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Helming to Win by Nick Craig
Helming to Win by Nick Craig

RS400 Scottish Tour Event 1 at Dalgety Bay Sailing Club

by Angus Marshall 8 May 2018 14:34 BST 14-15 April 2018
Party time during RS400 Scottish Tour Round 1 at Dalgety Bay SC © Pat Boyd

A bumper fleet of 12 boats attended DBSC for the opening event of 2018, all keen for the chance of pro training and practice to get ready for the busy season ahead.

No time was wasted on boat fettling, and after a quick chat ashore the fleet hit the water while there was still wind for the morning. Calum Reid was on hand with a RIB and a video camera to provide expert tuition through the day, getting plenty of coverage of the morning's tacking and gybing exercises and sail setting checks before the breeze died completely and the fleet drifted back in for hearty lunch and video debrief, and the shoreside support provided by the fleet's perennial latecomers.

After lunch and an intimate dissection of Ben Robertson/Jenny Douglas' weapons-grade tacking skills, the fleet – now up to 12 - headed back out in the fresher breeze and blazing sunshine for some follow my leader and fine tuning boat speed and short practice races. Three of DBSC's new fleet of Waszp sailors (including Scottish RS400 defector Keith Bedborough) had also turned up for the brilliant conditions and were invited to join everyone on the water, but declined with some mutterings about TWS being 7.6kts and really they wouldn't be in their optimum power band unless there was a solid 7.8kts...

In the short practice races it was John Mackenzie/Andy Box and Ben/Kenny who reminded everyone just how much speed you can get from the boat even in lighter airs, drifting rapidly to the front of the fleet to cross the line first.

The evening started with a debrief on the speed exercises then a refresher on 'common misinterpretations of the racing rules'. The rules discussion then spilled out onto the club veranda and moved onto a recounting of the days misadventures (fuelled by Stewart Brewing's finest beverages).' Nominees for the ignominious 'Pintles of Shame' were John Mac/Andy Box parking on a mooring mid-race – presumably for a picnic – and the ever-surprising team of David Webley/Fraser Mulford team racing two boats away from their leeward mark layline and most of the way back to shore before finally gybing back towards the course.

The social animals of the RS400 class stayed on having bought their 'steerage' tickets for DBSC's Titanic-themed 'Go the Extra Mile for cancer' night, in support of Cancer Research UK. Many thanks to the DBSC for putting on a great party, and putting up with the RS400s keeping the dancefloor busy until closing!

Sunday morning arrived with more glorious sun and a fresher breeze, and the RS400 sailors bright-eyed, bushy tailed and raring to go. 400 pro team Ben/Kenny stepped in to take the training for the day, focusing on starting skills. After a quick discussion ashore, with everyone outlining their ideal starting plan, boats were paired up to work on two boat starts on the water and focus on first beat speed. Phil Britton/Mike Atkinson displayed excellent consistency through the morning in carrying out their favoured start line tactic with deadly precision. Conversely, semi-professional Duckham's athletes Angus Marshall/Imogen Barnett lived down to their reputation when Imogen decided that the best spot on the line with 20 seconds until the gun was swimming around somewhere near the windward gunwale.

The starts were built up from two boats each until the full 10 boat fleet was jostling for position on a line 5 lengths long. Webley/Mulford dominated the committee boat end (where most boats were aiming) with a last minute tack onto port, allowing the mid-line boats a clear lane and good speed. This was the beginning of a two lap race; Angus/Imogen managed to secure a lead closely followed by Robin/Angus, but the real battle was for 3rd place, with four boats just seconds apart after the first run. Peter/Brian clinched 3rd at the finish with some excellent upwind skill (although they discovered that between Saturday and Sunday the kite had mysteriously unrigged itself), while Hester Robertson/Richard Hope were close behind and only a pole length ahead of Jon Gay/Amanda Henderson.

After the finish it was back ashore and spend lunch (by popular request) brushing up on the ins and outs of gate starts. The Scottish fleet are starting the campaign nice and early for Weymouth RS games 2018 – so the south better watch out!

In the afternoon's building breeze the fleet was back out for a few runs at gate starts. On the first start, most of the fleet aimed to start upwind preferring to let the gate boat do most of the hard work upwind for them. John/Amanda (who had been for a quick jog up the nearest Munro before breakfast) took the early start into clean air and hiked their way to stay in close contention at the windward mark, but it was newcomers Robin/Angus who kept it flat and fast to battle Peter/Brian for the second place rounding just behind Angus/Imogen, who then led to the finish.

The stars of the next start were Hester/Richard, who learnt the cardinal rule of a gate start 'don't be early' and had to execute an emergency tack straight into the waiting Martin Booth/supercrew ship. Once again it was Angus/Imogen who kept it flat to take first around the windward mark and holding it all the way to the finish line, closely followed by Robin/Angus and Jamie Rogers/Neil Mclaren of team Gonzo, and a tight fleet behind.

With the end of the weekend arriving, it was time to head ashore and get one last video debrief in the club bar to discuss all the major and minor misdemeanours and try to extract every last bit of knowledge possible from Ben/Jenny. Of course an RS400 weekend is never complete without a prize-giving, and even though there were no podium places to celebrate the more hotly contested Duckham's had to be awarded – unsurprisingly to Angus/Imogen, for Imogen's temperature test of the Forth in April. Always start the season as you mean to go on, so they say...

Big thanks must go to Dalgety Bay SC for hosting the RS400s, and to Calum Reid, Ben Robertson, and Jenny Douglas for their sage tuition and making sure to catch all the finest moments on video for digital immortality. Also a big thank you to the tour's sponsors Stewart Brewing for fuelling the thriving social scene, JP Watersports and Benromach whisky for their continued support.

We look forward to seeing everyone again at the next event, Port Edgar Yacht Club on the 12th/13th May.

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