Once again its not surprising that the Solo class is going from strength to strength. The Solo committee continue to put on regattas that sailors want to sail in with venues and times that any working parent can probably justify.
I am also not so sure now that the weight range for the boat is as high as it used to be now we have more manageable rigs than the old days. I remember my first sail in a competitive Solo was in 1992
after flunking in the 470 trials in Anzio. I was a fairly frustrated crew - and I imagine not the ideal size at 5'8" tall to be the leverage to create much in the way of super speed either, but I was fairly good at spotting the odd wind shift. In fact we won the first race of the trials when we took a huge ladder on the left of the last beat. Ian Walker remarked that it was a fluke at the time.
However, a failure in the 470 I was - but I was still an avid Europe sailor and I was itching to get back in a single hander and take the controls. I cannot recall how I managed to wangle the loan of a nice wooden boat with a needlespar mast for the Nationals. I remember the kind chap that loaned it to me had hurt his arm the week before and had decided at the last minute to offer the boat to me. Full of excitement at an event that I could right the demons of the 470 trails - I was off to the South West to race in the Solo Nationals.
In those days I was about 72Kg. About right for the front of a 470 - if not a little short. But when I raced the Solo in the breeze, I was no match for the 'big-uns' in the fleet to windward - but I do remember terrorising them downwind. I know many readers might scoff at the Solo - and how slow it is upwind - but I imagine that its slowness downwind also makes for big gains if you have some single handed 'transition style' techniques. I used to round the first mark in the late teens but my downwind speed put me in the first few at the finish. After a reasonably consistent week I came away as the runner up to Geoff Carveth - a legend in the Solo.
Last year at the Solo Nationals I was a rather happy 77Kg perhaps 78Kg. The load path rig that Rooster had developed was magic. I was competitive upwind and downwind. The upwind slog was long gone - and the D+ was also a magic
section that meant every option was possible from Vanging upwind to using the mainsheet and traveller. Second again to another more modern legend.
During the winter months I opted for a slightly more healthily diet (less of the ice cream) to ensure that I could remain racing my Rooster 4000 on rack 5 and I have now managed to weigh in at 73Kg. So with my jeans held up with a belt, I drove to the Chichester Solo Open to race my beer Solo in a forecast of 20 plus knots for the day. It was not surprising that I found myself remembering those times at those Solo Nationals back in 1992. I was expecting to find myself trying to cling onto the big boys upwind - and use those downwind skills to perhaps sneak the odd win.
Yet again I was shocked to find the Rooster Loadpath
rig - even with the D+ was easy to depower and more than effective to windward. Loads of kicker with cuningham - and play the mainsheet and I was able to sail underneath some of the 'big- uns' - and come out the other side.
Clean sweep of wins - and I was only 73Kg. Its remarkable how the Loadpath rig has really brought controllable sailing to a boat that was a beast 20 years ago.
To add some extra cheery on the top - after suggesting that Martin Fray took the boat to the Solo Southerns - with perhaps a little more shroud tension as he has another 8Kg on me - he goes and wins it too. Well done mate!
If anyone would like to discuss a load path option on their mast - please do not hesitate to ask for advice - please email me in the first instance to steve 'at' roostersailing dot com.