Sunday, October 22, 2006

More on Minorca Sailing

I know you didn't believe all that stuff I wrote about how Minorca Sailing hasn't changed in twenty five years. Well you were right. It has changed in some respects. But only for the better.

Of course the boats have changed in 25 years. Currently they have Optimists and Picos and Lasers and a whole range of asymmetric classes built by Performance Sailcraft Europe (marketed under the Laser brand) and by LDC Racing Sailboats (the RS range) plus a few others. Check out Minorca Sailing's website for the current list of equipment. Many of these boats didn't even exist in 1981. And, by the way, for readers outside the UK, many of them are almost unknown outside of Europe.

The structure of the sailing program has also changed. Back in 1981 as I recall there were beginner lessons but once you had learned to sail you were pretty much on your own and were free to choose a boat and just go sailing. Formal racing was organized once a week. And if you wanted a lesson in some specific skill - say using a spinnaker or trapezing - an instructor would be available to help you. There were some organized trips - to the island for a barbecue, to Fornells for a snack, and weather permitting a sail out of the bay on the open sea. But apart from beginner classes there wasn't much other formal group instruction.

However when I arrived for the briefing on the beach on the first morning of this year's vacation we were offered a large range of group classes to attend. There were learn-to-sail and refresher course in Picos, basic and advanced Laser groups, basic and advanced asymmetric classes, and so on. These groups met every morning usually for a short class on the beach on some topic and then out on the water for group drills and practice all morning. Then in the afternoon there was racing for asymmetrics and Lasers for anyone interested, or continued group instruction for those who preferred that. After the afternoon racing was over, there was the option for "one on one" sessions with an instructor on any boat or any skill on which you wanted too work.

It sounds very structured and, in a sense it was. Most people chose to sign up for one of those groups and stuck with it all week. The groups hooked you up with sailors of similar interest and skills to sail with, and also helped develop social contacts for the all-important dining and drinking in the evenings.
But if you felt like doing your own thing and just taking a boat out for a spin around the bay that was OK too. There was also a lot of flexibility within the groups, especially in the afternoons when some members of a group might want to go off and race.

In the first week I immersed myself in Lasering, taking the advanced Laser course in the mornings, and racing a Laser in the afternoons. Even then it wasn't all intense instruction by any means; one morning many of the groups including the Lasers went out for a cruise outside of Fornells Bay and across to the other side of Cala Tirant, the next (more open) bay to the west. In the second week I signed up for the basic asymmetric class and learned the basics of sailing a spinnaker boat on one of these...

and after a couple of days switched over to one of these...

But when the wind picked up to 20-25 knots on Thursday I went back to the advanced Laser class for some starting practice and for the afternoon regatta.

In line with the second week theme of trying to learn some new skills I also took the evening classes on Introduction to Windsurfing for Dinghy Sailors. I must admit I didn't have high hopes, having twice before tried and failed to learn to windsurf. And by "failed" I mean failed to even stand up for more than a few seconds and on one occasion even broke my (expensive prescription) sunglasses when awkwardly falling off, or more precisely, face planting on to the board.

But this time it was different. In three short beginner windsurfing classes I mastered the skills of standing up, raising the sail, reaching, steering, tacking, beating, running and gybing. Yeah - I'm a windsurfer now. Don't know if I will do it again or quit while I'm winning. Time will tell.

Thanks anyway to Minorca Sailing. If you can teach an old klutz like me to windsurf you are doing well.

Now what classes of single-handed asymmetric spinnaker boats are available in the USA so I can use some of my other new skills?


the skip said...

spinnaker on small boats like that must have made for an awesome downwind sail!!

Tillerman said...

I think that's the point skip.

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