Learning to fly! By Will Hopes
I was recently fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel to the south east coast of Spain to complete a couple of weeks of sailing instruction, working for Pro-Vela on a european funded work experience trip which was organised by Bristol Maritime Academy.
I’m not going to pretend I don’t enjoy sailing in 35 degrees and bright sunshine every day on the beautiful Mar Menor, or that teaching sailing isn’t enjoyable – in fact although I wasn’t receiving any pay for this, I was attracted to the programme for the opportunity to travel with all costs covered, meet new people and develop my skills at a foreign centre. That and the fact Pro-Vela is a foiling centre and has a fleet of foiling boats!
Throughout the two weeks, I ran a variety of courses and taster sessions as a DI, learnt to windsurf, took part in ‘mandatory’ morning SUP sessions, provided safety cover whilst also doing a bit of manual work within the sailing compound – raking, painting and cleaning boats. I can’t complain at the last one, we were in the Spanish sun all day, however that did make me very grateful for my Rooster Long Sleeved Rash Top and UV Neck Sleeve, giving me ample protection from the sun all day every day.
By the end of our time there, a few others and I had successfully flirted with the foiling instructor and centre principle, enough for them to let us out on the foiling boats. The F101 prototype (designed by Alan Hillman who is also a founder of Pro-Vela) was out of action for a couple of days undergoing some maintenance, so Bladerider it was. I can hardly say I was gutted!
Apart from a small joyride a couple of years ago on a Nacra F20, this was my first real experience of sailing a foiling boat. After a briefing which consisted of ‘wear something with padding’ I donned the radio helmet and swapped into the Moth. Suffice to say I was put on a rinse cycle for the first 5-10 minutes where my Rooster Supertherm Longjohn proved invaluable – with 4mm of neoprene it hardly felt like I had been soaked and battered. My set is two and a half years old and even after heavy use in Lasers and my wider sailing, there isn’t a single point where they have worn through or frayed. Kudos to Rooster’s designers!
It wasn’t long though before I was up and running, or should I say flying? It was incredible, unlike anything else I have sailed before. Lighter, quieter and a lot twitchier, this boat was good fun – weird when compared to a Laser where your back is just above the water, I kept being told over the radio to stop hiking and play the main sail. It worked. I flew!
I came back a very happy sailor, and also a little bit spoilt! I went back home to what felt like a very clunky Laser in comparison. Apart from being hugely enjoyable, no doubt the foiling experience will have improved my boat handling - consolation for missing the Laser nationals in Abersoch? I’d say so!