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Transitioning into the Musto Skiff

by Andy Tarboton 30 Mar 11:42 PDT
Andy Tarboton - ACO 8th MUSTO Skiff World Championship 2017 © Bernardi­ Bibiloni

I have always been a skiff sailor; I love the thrill of hanging off the side of a boat inches above the water by a piece of string. It is the pure freedom of feeling the boat through your feet and the instinctive balance from a desire to not fall in the water. I feel no better feeling than that of being totally at one with the boat - it's my art!

Naturally, the time came when I wanted to try something new, having sailed the 29er and other dinghies and skiffs. I had seen Musto Skiffs sailing around at various sailing clubs, and I thought it would be cool to try one myself. The performance of the boat surpassed my expectations; it was a concept ahead of its time when the boat was created and embodies all that makes a skiff a skiff.

It was not a completely seamless transition though... The day I picked up my boat the sun was shining and a 15kt wind was blowing - perfect skiff weather. So, I eagerly rigged her up and launched. I hadn't made it more than a few hundred metres from the shore when I got told off by the boat for being too confident.

The very first tack I tried; I didn't get my head low enough and got smacked across my eyebrows by the boom! I sat in the bottom of the boat for a few seconds to regain my composure and contemplate whether I had bitten off more than I could chew. But I was already hooked on the Musto, so I reset, sheeted on, and blasted off again.

Second tack, I hit a little higher on my head - starting to get the hang of this now!

It should also be noted that gybing is my single biggest challenge in the boat, even now, it is where I most often get it wrong and there is no halfway point in a gybe - the boat is either upright or upside-down. But the reward of getting it right is when you find the bite point on the exit; the battens pop, the kite fills, you catch your trapeze hook, and you gain a boat length or two on everyone around you. The rush of endorphins feels like a pat on the back, and at times I want to swing straight into another gybe to get that fix again.

Another striking factor of the Musto is the people in the class. I received a fantastic welcome at my local sailing club when I first joined the fleet there, and the guys around me really helped me with advice (and laughter at my failed attempts), which brought me up to speed fairly quickly.

I have also found that no secrets are kept in the class. People will willingly offer their experience, tricks, or settings and share a beverage in the bar to recount the moments on the water. Although we are each in our own boat, we are one big family at the venue. The class is without a doubt the friendliest class I have had the privilege of being a part of!

It was after the first day of my first regatta in the Musto that I phoned my wife in utter awe of how much fun I was having on and off the water with the guys in the class, and my wife, Lizzie, pointed out to me that this is what sailing should be about - the camaraderie off the water and the competition on the water.

It must be said that the level of competition within the class can be daunting for some. We have seen Olympians, professionals, and high-profile sailors join the class from time-to-time to try their hand, but even these vastly experienced individuals require some time to get settled in the boat.

As a whole, I feel that the level of sailing within the class has risen in the past 5 years, and the depth of the fleet has grown. This means, that no matter where in the fleet you find yourself, there will always be others around you to have a good race with.

For me personally, the Musto Skiff is one of the best boats I have ever sailed. It has all the thrills and speed that I seek and is a challenging boat to sail. I truly wish to stay in the class for another 20 or 30 years and hope that I am still enjoying it as much as I do now when I reach 'Legend' age category.

I see the more experienced sailors in our number still with a big smile on their faces when they get in from a day on the water, and that is a very special thing. In contrast, we have several younger stars joining the class, and I see these guys are picking it up far faster than I did. There is no security of establishment here - If you stop pushing, then the rest of the fleet will overtake you.

For someone looking into the class, give it a go! People are generally willing to lend their boats out for a taste session, and once you get a boat there is a large volume of online content available to assist your training, and you can ALWAYS message a Musto member on Facebook or other community platforms and ask any questions. I am confident you will get a helpful response and maybe even some guidance and a link to a video or discussion thread explaining how people handle their own boats.

If you decide to take up the challenge and join the class, I look forward to sharing some hearty laughs, great racing, and a beverage with you at some point.

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