2014 was a strange year for me sailing wise. I have probably done less sailing this year than in any other year since I have owned my skiff with mountain biking, road biking and a house move taking a larger chunk out of my spare time than usual. I am also lighter than I have ever been at 70 kgs (73 kgs previously was not exactly on the heavy side!), and yet at the nationals I got my best result to date, 2nd. My aim beforehand was a top 10 result with a top 6 as an absolute dream... so I am still getting over the shock now, but with hindsight being the wonderful thing it is I think the extra curricular activities helped rather than hindered my performance...
Taking up mountain and road biking have been a great compliment to my sailing. I completed the Dragon Ride (138 miles up and down hills in Wales) in June which was the perfect way to get my fitness up to a decent level for the skiff. Mountain biking too has been a great help, again with the fitness, but also with the demands on core body strength. The other thing mountain biking adds, especially downhill, is that it presents similar situations to sailing the skiff downwind in breeze. One of the main rules of mountain biking is always look where you want to go (never at what you don't want to hit!) so basically always focus on the cleanest, smoothest exit just as you would when tacking, gybing or approaching a capsize strewn gybe mark or layline so you can pick your way safely through without submitting an insurance claim form.
In terms of my Rooster kit I have swapped my old Shin-Tech Long John for the more flexible Supertherm
and wore this with a Thermaflex Top
throughout the championship. There were a couple of light, warm races where this was almost too much and had we not been racing back to back I would have worn Pro Hikers
and a Thermaflex top (Pro Hikers are great without pads in the skiff due to the Kevlar reinforced knees). Gloves were the new Pro Race 2-Finger Cut
which have converted me back to 'proper' sailing gloves from Super Grip Gloves. I found that the Pro Race Gloves grip is perfect as it is almost as grippy as builders type gloves but with a bit of give that still lets the sheets slide through your fingers when necessary. On my feet are the Split Toe Boots
, the grip on these is by far the best of any boot I have tried which is absolutely ideal for the Skiff when the last thing you need is to have your feet washed off the rack upwind or to be scrambling round on your knees during manoeuvres. The 5mm single and double lined neoprene keeps you warm throughout the winter and your foot is locked in place with a velcro strap (Top Tip: Hot knife the tab off the end so the velcro fits flush and doesn't catch). Obviously a 1mm sole will not last forever, but for the grip and feel it provides on the hull and racks is a small price worth paying!
So what have I learnt from all this...well the main thing is to not feel too bad if you no longer have the time to live in your boat as there are other activities that can help your sailing. When I have a couple of hours free for sailing my sessions are now shorter, sharper and more focused, for example tacking every 30 seconds upwind and then gybing as often as possible down or very short courses to maximise mark rounding practice combined with lots of hoists and drops. My bike(s) will also be packed in the van so if the wind unexpectedly shuts down I can get to the bike park and a bit of downhill cornering practice will help to prepare me mentally for those 20+ knot gybes!
Hope that all helps in some small way and good luck for the rest of the season!