Please select your home edition
Leaderboard FD July August September 2023

Complex, Controlled Coordination

by Mark Jardine 29 May 18:00 BST
2024 International Paint Poole Regatta © Ian Roman / International Paint Poole Regatta

The International Paint Poole Regatta over the late May Bank Holiday long weekend in the UK was a superb yacht racing event.

Poole Harbour is the second largest natural harbour in the world (Sydney Harbour is the biggest), but only one of the five race courses was held there, with four in Poole Bay, which has some of the most stunning backdrops you could wish for. On its day, it's a bucket-list venue, and the whole 2024 event was just that.

Eight races were scheduled over the three days, and that's exactly the number completed. A light to moderate start, a properly breeze middle day, and a moderate to fresh conclusion, all under sunshine in pleasant temperatures made for the kind of sailing event you wish for. Things don't always go as you'd like at sailing events, so you have to savour it when they do.

Reporting on the event, I was driving a 5.5m RIB with top sailing photographer Ian Roman. My role was to get him in the right position to get the shots he wanted, while keeping his cameras dry. Ian knows the composition he wants for each shot, and we discussed at length how we were going to approach each situation and what he wanted in the background. We then factored in exit routes in case we found a yacht aiming straight for us, and how we'd stay out of their racing lines and minimise our wash.

With us both being regular sailors, we could gauge the start line bias, lay lines and approximately when people were going to bear away, but it isn't 100%, so having contingency plans was essential, and sometimes necessary to utilise. It was great fun, another superb learning experience, and again I was amazed at how much you learn about sailing when not actually being aboard a yacht.

I'm a firm believer that every helm should spend time on the bow to really understand what happens during manoeuvres. It's all very well, and not at all useful, for the afterguard to shout 'get the kite down' when things are going wrong on a drop.

When there are problems it's vital that the helm positions the boat at the best angle to help for foredeck crew clear up the mess. Simply covering the spinnaker with the mainsail can take all the weight out of it, making the job of those who are doing the work much easier.

The communication and coordination on a yacht team is crucial to success. Starting well in a race is always key, and tactically big gains can be made by using the wind shifts and tide to your advantage. Good boat speed will gain you a bit, but most of the top teams will be sailing their boats fast, so the gains are minimal. Executing manoeuvres can make or break a race, with a poor leeward mark having the potential to change a race-winning position into a bad race.

What was so noticeable on the top yachts was that there was one person making the crew coordination calls, and they certainly weren't the helmsman or tactician. They clearly gave a countdown to the spinnaker hoists and drops and they were on the lookout for potential problems, giving instructions to the afterguard when a situation arose.

When the helm got involved in the instructions during a situation, things invariably went from bad to worse. If a gybe hasn't gone smoothly, then going from a run to a reach before the problem is resolved is going to end in tears and witnessing it from off the boat is almost like watching a car crash in slow motion. You can see what needs to be done to resolve the issue and can't help but wince when the opposite happens, and the mess is exacerbated.

Yacht racing is a team sport, and can be complex, so understanding what is needed when can make a massive difference, and in the process save a huge amount of money and aggravation if damage is avoided. In addition, a calm and coordinated crew will invariably enjoy their sailing and want to come back for more. It's a win-win.

It's not just the sailing crews who need to work in perfect harmony. With five race course areas and a host of mark-laying boats, coordinating the race management is no easy task. This was an area Ian and I simply looked on and marvelled. We couldn't suggest changes, we didn't wince as we watched on, as the complexities of it all were all handled seamlessly.

I take my hat off to the combined clubs' team who run the International Paint Poole Regatta - they ran the event flawlessly. I have to scratch my head enough when I'm running a club race with 30 competitors, so witnessing the management of this scale of event, and seeing the choreography play out like a West End musical, is a sight to behold.

Whatever your role in sailing, complex, controlled coordination takes preparation. Make sure everyone knows their roles, define who is making the calls, and understand what to do when things go wrong. Put this all together and you'll have far more enjoyment when out on the water.

Mark Jardine and Managing Editor

Related Articles

The latest kit for summer boating, rain or shine
Our pick of the latest kit Summer's finally here and the season is in full swing. Here's our pick of the latest kit for racing, cruising and enjoying the water, rain or shine. Posted on 19 Jun
It's just a stick
It was just like watching an enthusiastic kid It was just like watching an enthusiastic kid. Alinghi's Silvio Arrivabene was totally in the 'nothing to see here' mode, and moreover, was keener to get into the ‘maybe exceeding them' remarks about their targets. Did someone say, ‘Spinal Tap'? Posted on 17 Jun
Corinthian Spirit
The inaugural Corinthian J70 Worlds had a superb entry of 109 boats Sailing has gone through phases of being professional and Corinthian. Originally a pastime for the rich, then becoming a sport for everyone during the boom in the 1960s and 1970s. Posted on 11 Jun
Para, Inclusive and Open RS Venture Connect
We find out more ahead of the upcoming World Championship at Rutland, UK We speak to Dan Jaspers, who is responsible for International Sales and Business Development at the RS Marine Group, about the RS Venture Connect. Posted on 6 Jun
Going to publish the 'F' word
There was a distinct, if decidedly unfair, hint of the Darwin Awards when I first saw this There was a distinct, if decidedly unfair, hint of the Darwin Awards when I first saw this item come in. Most specifically, it related to the one where the guy had strapped a JATO rocket to his car. Posted on 3 Jun
The most famous boat in the world
Goes by a lot of nicknames, but you'd think Comanche fits the bill wherever she goes Goes by a lot of nicknames, but you'd have to think Comanche fits the bill wherever she goes. Right oh. Well, for just another eight months or so, she's not going anywhere. The most famous boat in the world has another, albeit short, charter with one aim. Posted on 20 May
This isn't what I expected
I'm very surprised just how different the new AC75s are A month ago, when I wrote 'AC75 launching season', just three of the AC75s set to contest the 37th America's Cup in Barcelona had been revealed. Now it's five, with just the French Orient Express Racing Team left to show their hand. Posted on 13 May
100 Years of Jack Chippendale
One of the greats behind the golden era of the UK's domestic dinghy scene Regular readers will hopefully have enjoyed the recent 'Fine Lines' series of photos, times to coincide with the centenary of one of the greats behind the golden era of the UK's domestic dinghy scene, Jack Chippendale. Posted on 13 May
Not too hard to work out that I am unabashedly Australian Not too hard to work out that I am unabashedly Australian. Hope everyone is as proud of their country, as I am. Most folk I know seem to be. Posted on 6 May
'Fine Lines' Top Ten part 10
With a full history of master boatbuilder Jack Chippendale This, the tenth and final Fine Lines in this series ends up with a real example of what the thinking is all about, that near perfect fusion of style and function. Plus a more detailed look at Jack's life and his boats. Posted on 1 May