Heavy Weather Sailing
People who have not had the experience of sailing in Brighton in a bit of breeze find it a bit of a shock, even those who have high wind experience at Wildwind or similar, but find the extra or ripple on the water in Brighton a bit tricky. Here's some techniques you need for sailing when its breezy in Brighton.
RIGGING Rig at the bottom of the beach, or your boat will blow over on route. Change first, flapping bits of boat do it no good and will loosen knots, shackle pins etc. a minor irritation to fix on the water in light airs, impossible in a blow. Tape up sharp bits, loose bits and any pins, rings and knots, so they can’t come undone, or hole your dry suit/crew. Last thing before launch set your sail controls, pull the out haul in tight, rake the mast back if possible, take off any mast ram. Lastly put on the Cunningham (downhaul), all of it, try and rip the front out of your sail. If your boat is fitted with poor sail controls (Laser Topper Hobie 16) get help putting on the down haul or fit more purchase. Hold the boat down head to wind and use the mainsheet to pull down the boom to get more kicker and Downhaul (Cunningham). Your main will bang around like mad now, that’s why your do it last. Remember its easier to take off controls than put them on.
LAUNCHING. Bit of a lost art in Brighton this one, we’re also a bit anti social in this too. Most clubs launching in surf have organized gangs to get people on and off the beach the mono’s in the club are fairy supportive of each other in this. The technique is this. Get your boat set up, fully, no “I’ll sort it on the way to the start line” stuff please. Get your boat off its trolley, or gutters, right on the very edge of the water. If you have a mono, make sure it is canted over to Leeward a bit to keep the gravel out of the dagger board slot. Point its nose the course you intend to sail. Sheet the jib in (if you've got one), get the rudder ready on ready to go down, slot the board in, tidy up ropes so you don’t get tangled, make sure the main sheet runs freely, flip your tiller extension out the windward side. Stand with the Helm on the windward back corner, the crew at the windward shroud (or “assistant” if you’re a single hander), with his ankles getting wet. Both of you holding the boat at its angle, heeled and preventing it from sailing off. You’re now ready. Don’t launch, not yet, watch the waves, they come in a pattern of about 1 big wave followed by 6 or 7 small ones. This is due to the relative wave lengths of Channel and Atlantic waves, so its not an exact science. Take a few minutes In the ready position mentioned above. Use this time to familiarize your crew with what your going to do. Wait for a big wave, estimate the flat patch behind it, if it looks good go for it. Push the boat fast into the water, jump in and sail off before the next wave hits. The crew needs a little dagger board asap, but don’t ground it. Just enough to steer. Be gentle with the main sheet, too much and you’ll go head wind and reverse pitch pole or snap your rudder(s) by coming up the beach backwards. Don’t worry too much about your dignity, the important thing it to get the 10 ft or so past the breakers, your safe there. Once out, get out to sea, land is the enemy in this weather and get your rudders etc down at your leisure, being careful not to power up the boat. By either, bearing off too much, or sheeting in too hard. Remember a heeled over mono hull heads up into wind, that’s a nightmare, so keep it flat.
RIGHT:- Paul and I launch the 14 in rough weather, with help form a shore party, principally Steve Kindly Videoed by Roddy. elapsed time: Under 4 seconds. Right Click for Full Video
SAILING IN WAVES. Ok don’t get creative, you need to look where, your going, not at the tiller or mainsheet. Communicate well with your crew if you have one, tell them to do basic things for you, tiding the main sheet etc. On a mono make sure only one of you goes in to the bottom of the boat at a time. Shout, but don’t face the person your taking to, you need to be looking at what your doing, not staring romantically into their eyes, or you’ll be staring romantically into the eye of a mackerel before you know it. Practice sailing like this in light weather, it’s a skill that needs to be learned, you can’t see which way a cars going by looking at the steering wheel, nor a boat by looking at the tiller, don’t do it. Straight lines are a good idea, check with your crew before pulling in the main or traveler, make sure their ready. If you’re in a trapeze boat then keeping your footing in rough weather is hard. Don’t cling to the handle, brace your self with the jib sheet and traveler as guy ropes if your crewing or main sheet a tiller if your helm.
Toe loops are great, consider fitting them (Windsurfer toe straps from Surfladle, Shoreham beach are good). Twin wire at your peril! Keep the boat FLAT, in a mono, and don’t fly a hull on a cat, you’ll need the buoyancy. In the mono’s case you want the boom to go out without hitting the water.
Before attempting a manoeuvre, think about it. Gybeing especially without a spinnaker is very, very hard in windy weather, and should only be attempted at speed, with the boat flat and going down a wave. If you go into a gybe slow, or nose down climbing a wave, you’ll never make it. Rolling mono a little to windward, will bear it a way without needing a violent tug on the rudder, which slows you down. In a cat keep the weight back, the rules about speed and picking your moment still stand. You’ll know if you got it right, the noise is distinctive. It goes zip thunk thunk thunk thunk. The zip is the traveller going a cross, the thunks are individual battens popping over. There should be no wangs, creaks bangs or sharp shocks. Seriously think about NOT gibing, do a tack instead.
Tacking, make sure your going hard on the wind, be careful about backing the jib in a Mono it shouldn’t be necessary , on a single hander or Hobie cat, you’ll find it hard to make it through the tack, you need to be hard on the wind and powered (flat) going in, choose your wave and remember a Hobie with a backed jib can go over backwards, or sideways so get your weigh in the right place.
LANDING Don’t relax till your on the beach. Hang around, well out beyond the surf, try and attract the notice of those on shore, they should get ready to help you, some will wave back—ignore these people! Loosen the dagger board(s) and rudder(s). Try and find a flat spot but don’t bail out to late, get your weigh RIGHT back. as far back as you can. Sail fast, but not flat out, ideally you’ll sail all the way to the beach on the back of a wave. It will wash out from under you and you step out onto gravel, and pull the boat up before the next wave. Too little speed and the wave behind hits your transom and swings you side ways, and rolls you over. Too fast and you sail over the top and nose dive. If you're going to get it wrong, the second one is usually better.
If you don’t try it you’ll never learn, Paul, Mike, Simon and Brian Routinely launch in rough, weather. I can manage the massively overpowered flying machine that is my 14. Its not hard, follow the above rules and you’ll find it more exhilarating than you can imagine, you don’t need to go on holiday for high wind sailing, you can do it here. Nervous? I nearly wet myself launching sometimes. But I can control my boat and my bladder for 5 seconds, and that’s all it takes.