Boat design & building
I started 2013 in a work-shop building my customised moulds for the latest International 14 (I14) design by Paul Beiker and myself. Working long hours, normally six days a week, I didn’t do a great deal of sailing and had to put up with just the odd week end here in there in the Merlin Rocket.
When the moulds were complete I started to build the first boat, which took two months to build (as well as setting up jigs and templates for future Production boats). After one final big push towards the end, the boat was ready (well almost) to hit the water for the POW Race (I14 national championship race). Martin Jones and myself travelled down to Falmouth and to compete in the boat, putting the mast up for the first time and getting it wet for the first time. The day went extremely well with the boat making it around the course with no problems (except for the very tired and under practiced crew).
Getting back in to sailing
In August I had time to start sailing again, racing in the Copa Del Ray in a Soto 40 (team Cutting Edge), having the chance to deliver a Figaro back from France, Merlin Salcombe week, taking part in the Artemis Offshore Academy Selection Trials, Chi Harbour Federation Week and the Merlin Rocket Nationals.
The Artemis Selection Trials
Having delivered Nick Cherry’s boat back from Dieppe, France at the end of the Solitaire du Figaro, I decided that the Artemis Offshore Academy would be a great programme to try and get involved with. I attended their annual Selection Trials not knowing what to expect. The trials lasted four days and was effectively a simulation of an offshore race with lots of sailing to test our ability, physical and mental exercises and all with minimal sleep - I had two hours over the four day trials. I enjoyed every minute of the Selection Trials and luckily for me I was accepted to be part of the full time Artemis Offshore Academy Figaro squad in training 2014.
The Merlin Rocket
Prior to the Academy, the Merlin had been my main focus of the year. In a newly formed partnership with Nick Craig we started our campaign in March, kicking off with a few open meetings and a couple of training days. Going into the National Championships, we were not sure what to expect with such a high-standard of competitors within the fleet and most of the teams having a lot more experience in the boat than us. The Nationals was a cracking event for us, with the top five boats all neck and neck right up until the final race until Nick and I came out victorious. This was a huge triumph for me, as the Merlin Rocket is one of the oldest, toughest classes to compete in (a development class).
The Endeavour Trophy
Up on winning the Merlin National Championships, we were invited to compete in the Endeavour Trophy – an event to determine the champion of dinghy racing champions. I have competed in this event for the past two years, for the first time with James Peters where we finishing second (to Nick Craig) and last year with Ben Saxton – winning the event. This year the competition was as tough as ever. We had a dream event winning 7 of the 8 races discarding our First race - a Second.
Since starting in September I have learned so much about short-handed sailing. It is a totally different game to what I have played before in two ways;
1) the Figaro is a yacht!
2) It’s a yacht sailed single-handed
We have covered a huge amount in the four months we’ve training, from gaining my Offshore YachtMaster theory qualification and all associated tickets, through to a couple of weeks learning to sail double-handed, before finally going Solo. We’ve managed to pack a huge amount of hours in on the water during our four months of training, sailing with several coaches and self-directed. Off the water there is a massive amount of boat work to be done to maintain the boats, especially when they’re being used every day. There is also a lot to learn about the electronic and mechanical systems on the boat, as you have to be able to maintain and fix any on board problem that may occur at any point during the race… you really have to know the boat like the back of your hand!
The next challenge ahead for me is Figaro training in France…more to follow on that in the New Year.