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A Day of Cheating in the Lymington Merlin Rocket Fleet

The title says it all “cheating”; it’s how some racing sailors refer to training or practicing. Investing in a few hours of practicing or better still hiring a coach to come to your Club can give your performance a boost that just isn’t achievable any other way.

With this in mind, and a lot of newcomers to the Lymington Merlin Rocket fleet wanting some urgent help, it was the ideal opportunity to invest in a day’s coaching from multiple Merlin National Champion and Salcombe Week winner Richard Whitworth.

So on an extremely cold and grey Saturday, six teams met at the Lymington Town Sailing Club for an early start to get as much as possible out of a short November day. We began with a Classroom session, and a game of Articulate between helm and crews to make us think about our communication skills. We then discussed our training topics for the day, as most of us were pretty new to the Class we decided to cram in three: tacking, gybing and “changing gear”. If you’re not sure, changing gear means altering the sail and rig controls to suit the wind and wave conditions to get the most out of the boat.

This was followed by a session on the lawn around a boat, primarily to look at sail trim and the effect of the different controls. Richard gave us a simple strategy to change gears, so that we could spend more time with our heads out of the boat rather than pfaffing with the control systems.

It was then time to go afloat and run through our drills on a very short windward/leeward course – with plenty of time to stop and discuss performance either with the coach or onboard between helm and crew. It took Richard a matter of seconds from the RIB to spot something that could be easily improved and as soon as he gave the feedback, results were instantaneous.

Back ashore for a debrief and an analysis of the video footage, left us all with the feeling we had all made gains but could still see plenty of areas for improvement – at least now when we go cheating on our own next Saturday we have some focus and know what we are looking to work on, and as for the next race, well we will all be unstoppable!

As ever, thanks to Lou Johnson for putting the day together and keeping us all supplied with flapjacks – Lou has been a driving force in building the Lymington fleet so that we now have ten competitive boats and some longer term interest from other sailors. Also a huge thanks to Richard Whitworth – we all benefited from his relaxed, knowledgeable and approachable coaching style and are keen to get him back for Part 2!

Photo (c) Mark Barwell – caption “Richard Whitworth discussing the benefits of mast rake to de- power”

Karl Thorne