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RS600 youth sailing success

by Christopher Haslam & Ian Symonds 22 Sep 14:30 BST
RS600 Nationals at Stone © Nick Champion / www.championmarinephotography.co.uk

Single-handed trapeze skiff! What more could a teenager want? A boat of raw speed with a friendly fleet and space for everyone. This is what I'd heard about the RS600 class when I decided to join my Dad in the class at the RS Games in 2018 having sailed the boat only once or twice before the event, never has an observation been so correct.

Within minutes of arriving there were people welcoming me to the class and offering help and advice so by the end of the first day I'd befriended the entire fleet. By the end of the first day I had three results at the very back of the fleet; results due to more swimming than sailing in the strong winds. I came off the water grinning from ear to ear due to the exhilarating ride between the capsizes, never have I felt a boat so alive.

I soon discovered that my preferred conditions were lighter winds, weighing in at 65kg some 30kg less than others in the fleet this was to be expected. However, what surprised me was that the RS600 is one of those boats that is apparently hard to sail but comparatively easy to sail well so there was very little between the fleet members no matter what age boat they were sailing.

This meant for my first few events I was getting some really good results in amongst some at the back of the fleet, depending on how many mistakes I made. All the time I was still learning and other sailors were constantly helping me improve no matter where I came compared to them.

Fast forward to this summer and the belief I have got to grips with the boat, I found myself in a position to start being competitive in the class and see the fleet more as a group of friends than rivals. The national championships saw several youths at the event, nearly a sixth of the fleet, which was amazing. The first day was extremely breezy so several of us decided to reef; from my point of view this was an amazing decision as I managed three top 10 results which I never could have done with the full rig. The next two days were calm enough for me to go full rig again; managing to win two races! That left me in 5th and first youth overall. Once again though the fleet were encouraging and helping me and I kept learning throughout the week.

That sums up my progress in the class coming into the RS600 Inland Championships at Grafham Water SC last weekend. The forecast looked extremely light for the Saturday and a moderate breeze on the Sunday. Arriving on Saturday morning we soon realised that the forecast wasn't far off with barely a ripple on the water however in hope of it building we all rigged up and went out anyway. With some slight puffs coming through but nothing of any potential it was decided to abandon for the day. The rest of the day and evening was spent socialising and most of the fleet was to be found in the pub at the end of the road.

Sunday wasn't as good as forecast with a shifty wind ranging from 5-12 knots, but my ideal conditions and so I made sure to push as hard as I could as I reckoned I could achieve a decent result. Race one set a precedent with a win and I was absolutely thrilled.

In the second race the wind started to build and some of the boats who were over in the first race were doing better yet I really wanted a good result so pushed as hard as I could. This was working up until the last run when coming into the mark I decided to try and get past George Smith by not gybing again which would have put me in the lead. However, it was not to be as my boat decided to crash gybe which caught me unawares and I went swimming! Luckily all the practise of capsizing meant I only lost one place and came third.

In the fourth and final race it was all to play for with five of us all in with a chance of winning. I was so happy to be doing this well but after a bad start I thought it was over? I was just seeing how high I could keep my place. Noticing a lift out to the right I decided to take the risk and "bang a corner" and it paid off. That beat saw me go right to the front just in front of Matt Potter however the pressure to try and stay ahead was too much.

Forgetting to unhook when tacking onto the lay line into the mark cause me to go for another swim. Luckily only Matt got past before I got going again and we stayed like that until the finish, then I suddenly realised that I'd done it. I'd just won. I was overwhelmed with joy. I'd done it.

It dawned on me now far I'd come over the last two years, how much I'd improved since I started in the class and how I was now competing with those who I'd watched in awe less than two years before. The camaraderie and open arms of the fleet was without a doubt a factor driving me up the steep learning curve. It is by far the best class for having fun, fast times whilst learning constantly from the experience. The second hand market is still insanely cheap although boats are selling quick so are few and far between, but if you don't want to search about for one and want to have the best of fleet then new boats are now being built with all the bells and whistles for less any of its competitors. Contact the Class Association for more info. To top it all the class has gone to a new square top sail which looks insane.

Our next event is the RS End of Seasons at Rutland Sailing club on the 1st & 2nd of November. It would be lovely to see some new faces!

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