No - there were no Squad Jackets. no contract, no high price to pay, just one honest day of coaching from an expert who should hopefully help guide us from 11th at the Nationals in 2013 to perhaps somewhere in the top 10 in 2014.
The Coach: Richard Whitworth
. (Tricky Dicky Sailing
His Credentials: Winner of the Merlin Rocket Silver Tiller Series 8 times (most recently this year) and Twice National Champion.
Richard is at home coaching any fleet but we were very excited that he might be able to resolve some of the more quirky aspects of the Merlin. I still had some questions to ask and we were sure that our boat handling although reasonably slick could still benefit from some outside experienced guidance.
Harry came along in his 4.7, just to put some hours in. I was also keen to see if I could see anything in his sailing that needs work on.
Now I do not suppose we were the most pliable of students; our experience can sometimes get in the way of always agreeing with an alternative point of view, but we came away with some excellent things to work on and a much better understanding of the rig. Perhaps I should not call it understanding, more appreciation of the basic settings that we can work from.
We worked on tacking; which we are on the whole happy with, but Richard was keen to slow it down a little and use a little jib backing.
We worked on reach to reach gybing, in particular in flying the kite throughout. This was one of our known weaknesses, although we thought it was down to the spiro. However, Richard had us break the manoeuvre down into a reach to run, pole less gybe - and then back to a reach. Sarah also now has a old guy/ new sheet setting that worked to keep the kite flying throughout. It was Interesting that Richard thought of the operation as merely a series of steps to learn, that just needed to be sped up to make a reach to reach gybe.
Richard also had us add a little more pre bend to the mast. This would make it easier to sail in light conditions. He also solved what I have always called the zero setting. Richard's zero was when his lowers took the mast to just straight with no sail or vang tension, you might call this obvious, but it felt like a small eureka moment to me.
I would recommend anyone to one day of coaching from an expert to help point the way, but I do not really think that there is any replacement for hours of concentrated training or racing in the boat of your choice. I can't help thinking of those poor parents who are paying a small fortune to take their kids round the Squad circus. Why not get a small group of like minded individuals at your chosen club who are keen to race and bring in the odd invited 'expert' to come and critique them every once in a while. Club racing needs the kids and the kids need the club racing.