accompanying social aspects. Despite it being mid winter the sailors love getting together and seeing friends from other clubs around the country. It's competitive sport but generally good spirited and supportive. And of course that social aspect stretches to the parents many of whom, so I'm told, repaired to the local pub in Itchenor for the Saturday evening before also joining in later with the sailing club's Christmas party. A number of these parents themselves are ex-Cadets, remembering that most important tagline "you'll never forget your first Cadet"... some 40 years on from when they too were setting forth in their own sailing careers.

As well as the squad training the Cadet Class also runs a number of Open training sessions on a regional basis details of which can be found at www.cadetclass.org.uk.