Two days training at Plas Heli in Pwllheli on 7th / 8th May

6 (Andrew Jones, Dave Woods, Gaz Henshall, Gordon Bennell, Jeremy Cooper & John Cheslett) intrepid adventurers drove deep into Wales for a weekends sailing on the sea and in waves.

Rigging up in a light drizzle spirits were high amongst the group even after Dave decided to pick a fight with the one rock in the car park.
The forecast looked good with 9-10kts from SW is perfect wave conditions for Pwllheli.
All rigged up, the first part of the day was to acquire a good strong coffee and head to the classroom. As I had never actually seen anyone sail before we kept the briefing short and decided to use the morning as a “see where we are at” session. By the time I was able to get around with the RIB a solid < 1kts of wind had kicked in and I drove round the corner to the beach to see all five boats slowly drifting their way out towards the sailing area which had no waves. After a bit of toeing to get through the steep chop going into the labour entrance we settled on an area to sail in and I laid a windward / leeward course for the to sail round.

Everyone enjoying a little drift around Pwllheli Bay

After a little drifting around about 7kts kicked in from the East which meant we could finally do something productive with the day. As they were sailing round the course I rotated round them all to give some pointers and friendly advice. We looked at everything from Mark Rounding, Tacking / Gybing to Straight Line Speed. With conditions now so the sailors were either just hiking or comfortably perched on the edge the real training kicked in.

Dave Woods hiking with a solid technique keeping his boat flat

Moving on we started to do some tacking & gybing on the whistle to really nail the techniques. Generally speaking, the group was very well behaved and tacked when they were told too and this also gave us some great sections where we could compare speed.

Straight Line Speed and Gordon coming out in front

At the end of each one I zoomed in front of them to drop a windward / leeward mark for them to go round and to bring the group back together ready to start again. This caused some fun at the leeward mark as they tended to come around it all as a tight group.

Some fun at a Leeward mark

By this time, it was already early afternoon and we decided that we would make the most of the wind and stay out for one longer session instead of coming in.
Trying to confuse the sailors I introduced 360 practice into the Tacking/Gybing this really showed who the polite sailors were amongst the group, see if you can figure out where Andy (201) is going in this photo.

Can anyone figure out where Andy is going?

It was starting to get late and the wind felt like it was slowly dying again so we quit whilst we were ahead and headed in for a debrief with some good video footage. I had written down a couple of notes I wanted to go through which lead us up to dinner time.

Only a couple of notes made during the day

The learning didn’t stop when we were having dinner either, turns out if someone is eating in a restaurant they wouldn’t like it if a local (not very sober) would decide to stand in the doorway chatting to friends outside letting in the smallest of drafts. Was it blown out of proportion (no pun intended)? Massively. Was it fun to watch? Immensely.

Roll on Sunday and hopefully some Waves!!!

Waking up to the sound of torrential rain didn’t fill me with confidence for the day ahead but thankfully I was wrong, well at least on the rain front.
I would be joining the sailors in my own D-Zero today with my Dad, Brother & Uncle all happily sitting in the RIB with the camera and causing chaos.
Deciding from the start to go for one long session we came up with a plan and I briefed the group on wave technique in more detail in optimistic fashion.
Using the same format as the Saturday we started off with a simple windward leeward course to work on our technique in a steep chop and comfortable hiking conditions. The difficult part was trying to decide which was quicker, sailing loose and fast to keep the power on, or sail higher to keep your height. Turns out it depended which tack you were on. Starboard seemed to prefer a loose and fast setup where as Port was the opposite.
The waves downwind were just about surf able but you had to work quite hard to catch them but generally sailing by the lee was the fastest option.

Gaz working hard to catch a wave

WALES DOES GET HOT!!! The sun was out and the breeze was warm it was definitely not a day to be wearing a 5mm wetsuit under the remainder of my hikers. Rapidly we were all taking layers off to try and keep cool.
Whilst the wind was with us we had perfect conditions. But unfortunately all good things must come to an end eventually and the wind dropped off slightly as the day went on meaning the sea flattened out but it did get even hotter.
At some points it felt like John was able to point directly into the wind and still be moving, he was certainly pointing the highest out of all of us.

John flying upwind

Again doing more tacking / gybing on the whistle was useful with the ever changing conditions, each time I went upwind I tried something slightly different with my controls hoping to find the “perfect” set-up. Downwind was now a case of sitting still and running by the lee like any good lake sailor would do.

Downwind a variety of techniques used

As with Saturday we decided to quit whilst we were ahead and I am glad we did, it took us what felt like an hour to drift our way downwind to the beach from where we were.

The worst part of the weekend has to be pulling your boat back up the beach at the end of the day, all I can say is that I am glad I only did it once unlike the rest of them who did it on the Saturday too. There was a colour run on along the beach and we were all in danger of our boats ending up being more colourful than Dave’s Blue Machine.

Overall, a great weekend had by all and plenty of lessons learned with more things to work on in the future. Let’s see if all that practice helps us down in Highcliffe (hoping for waves) for the Nationals.

I currently intended to run a second training weekend probably at Pwllheli again (but am open to suggestions) for anyone who is interested. I will try to not clash it with other D-Zero events this time so we may get a few more sailors.