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British Keelboat Academy winter training well underway

by Suzie Holland 26 Jan 2018 00:04 PST
On the water © RYA

There hasn't been much escaping the cold weather for the 2018 BKA squad with four training weekends already over the winter so far. A mixture of practical and theory days have been received, covering different styles of racing to ensure each sailor receives an all-round knowledge and appreciation of keelboat sailing and can explore thoroughly the different roles involved.

The programme began with an induction weekend split between J80 sailing and land-based theory in the Hamble. The on the water training consisted of upwind and downwind practice legs with many crew and role swaps, as well as time in the coach boat watching techniques and learning from others. Short course racing in shifty and gusty conditions completed the day on the water. The shore-based day revolved around lectures and workshops to further develop their skills. The sailors were privileged to receive a navigational lecture and introduction to navigational software from Volvo Ocean Race leg-winning navigator Libby Greenhalgh. A tour of a Fast 40 yacht with a focus on deck hardware was given to appreciate and understand the workings of a modern race boat, and North Sails provided an insight in to how to look after sails and pack spinnakers using the new style of zips.

A Match Racing Skills weekend took place in Weymouth. The sailors were mentored by match racing specialist and London 2012 sailor, Kate MacGregor, as well as World Champion Match racers Mary Rook and Annabel Vose, who brought the focus on to crew team work and boat handling whilst emphasising the need to keep eyes on the race course and the opponent. The wind decided not to play ball on the Sunday so the sailors had a comprehensive debrief looking at specific roles in the boat.

The third weekend was Round the Cans style-training in Portsmouth. This crew intensive race format, along with a windy forecast, allowed the sailors to better familiarise themselves with and try out the different crew roles on-board a 40' yacht, as well as how to improve straight line boat speed. Slightly less wind on the Sunday meant a greater focus could be put on boat handling and spinnaker work.

The Spinnaker Skills weekend at Queen Mary Sailing Club was sailed on J80s in very light winds with freezing weather. However, this gave the sailors a fantastic opportunity to practice learning how to gybe spinnakers as well as slick hoists and drops, not as easy as you would think with so much rain weighing the spinnakers down. On Sunday, these skills were put in to practice in pressure situations (in the snow!) with some short races. The light winds also created the perfect chance to focus on roll gybes and leaving the spinnaker drop to the last possible moment before a good mark rounding.

As spring approaches, the Academy will continue with training across the country from Torquay to Teesside in a wide variety of boats. By the time summer rolls around the sailors will be anxious to put their new-found skills to use at national and international events.

Many thanks to all the coaches, Royal Thames Yacht Club for the use of the J80s, Sunsail for use of their First 40's and of course the generous support of the British Keelboat Academy partners: Gill, Spinlock, North Sails and B&G.

Did you know that alongside the British Keelboat Academy training weekends the RYA will be running open keelboat training at all the training weekends until April 2018? These weekends are taking place in different boats at different yacht clubs around the country and offer a range of 'workshops' on particular keelboat skills. The coaching will be from RYA coaches and specialists.

For more information, click here.

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