Last Sunday Skandia Team GBR Men's 470 Class Development Squad members Luke Patience and Chris Grube took time out of their busy 470 training schedule to experience something a little shorter and more powerful . . . a 12 Foot Skiff!
The full time sailors were having a break from their usual base of the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy , the sailing venue for the Olympic games in 2012, to visit Draycote Water Sailing Club, one of the country's premier inland sailing clubs.
They were accompanied by their Skandia Team GBR coach, Steve Irish, himself a Draycote member, who has sailed at the club for years and whose past results include a World Championship and multiple National Championships in a variety of classes including the 470.
The future Olympians were sailing the 12 Foot Skiff 'DesignSource' which was imported to the UK along with two other skiffs from New Zealand earlier this year by Bob Clements and Alan Atterbury after they raced it in the 2008 Interdominions in Wellington.
Having four separate rigs was a bit of an eye opener for Luke and Chris, who are more used to tweaking and tuning their single 470 rig to suit the conditions on the day, however Steve Irish had no hesitation in reaching for the biggest number one rig as he felt it would be 'a bit of a laugh' for them. Rigging the 55 square metre spinnaker, 470 helm Luke said 'this is going to be great. I'm really looking forward to feeling that the boat is on the absolute edge of control!'
Sadly the wind dropped to under 10 knots by the time the guys got out on the water, however they were still fully powered up and twin trapezing upwind and downwind, and very much in control.
DesignSource's regular helm and crew, Iain Christie and Tom Vian, currently campaigning DesignSource in the 2008 Bartercard Skiff Series, could only watch shrugging their shoulders as the Olympic hopefuls, who had never even seen a 12 before, sailed the boat perfectly.
Perfectly, well, almost, there were definitely a few cheers as Luke and Chris had a couple of unscheduled swims, proving that even for people at the very top of their game, a 12 foot skiff is still very hard to tame, even in light winds.
The 470 guys only gave the boat back when the lake closed in the fading daylight. A slightly tired but very much smiling Chris said 'that was great . . . but that spinnaker is massive!'. Luke agreed, saying 'Awesome, always wanted to sail one of those, it was on my 'list' . . . just a foiling Moth to go now!'
Follow the Skandia Team GBR guys' progress on http://www.skandiateamgbr.com/team/sailors/Pages/developmentsquad.aspx
and the Bartercard Skiff series on www.12footskiff.com