by Matt Carter
The British Keelboat Academy, a joint keelboat racing initiative between the RYA and UKSA, is now ready for a busy racing season following the conclusion of what has been an intense winter training programme at the UKSA headquarters in Cowes, Isle of Wight.
Sea Survival training - British Keelboat Academy
Between October and February the BKA has run four shore-based weekends for its squad, comprising of 36 sailors aged between 18-24. The weekends were aimed at furthering the sailors’ knowledge of campaign planning, as well as providing a selection of one day professional courses which included First Aid, Diesel Engine Maintenance and Sea survival along with fitness testing, media training, sponsorship, Tides, Racing Rules, Rig setup and sail controls.
Jonty Cook, who took on the role of team manager/crew boss for ‘Interceptor’ (First 40.7) explains how valuable the shore-based weekends have been in giving him the experience to be able to get a boat and crew ready to perform to their full potential at events.
Racing Rules - British Keelboat Academy
'One of the most useful parts of the shore-based weekends was the day we spent at Worthy Down army base in Hampshire, where we worked as crews to complete various command tasks. This was valuable as it allowed us to interact as a crew, sometimes under timed conditions, which only added to the pressure! It was useful as we could see how each individual operated, where their strengths were and what weaknesses needed addressing.
'Back in the classroom, we had talks and workshops designed to enhance our knowledge of the sport and hopefully give us an advantage when racing. We had a Solent Tides talk from Phil Devereaux, which was useful in providing us with both an overall understanding of how the tides work in the Solent, as well as useful nuggets of information which may come in handy later in the season.'
Team building 2 - British Keelboat Academy
Oxford-based sailor Cook, a current Southampton University student, concluded: 'At the final shore based weekend in February, John Doerr came in and gave us a talk on the racing rules of sailing, and updated us on the new amendments. This was particularly useful as having a sound knowledge of the rules will allow us to be more confident on the water when we get into situations with other boats.'
The BKA has also provided their new recruits with an insight into what life is like after the British Keelboat Academy, which Ed Hampton-Matthews, who is in his first year of the Academy following selection in September 2012, explains: 'It was great to have BKA graduates Sam Goodchild and Nick Cherry attend the shore-based weekends to present talks about their time with the BKA and what they have been doing since. It was great to have the chat as it showed us where we can go and what opportunities are ahead of us.'
Fitness development - British Keelboat Academy
This season, BKA sailors will be campaigning the ‘Kolga’ (Farr 45), ‘Interceptor’ (First 40.7), ‘La Reponse’ (First 40), ‘Alice’ (J109) and ‘Magnum’ (Kerr 40). ‘Kolga’ and ‘Alice’ are entirely crewed by the BKA squad sailors, while the others have seen squad members step on as part of a crew put together in conjunction with the BKA.
'We are aiming at winning the First 40.7 class at Cowes week this year, and all the events we are doing between now and then are going to help to develop us as a crew and form (hopefully) a successful team!' said Cook, pit and Trim on-board ‘Interceptor’.
Fitness development 2 - British Keelboat Academy
The shore-based training weekends will be put to the test throughout the season, with the 'Interceptor' crew planning on a series of events including the Warsash Spring Series, the RORC Easter Challenge, the Beneteau Cup and Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week.
The RORC Easter Challenge will be the first race of the competitive season for many of the BKA sailors. With the event allowing coaching to take place during racing, it is a great opportunity for the BKA sailors to continue to train for the season ahead. This will be followed by the Warsash Spring Championships over the weekends of 20-21 and 27-28 April.
Team building 3 - British Keelboat Academy
Ash Holmes, BKA Squad Coach, added: 'The sailors have performed well over the winter, improving on their fitness, communication, teamwork and knowledge. Over the next couple of months, the teams will be out training and applying what they’ve learnt ahead of the 2013 racing season. We would like to thank all the coaches and industry experts for their input and support during the BKA shore-based weekends.'
For more information about the British Keelboat Academy please visit the BKA website.