OK, I reckon that this post's title will separate into (mainly) men of a certain age who remember Eagle
comic, and its ilk, and the rest who haven't a clue what I'm on about! But either for the first group's nostalgia, or the second group for educational reasons, here's the wiki-link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy's_Boots
. Day two at the 300 Nats saw F4-5, but with an easterly blowing in to the ebb tide in Stoke's Bay (thankfully neaps - springs would have been unsailable), the waves were massive. When many times National Champion Steve Bolland throws it in twice on the gybe, and Steve has a swim or 2 (aided and abetted by a leaky borrowed boat), you know its tough. So much so that the Race Officer sent us in after two races...
So what's all this about the gloves. Well as we were sent back out again in to a Solent that had calmed down a little bit (but only a very little bit) as the tide turned, I couldn't recall where I'd left my gloves: Steve, whose boat was still spilling sea water on the concrete, threw me his pair: some season-old prototypes of the new Rooster glove. I went out and had my best race of the event so far (thanks Steve) and sailing in with a big grin on my face I remembered the comic book story of Billy's Boots. Perhaps Steve's gloves
had helped! Whether or not that's true, I was very impressed by the condition they were in for a season's use. They were very stable on the hand, and had loads of grip. My hands were much less tired than after two races the day before. Definitely going to grab a pair soon.
But it did make me think about Steve's style. I went low first on the reaches more than ever before and made lots of gains in distance and places. It seemed to pay even if the tide was taking us away from the mark, which surprised me. Clearly better than joining the queue going high. I even managed to use the speed gained when coming back up to grab the inside overlap on a couple of occasions.
I also recalled Steve's report from the Highcliffe Master's Qualifier: http://www.roostersailing.com/blog/?p=4628
. So having thought about Billy's Boots I thought I'd put his tip about putting the bow down to get VMG up it into practice as much as I could. The trouble is in those waves in the 300 it becomes very hard work, and if you catch a wave wrong you can undo a lot of the good work. But it started to help and I suddenly found I was one of the fastest two or three in the fleet upwind.
The boat certainly has the ability to flick between modes. With the tide shoving us upwind much of the time it was interesting to see how the fleet consistently overstood on starboard, but also how those who had the power to foot off free could minimise the loss.
Today was much shiftier, and with the tide still to turn for much of the racing. It did illustrate the danger of footing if you're not actually losing height as the boat heels and stalls in the waves. I gained a lot of distance forward on boats following me in a couple of cases, only for a lift to wipe out the gain, as they pivoted inside me. My best straight line gains were made by putting the bow down in the bigger waves, and really squeezing back up in the flatter bits (another tip from Steve I remember from year's ago (hmm perhaps there was something in the gloves after all!)).
Anyway I started the day in fourth, with three boats behind who could catch me. When the closest broke a toe strap (and then tiller extension!) that made life easier, but I was still down on both the others at the end of the first lap of race 1. There seemed to be a similar shift pattern on the second beat, but the problem now was that everyone was in cover mode, in the final phase of the regatta. With a bit more north in the breeze, there seemed to be both some lefties and some more pressure on the shore side (left of the beat), some of the pressure coming in big chunks. So when one showed up more obviously I made the call to take the hit early, get out of phase with the shifts for a bit and put the bow down to blast through the lighter bit in the middle of the beat. Thankfully the plan worked, and I popped through on the pressure, to get a fourth, and make fourth overall all but secure.
So Steve - thank's for the gloves, 'I'm still not sure if it was me, or Rooster Cockerill'. But the whole Billy's boots thing certainly got me thinking on the right lines for some tricky conditions.
And what about the Pro-lace boots
. Love them. Really secure, great grip, and sometimes you only notice how much pain you used to be in when it stops. That's certainly been the case this Regatta. And as a side benefit the tougher sole is going to be great on the stony beach at Thorney Island.
Now time for a Rooster request - can we have some Poly-pro pants please Steve? It's normally not cold enough for me to put poly-pro leggings
or Race Skin on until February, but over the last few days I've been feeling wet lycra trunks leeching the heat from my lower body. Yes even through my hikers. A purpose built pair of nice warm poly pro would be perfect for day's like today.