Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Playing (with) a Spinnaker - Part 2

RS100s at Minorca Sailing

After two days in the Basic Asymmetric Class at Minorca Sailing last year I had eventually managed to refresh my skills to the point which they had reached the previous year: I could sail a heavy stable boat like the RS Vareo upwind and downwind without capsizing (much.)

Now I was ready to try out the RS100.

I had a bit of a shocker when I arrived for class on the third day of my holiday. My instructor informed me that they wanted to put me in the Advanced Asymmetric Class!! What?? Just because I can sail a Vareo up and down for an afternoon without capsizing (much) I now qualify as an advanced asymmetric sailor? I don't think so.

To be fair to the instructor I think the other students in the basic class needed a lot more attention than I did. I've always been happiest learning a new sailing skill by hearing some brief instructions from a coach and then going out and practicing that skill by myself for a couple of hours. I guess the instructor wanted to bounce me up to the advanced class so he could focus 100% on coaching the real beginners.

But I was not going to go gentle into that good night.

I asked what the advanced class was doing that day. Starting drills, I was told. OK. That's it. I don't want a lesson in all that stuff about line sights and favored ends and gaps to leeward etc. etc. I've been doing starts badly in a Laser for 30 years so I don't need to learn all over again how to do bad starts in an RS100. I want to learn how to sail around with that big flappy sail without the big flappy sail tipping me over (much.)

So they let me free sail an RS100 all morning and I have to say it was a real pleasure. Light, responsive. Handled much like a Laser upwind and it was a huge thrill when you got the big flappy sail drawing downwind.

And in the afternoon I signed up for a sail on the Laser SB3 so that was all good too.

On day four the instructors had a different strategy. Instead of trying to kick me upstairs to the advanced class they said they would merge the two classes. Hmmm. I guess I can't argue with that one. I said I would sail an RS100 again.

It was a day of boat-handling drills. You know how that works. The evil instructors devise drills that require the maximum amount of effort by the students and the minimum amount of zooming around in RIBs by the instructors.

The most devilish drill was one where they dropped a windward and a leeward mark a short distance apart from each other and then parked their RIB halfway between them. We poor students, all sailing those Evil Capsizing Asymmetric Spinnaker Boats had to...

  • bear off around the windward mark 
  • hoist the big flappy sail 
  • gybe 
  • drop the big flappy sail 
  • do a 360 around the RIB 
  • hoist the big flappy sail 
  • gybe 
  • drop the big flappy sail 
  • round the leeward mark 
  • do three tacks 
  • do a 360 around the RIB 
  • do three more tacks 
  • repeat ad infinitum

I was doing pretty well compared to the other students (even the exalted ones from the advanced class) even if I do say so myself, but after a couple of hours of this, and similar, torture I was totally knackered. So I had a long nap after lunch. Beer may have been a factor.

On the fourth day, the instructor told me that I was now in the Advanced Asymmetric Class. Didn't even give me a choice. Bugger this, I thought. Who do they think I am? I am the famous Tillerman, totally crap blogging sailor. I am not advanced at anything. "So what is the advanced class doing today?" I asked.

It turned out that the Advanced Laser Class and Advanced Asymmetric Class were both doing the Sea Sail that day, when you get to sail outside the bay on the wide and wild Mediterranean Ocean. As last week's Sea Sail in Lasers had been a bit of a non-event on account of very light winds, I decided that I would take a Laser on the Sea Sail this day so I could get some practice sailing a Laser on the huge waves on the wide and wild Mediterranean Ocean. Ha ha. Foiled 'em again. You can't make me an advanced asymmetric sailor that easily.

On the fifth day I finally relented and let them kick me out of the Basic Class. I sailed the RS100 with the Advanced Asymmetric Class. It was actually quite interesting. All to do with comparing high and low angles downwind and seeing which was faster. Then we did a race around the island and back to the beach for lunch, which I won by a huge margin. I always try to win the race when there's beer at the end.

In the afternoon I went out and played in the RS100 on my own and capsized it for the first time and then had a very painful experience when I discovered that those wings make the distance from centerboard to gunwale on an RS100 longer than my inside leg measurement by a few (very critical) inches. I don't want to talk about it.

After a suitably mellow couple of hours at the hotel (rum may have been involved) the pain from my capsize recovery had eased somewhat, and it was off to Ca Na Marga with the beautiful Tillerwoman and my new Best Friends Forever from the Advanced Asymmetric Class for a dinner of fillet steak with goat cheese salad, washed down by a bottle (or several) of Rioja.

Life is good.


Sam Chapin said...

Sounds like the RS100 sails well. the red bag at the top in the pictures I would guess is to keep it on its side in a capsize. What about winds that it can sail in?
The Laser SB3 ought tohave more comment. Anyway--Thanks

JP said...

Looks like a great boat to sail apart from the recovery bit (never my favourite)

Tillerman said...

Yes Sam. The RS100 is a wonderful boat. I think it deserves at least one more post, and the whole subject of RS100 capsize recovery could be a post on its own.

I could also write another post about the SB3. I thought this post was way too long already without getting into detail on that.

There was also some Laser sailing during this week which I could write more about.

I should have written all these posts about my two weeks in Minorca last October but somehow ran out of steam back then.

Sam Chapin said...

We have a fellow that is good MC scow sailor that has one of the older RS boats. It is a little short, maybe 12 feet and maybe a jib, but an asymetrical spinnaker. He sails with us occasional with the RS thing and has trouble with all his gagets. You probably need to spend a lot of time to get your boat handling down. Then a few years ago maybe the MX ray, sort of Laser with spinnaker, and that seems to have died out. When the wind is up, I can handle going up wind better than down wind--- I don't think I want to put up another sail going downwind..

Tillerman said...

Actually, if you are used to a Laser, it doesn't take too long to get the hang of sailing a boat like the RS Vareo or RS 100 with the spinnaker. But I did need a few days at the beginning of the week to master it, which is why I didn't want to go up to the Advanced Class (where I would be doing starting drills and racing and stuff) until I had got the hang of handling the spinnaker. Some of your Laser sailing instincts will make you do the the wrong thing and it takes a little while to unlearn them.

And sailing an asymmetric singlehander downwind is a lot more fun than sailing a Laser downwind. If it weren't for the cost (more than twice a Laser) and the fact that there are hardly any others around to race with, I would buy an RS100.

Keep Reaching said...

We have RS 400s (2 person) in our club and one fellow with an RS100 - he races with the Lasers (PY handicap of 996 compared to a Laser at 1085 according to the RYA version - US version doesn't have the RS100). Of course he is a lot faster, but he has an occasional capsize (well, actually capsizes are not completely unknown to the Lasers) and, as with all asymmetrics, must broad reach. I haven't tried it, but I have tried the RS400s and they are loads of fun.

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