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Bass Week superstar tips and hello from our new marine sponsor

by Paul Allen 26 Apr 07:32 BST 3-11 August 2019
100 days to the start of The ONE Bassenthwaite Lake Sailing Week © Peter Mackin

It is 100 days to the start of The ONE Bassenthwaite Lake Sailing Week and entries are building nicely. As we reach this milestone we thought it would be good to catch up with our new marine sponsor and to quiz Bass Week superstar attendees Paul Brotherton, Steve Cockerill and Graham Vials on what they love about the week and also squeeze them for a few sailing tips to help us mere mortals.

1992 Olympian and Sarah Ayton's Olympic Gold Medal coach Paul Brotherton unfortunately can't join us this year due to coaching commitments in the run up to the Tokyo Olympics, however Paul's wife Karen and her twin sister Lisa are regulars in the competitive Bass Week Enterprise fleet and will compete together this year in their RS200. In between Paul's busy coaching schedule he kindly offered his top tips.

Q: What common mistake does an Olympic coach see sailors make on the Bass Week race course?

We all make plenty of mistakes when we sail and even more when we race, that's the beauty of the sport, we are so far away from seeing a faultless performance. So in spite of our level we are all aiming for the same thing; to eliminate or at least reduce the most expensive mistakes. If I was to choose two that might help most competitors at Bass week I would offer these two - one for light air days and one for medium to strong days.

In light airs: be very conscious of allowing the boat to slide effortlessly moving as little water as possible - inconsequential, unfocused steering and incorrect rudder angle developed from poorly controlled heel angle are a huge boat speed killer especially in light air, there is so little pushing the boat forward any increase in drag will slow the boat, which will lower the amount of apparent wind across the sails, further reducing the power and thrust from the sails. The amount of area below the water line is relatively large compared to the amount of drive available from the sails (unless foiling) so focussed precise movements of crew and steering accurately will really help develop and maintain good boat speed.

A feather light touch on the helm to find a heel angle that gives the most gentle of gentle pulls on the rudder upwind and a neutral helm downwind (so the rudder follows the boat) and gentle continuous fluid crew movements to maintain that heel angle or subtly change it to promote a directional change will provide a huge boost to boat speed. Sounds easy but it's a lifetimes work to perfect and perform this fundamental skill to squeeze every bit of advantage out of an increase in wind speed and maintain the maximum speed possible as the wind speed decreases. Every shift, gust, lull and interaction with marks and other boats offers and opportunity to gain on your competitors. And if all that sounds too hard - then simply learn to love the lulls when you can't avoid them. Relax, enjoy preserving speed and wait for the next pressure. The speed gain is enormous.

My other tip for when it's a little fresher, keep your eyes up and out of the boat, really challenge yourself to keep your eyes out. Bass week is busy and things change quickly, in the same way that when driving a car down an unknown road at 60 miles an hour will require your eyes to be out of the windscreen and on the road ahead, you need that same focus on a highly populated and unpredictable Bass water filled with many unpredictable features. Don't get caught checking your phone when an articulated lorry (no offence F15 sailors) pulls out in front of you.

Q: Karen, your wife and her twin sister Lisa have raced in the competitive enterprise fleet at many many Bass Weeks, this year they will race their 200. Why do they keep coming back for more?

Karen and Lisa love sailing, and measure success by number of smiles and how much they can find to laugh at. They try hard and sail as well as they can but they never confuse racing success with joy. To be honest, I don't get it!

But seriously that's one of the aspects of Bass week that I found brilliant, space to explore and enjoy a competition and a challenge but almost exclusively, an understanding that it's joy and a shared understanding that the racing is underpinned and smothered in a huge dose of good humour, respect and joy.

Next we asked Graham Vials, Ex team GB 470 helm and Optimist, 420, 470, Flying Fifteen National Champion and 3 time Flying Fifteen world champion for his Mirror tips. Graham and family are joining us for their fourth consecutive year. Graham and son Sebastian have taken the Mirror fleet to a new level, enjoying competitive racing with local Mirror helms whilst enjoying the family orientated aspects of the week and excellent youth social programme.

Q: Bass can be a tricky place to sail, often with gusty and shifty winds. In the Mirror how do you approach sail trim and rig set up compared to sailing in open water?

Bass is known to be gusty and shifty, but to be honest boatspeed is probably the least important aspect of sailing at Bass. It's far more important to get your head out of the boat and to look as far upwind as possible to try and second guess where the wind is coming from next. It's a popular week with so many boats sailing that you can use the other boats on the course to "colour in" the wind and give a clue of what may happen next. So, I don't worry about the sails too much, but being flat water you can get away with tighter leaches and pointing higher than open water sailing.

Q: Winning a Bass Week pursuit is a coveted prize. You and Sebastian smashed it in 2018. What would be your top tips for keeping ahead of 100 boats and winning a Bass Week pursuit race?

The best thing about sailing the pursuit race in the Mirror was the fact you get clear air from the start. So we just tried to stay clear of the other Mirrors on the first few legs and do our own thing. Sebastian was great at handing out the sweets and asking where we were going next! I also think in any pursuit race there is a tendency to watch the clock and look backwards at the faster boats steaming up. Maybe easier said than done but you can't control that aspect so you just have to sail your own race.

Q: The sea breeze is blowing from the West and you're beating to the windward mark NOS. Many a race has been lost in these final moments whilst the spectators are watching from the bar. Do you approach from the left or the right?

Middle to left mostly, but I'm not sure there is any hard and fast rule.

Q: You and your family are joining us for fourth consecutive year? Why do you keep coming back?

The racing is great, but so is the club and the hospitality. It's just a great family week and you can do as little or as much as you want. Plus one of the most beautiful parts of the world.

Steve Cockerill and wife Sarah, owners of Rooster Sailing and multiclass gurus are joining us for their third Bass Week. The first time Steve and Sarah raced the newly refreshed Rooster 4000, enjoying several days of south easterly breezes and 4 mile windward legs. The second time the pair brought both the 4000 and a Laser 2000, practicing for the upcoming national championship and winning a pursuit race!

Q: Word on the street is you and Sarah are bringing the RS400 and planning to get some Nationals practice in? What are you hoping to improve on whilst sailing at Bass?

We know that the RS400's in the fast handicap fleet at Bass are very competitive, so we are planning to get some high quality racing in.

Q: Last time you and Sarah raced the Laser 4000 and now the RS400. Both these classes require lots of gear changes when the wind is up and down. What would be your top tips for the youth sailors racing in the fast handicap for the first time?

Beware the winds around Sale Fell. Keep an eye on where the locals go if the wind is from the South West it can be a make or break decision when or where to go south past the Fell. When the wind is from the South you may have to rest your sailing muscles after racing from experiencing the best gybing practice in the most amazing scenery!

Q: You and Sarah attend lots of events, what's special about Bass Week?

We love the flexible racing schedule (different events daily, even am and pm) the fantastic views, the chance to go for some awesome bike rides in the evenings, and the best part - the warm Northern Welcome.

And last but not least, a few words from Rod Daniel, Director at Craftinsure Ltd, our new marine sponsor for 2019. 'Craftinsure is delighted to have been offered the opportunity to become a sponsor of Bass Week 2019. As the UK's leading online boat insurer, Craftinsure is already involved in supporting a number of class associations and racing dinghy events in the UK and Ireland. The long running success of Bass Week, encompassing a broad range of boats and sailors, makes this a special event which we are very pleased to add. As sailors ourselves, we are also keen to encourage young people to discover the pleasures of getting afloat and develop the life skill of sailing. Being a great family week with a strong youth sailing element, Bass Week ticks this box as well!'

Entry is now open via The One Bass Week website which can be accessed via this link Entry fees are frozen at 2018 prices, youth sailors pay even less, benefiting from a new significantly reduced fee and clubs with 10 or more entries will be rewarded! Entries can be submitted online or the entry form can be downloaded and printed for entries via post. Significant discounts on entry fees are available before June 9th 2019. Information is readily available on the website or contact the organisers directly via . See some of the action from last year's Bass Week below:

Look out for our next promo '75 days to Bass Week' where we will be catching up youth and family sailors and party animals (young and old!) to hear why The ONE Bassenthwaite Lake Sailing Week is their favourite social sailing week.

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