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RS Sailing 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Testing conditions for British Keelboat Academy's new recruits

by Will Carson 3 Feb 11:52 GMT 29-30 January 2022
British Keelboat Academy training at Queen Mary © BKA

The British Keelboat Academy (BKA) held its first training weekend of 2022 at Queen Mary Sailing Club in London with a full range of conditions to test its latest recruits.

Following the virtual workshops which took place for the previous cohort in 2021 due to the Covid pandemic, it was a welcome return to coaching on the water for the BKA.

Despite the breeze varying from 34 knots to zero over the weekend (29-30 January 2022), with a very windy Saturday followed by a light breeze on the Sunday, the sailors were able to develop their teamwork and boathandling skills in both J80 and RS21 keelboats.

Putting learning from their theory sessions into practice, the focus was on symmetric and asymmetric spinnakers and upwind sail trim, with Lead Coaches Mason King and Paralympic gold and bronze medallist Helena Lucas, and support coaches including former BKA sailors and Emily Nagel, Performance Data Analyst for the British Sailing Team.

The BKA 2022 programme officially started just before Christmas with online tuition and the weekend was the first of series of practical sessions scheduled ahead of the main season.

BKA Head Coach Niall Myant said: "With so much sailing over the last two years being cancelled - and last year's BKA being spent completely on shore with virtual workshops - it was wonderful to get out on the water again at Queen Mary Sailing Club with two fleets of boats and a full range of conditions.

"For the coaches our aim was to focus on upwind trim, putting the theory discussed over the last two months into practice. Saturday was breezy, requiring reefs at times, and it certainly was a hard day for the sailors as we sailed for as long as we had daylight. Sunday started with drifting conditions, a completely new challenge, but then built into an ideal breeze with sunshine for an afternoon of racing. The sailors all pushed hard throughout everything, and it was a real joy to work with everyone and see the skills improve over the two days."

The British Keelboat Academy provides training for sailors aged 18-24 to race keelboats at the top end of the sport across a variety of disciplines, with last year's intake competing in match racing, the British Keelboat League, Cowes Week and the Royal Ocean Racing Club's offshore series.

The current 67-strong cohort has sailors from a wide range of backgrounds, including dinghy racers who want to learn keelboats, as well as experienced keelboat sailors seeking to build on their knowledge, with 16 sailors returning to the BKA for a second year.

Jasmine Gosling, of Haversham Sailing Club and also Wessex Sailing Club while studying Marine Biology at the University of Southampton, grew up in Milton Keynes and previously competed in the ILCA 4.7 class and at National School Sailing Association regattas.

Also an RYA Dinghy Instructor and keen to develop keelboat racing skills, Jasmine was among the new recruits to the British Keelboat Academy in 2022 and summing up her first experience on the water with the BKA said: "I had a brilliant weekend! I found the first BKA training weekend challenging and at times completely out of my comfort zone, especially with the high winds on the first day. The coaches were all so encouraging and supportive throughout, I came away having pushed myself and learnt so much from it. I had so much fun sailing with great people, and am feeling even more confident for the next weekend!"

February will see BKA sailors undertaking an Inshore Yacht Racing weekend in Portsmouth, working in bigger teams with a focus on navigation and boat speed. The BKA will then be heading to Cowes in March to cover high performance asymmetric racing, decision making at speed and acceleration.

Commenting on January's inaugural weekend on the water for the 2022 intake, coach Helena Lucas MBE said: "I had a great weekend coaching the BKA sailors, their hunger for knowledge and enthusiasm is fantastic. We had really tricky conditions with strong winds Saturday and very light on Sunday, however it was brilliant to see them pushing themselves trying new techniques and positions on the boat and grasping every opportunity to learn."

To find out more about the British Keelboat Academy, visit https://www.rya.org.uk/racing/keelboat-racer/british-keelboat-academy

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