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Higher Performance Sailing - Faster Handling Techniques by Frank Bethwaite
Higher Performance Sailing - Faster Handling Techniques by Frank Bethwaite

Easter Eggs

by Mark Jardine 19 Apr 18:00 BST
Ian Atikins' team on Dark N Stormy: `We just had a blast. I wish it would go on for a few more days....` - Easter Eggs and prizes for the IRC One winners in the RORC Easter Challenge © Paul Wyeth / www.pwpictures.com

Without doubt, this weekend will have seen many consumed around the world, and also handed out as prizes at sailing events, but there are also the Easter Eggs found in video games and movies, which are hidden features or messages.

Sailing has its fair share of hidden features, be they beautiful venues, rigging secrets or tuning settings, but of far more importance is the hidden message in participation: the step-change which is happening due to people's changing habits and lifestyles.

Travel is undoubtedly harder and more expensive than it was five years ago. With this, more people are choosing to sail closer to home, and then think very carefully about which events they travel to. The draw has to be strong to entice club sailors away from their local area. The event has to appeal to their kind of sailing, and then be at a venue which suits their partner or family, with alternative activities and attractions for non-sailors. Then the racing schedule has to be sympathetic to those who don't want to be on the water from 9 'til 5.

It is, without doubt, a tricky balancing act. Shorten the day's schedule and the die-hard, 100% devoted sailors will complain. Make it too long and the all-important 'middle' of the fleet will be shattered before the event reaches the halfway stage. How do you please everyone?

This Easter weekend we were blessed with incredible weather in the UK. I took the kids down to my local club and we sailed in the Easter Regatta. We all had various other commitments, so we only completed one of the two scheduled races each day, but our aim wasn't to win the chocolates; we just wanted to get some time on the water and have fun. When it comes to that aim, it was a huge tick. The kids are raring to get out sailing again, as am I.

The way we did the event gave me a thought though. How about, in major events, hold a 'morning' series as a subset of the full event results? Could this be a way of appealing to both the sailing fanatics and those looking to make the event a sailing holiday? It's likely that the overall winner will also be the morning series winner, but it means those who want to spend half the day with their family or partner can do so and also get a result at the event. With scoring software this can be set up very easily, so it's no real overhead on administration, and it could result in higher turnout.

A class which seems to be getting things right is the Sabot dinghy in Australia. They recently held their National Championship alongside Paul Stivano Sabot Week on Lake Macquarie. Kids new to the sport participate in Sabot Week, while the more experienced sailors compete for the Nationals. The event attracted 65 boats. The boat has both 1-up and 2-up categories, which helps with those less familiar with racing as they can gain experience crewing, and there was a big focus on fun, including splashing out in the water on floating lily pads while waiting for the wind.

The class has a strong history of producing world-class sailors, and past Sabot sailor and Olympic gold medallist Iain Jenson presented the prizes.

Back in the UK, the RORC Easter Challenge is an incredibly popular season opener for yacht racing crews, with on-the-water coaching and post-race analysis from top coaches, such as Andrew 'Dog' Palfrey.

Double Olympic Medallist and Volvo Ocean Race winning skipper Ian Walker was tactician for IRC One winner Dark N Stormy and commented on the event, "The coaching team were really helpful, we got lots of good input and the race team did a great job with the course. There was no hanging around; I can't fault any of it. The thing I noticed the most was that for us it was getting harder and harder to do well in the races; you could see the standard going up in the fleet, which was the aim of the regatta. Helped by the weather, you couldn't have had a better weekend of racing."

While this is really high-end coaching, with even the very best teams benefitting from the shared knowledge, all clubs and classes can implement an element of coaching.

It may require a line or two in the sailing instructions, but having the leeway to give a struggling boat tips from a support RIB, or helping a fellow competitor when you can see something wrong, will go a huge way to build the quality of a fleet, while also building camaraderie. It's been introduced at my local club, and has undoubtedly helped bridge the gap between the junior/youth programmes and the regular racers. As a result, we had a big increase in youth sailors taking part in the Easter Regatta.

Sailing relies on confidence, knowledge, and experience, all of which can be gained with support from peers and encouraged at events by working on a basis of inclusivity. There are so many opportunities in sailing nowadays, in such an incredibly diverse range of roles, and this will only get better and stronger with more people participating.

Hopefully this newsletter is loaded with Easter Eggs, not exactly hidden features or messages, but ideas on how we can have a happy 'middle' at sailing events. Appeal to more, without doing less. There are many examples of clubs, classes and events doing it right; we just need to prompt change with those which aren't, to attract more people into the sport, and then keep them sailing.

Mark Jardine
Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com Managing Editor

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