Skiff Heaven - photo credit: Peter Mackin
So 8 weeks into a new toy and the RS800 is proving an interesting challenge. The actual sailing part is not an issue, for me the biggest challenge was sorting out what to do with my hands and mainsheet when tacking and gybing. Add to that the odd experience of finding myself standing in tacks which gives a whole different perspective of the boat through the manoeuvres, and you might understand why the back of the boat has appeared less calm than normal, sounding more like a chimp with tourettes. The front of the boat however, is serene as usual......
I had done a little warm up practice before taking on this new venture, I had trapezed off a rafter in the garage for a couple of hours with an imaginary tiller extension and mainsheet to gain some confidence in the boat handling. But I must say nothing could have prepared me for the real thing in 28 knots on my first day. Despite not capsizing, I quickly turned around realising that there must be a better purchase option on the mainsheet. I added another block and changed the sheet to a much more reassuring grippy 9mm Polilite and I was back on the water again... a week later.
Now the other issue for me was taking the tiller extension round the back - luckily I had chosen the 25mm 2.1m Rooster Carbon Tiller Extension which is lighter than the 22mm version. I would normally take the thinnest available to help with hand-over-hand sheeting, but this is not something I am going to be able to do in this boat as the trapeze wire gets in the way. The lighter the section, the less the angular momentum slows this manoeuvre down.
Keeping my feet whilst dangling from the wire, sometimes too high for the weight I was putting through my feet, was also a challenge. Despite this, we were determined to practice tack after tack, gybe after gybe and encouraging those out practicing with us to do the same. I was happily using the Rooster Hike Boot, partly because it had been used to great effect by Ben McGrain when he was campaigning the 49er. However, last weekend I opted to try out the Rooster Skiff Boot - well it does have the right name.
It has been developed to give a soft, subtle, grippy feel with no compromise on grip. Well I have to say it felt like someone had changed the rules. I could now walk on water. Suddenly my feet were sticking to the boat like those weird frogs that walk down a window. The split toe gives massive lateral control - even when you have stuck the bow in whilst hoisting.... AND they are so warm - like wearing hot water bottles on your feet.
So far we have had three swims; once gybing when the rudder was up, once when I dropped the tiller extension during a gybe and the last time was trying to avoid a large yellow metal mark that appeared 'all of a sudden' in my bear away zone after a gust. We missed the mark, but in slowing down (I acted as a sea anchor for a while) I was too eager to get going again, another gust hit and we were nocked flat. Despite the swims I have been super warm and toasty. I was surprised to see just how hard I was working on the trapeze. In fact my Strava suffer score (a measure of my effort ) was higher than a 2 hour hilly bike ride!
I am not yet sure if the heart rate relates to fear, excitement or work rate. Needless to say, the Supertherm® Steamer and Race Skin Sleeveless Top, Aquafleece® Neck Gaiter and Pro Aquafleece Beanie kept me warm and toasty. I have sometimes opted to wear a Pro Lite Aquafleece® too when it has been less than 5 degrees.
Whilst I am wearing a development trapeze harness, I fully understand that trapeze harnesses are particular to the wearer. In a similar way most sailors are still using the conventional hook and will probably not be keen to change. I have recently looked closely at the Allen Key Ball system. It appears to work nicely but as yet I have not seen anyone using it in anger. I guess it's time to be the guinea pig.... watch this space!