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Sprint 15 Prize Draw winner takes the helm at Marconi

by Ed Tuite Dalton & Richard Malden 27 Apr 15:27 BST
Sprints 15s on the slipway at Marconi Sailing Club © Pauline Love

Foreword by Ed Tuite Dalton: Chair of the UK Sprint 15 Class Association

The Class is celebrating 40 years of the Sprint 15 Catamaran in 2018. As part of these celebrations, we held a prize draw at this year's RYA Dinghy Show for visitors to the stand. The draw was open to all comers with the first prize being a one-day Catamaran Conversion Course to be delivered by a Cat-Clinic Coach from Windsport and to be arranged as part of one of our summer TT events. Windsport are UK distributors and manufacturers of the boat and sponsor the Sprint 15 Class. On the day, Brian Phipps from Windsport delivered the session. Brian is noted worldwide as a catamaran sailor and coach and has authored several acclaimed books on cat sailing. So, this was a prize worth winning. We were delighted to welcome our winner, Richard Malden, to our first TT in this celebratory year at Marconi SC on 14-15 April. Here's Richard's story of his day with us which turned into two days!

My Cat Clinic Conversion Session by Richard Malden (WHSC)

Be careful what you wish for! Whilst visiting the 2018 RYA Dinghy Show at Alexandra Palace back in March, I entered a number of competitions, draws and raffles. I was hoping to win a boat, holidays or other nice to haves. Although I do have a rule never enter a competition where you don't want the prize. But if you enter 2000 competitions you might win one. It's just a matter of odds.

And so, much to the amusement of my fellow Welsh Harp Sailing Club (WHSC – North London) sailors, I won a training day on a Sprint 15 which was first prize in their 40th Anniversary Dinghy Show raffle. Based on Youtube videos I watched, it seemed that a Sprint 15 is a single-handed catamaran with trapeze. For an average yacht club Laser sailor of many years that seemed different and interesting.

After some correspondence with Ed Tuite Dalton (UK Sprint 15 Association Chair) I plumped for the session to be held at their April TT event at Marconi Sailing Club (MSC) which is on the Blackwater in Essex. It seemed I had won a "One day Cat Clinic Conversion Session to be delivered by Windsport, UK supplier of new Sprint 15 boats at one of the Class's primary TT events."

After a two hour drive from home through what seemed to be windless conditions I found myself at MSC at 9:45 on a no wind of any sort Saturday morning. After wandering around MSC I found the boat park where there were S15s unloading and I met Ed Tuite Dalton and George Love (Vice Chair). After some refreshments and a chat in the MSC club house I was introduced to Brian Phipps of Windsport (BP) who was to be my trainer for the day.

The weather was still windless and with a three knot tide that meant any sailing would be a struggle. High tide was due at 12:36pm. It was decided we'd do some basic land drills with a S15 training boat.

By this time I'd found out that the Sprint 15 is a versatile catamaran that appeals to a variety of people as it has the following advantages:

  • It can be sailed and raced both single handed or two up. Ideally with a parent/youth combination.
  • It is fast and exciting (PY 933) about the same as 29ers, Laser 400 and RS600. Yet it's not so physically demanding. This makes it suitable for both young and old.
  • When sailed with the optional jib and trapeze it is faster and more exciting.
  • It is light and easily managed single handed including being easily righted from a capsize single handed.
  • It is car top-able with the optional split mast.
  • It is an ideal beach catamaran as up to four people can fun sail on it.
  • The three ways of racing it are:
    1. Single handed una-rig
    2. Two up with jib; and
    3. Sport – single handed with jib and trapeze
  • Finally, it's the most popular single handed cat in the UK with over 2000 boats having been made over the last 40 years.
Back to the land drills with BP. We did the usual tacking and gybing manoeuvres. Here is where some of the differences with a Laser became apparent most notably the very long tiller extension for which the best grip seems to be the stabbing of which I did not pick up immediately and the fact the sail has full width battens which have to be flicked out in light winds. This also means that the sail is more like a wing than with other small sailing boats. BP was a knowledgeable and experienced trainer who had obviously dealt with novices and experienced sailors alike. He pitched it just right for me as a basic dinghy and Laser sailor of 30 years.

I later found out that Brian of Windsport Ltd is the renowned catamaran sailing coach and author of "The Catamaran Book". I was in very good hands.

By now it was about 11:30 and with still no wind, it was concluded that as I could return on the Sunday that might be the better option. To be continued.

As luck would have it, while lunching in Maldon, the wind did come up and I was tempted to go back later but that would have been another story.

So, on Sunday morning I was driving from the M25 to MSC. The wind was negligible with a bit of fog – it looked worse than Saturday. I arrived at about 11am and found BP. As there was now some wind, he suggested I get changed and we'd take a Sprint 15 out. When we met up again BP was preparing the boat and I assisted with the process. This showed that a Sprint 15 is very easy for one person to prepare and a synch with the help of fellow sailors or a crew.

We launched and went upwind, although with a 3 knot tide and a host of mooring buoys to negotiate, it wasn't all plain sailing. As the wind was light I started on the tiller and it didn't start well. On the first tack I put my knee through the trampoline. Oops! We limped back to the shore a bit down from the launching area. I stayed with the boat as BP went back to the club to sort a replacement trampoline/boat. After a while he returned saying he'd got another boat that was in better shape. I walked back to the club house with the tillers as BP went with the damaged boat as it was towed back by one of the safety boats to the launching area.

Within minutes we were back out on the replacement boat. After a while of beating up wind and running down wind putting into practice the land drills of Saturday, we decided to join the fleet who were doing a figure of eight long distance race round the two islands Northy and Osea. All this time I was helming other than a few occasions when BP was showing me the ropes and giving me practical demonstrations of particular manoeuvres. Yes, dealing with the long rudder extension and the occasional flicking out of the sail due to the light winds to sort the battens did not come to me as a natural. Being such a responsive craft, keeping an eye on the tell-tails indicated very quickly whether one was on the wind or not. On occasions BP casually said that if I had been doing things my way in stronger winds I would probably end up swimming. He did offer me capsize opportunities but I politely declined. Maybe I was a wimp for that as I was in my full dry suit. Nothing like full immersion to complete an experience.

Our attempt to meet up with the fleet failed as, due to the light winds, they'd only sailed around one island and we missed them. By now the racing was over and we returned to the launching area. After assisting with the packing away of the boat I was invited to join the sailors for their presentation, end of meet speeches and of course tea and cake. During the formalities I was presented with a small memento of my day and said I'd had a good introduction to the Sprint 15.

I'd had a great couple of days, experienced a nice fun to sail craft and had tuition from an experienced sailor of cats. Yes, the wind could have been stronger but that was the only downside. It had been my first experience of a fully battened sail so ensuring they flicked out on the tacks was new to me.

My thanks go to Ed, George and MSC for the hospitality and especially Brian for a very enjoyable and informative introduction to Sprint 15 sailing. You never know - you might see me on a Sprint 15 in the future!

And finally, always enter competitions. You never know what you might win!

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