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Saturday saw the first day of the Grafham Water annual catamaran regatta, which was attended by a couple of hundred teams, across classes as diverse as the single handed Dart sprint 15 through to the NACRA N20 twin wire beast, this year as a special support for the sailors Towergate Mardon in combination with Hugh Styles of TIME ON THE WATER and NACRA provided a free coaching session for sailors at the event.

With catamaran sailing in the fore front of the sailing press at the moment now that the next Americas Cup will be raced in AC45 and AC72 catamarans, there was a real buzz at the event and the sailors jumped at the chance to get some coaching help and an opportunity to improve skills through accessing the free coaching.

The day saw a mix of conditions, but with a biting northerly wind, the wind chill signified the onset of the winter. But this didn’t dampen spirits and the gust and shifty wind was unpredictable to say the least. This made it tricky for the race officer to lay an even course and for the sailors to be able to decipher the shifts until many of them had come back to the beach and discussed it at length in the bar.

The schedule for the Saturday and Sunday was three races and TIME ON THE WATER coach Hugh was on the water observing and taking video of opportunities for teams to improve performance. This was then debriefed shore with both individual and group debriefs and a number of Q&A sessions.

The evenings debrief in the Grafham Water Sailing club, the focus of the session being in two parts:
Tactical and strategic positioning on the race course relative to the course axis and the gust and wind shifts
Mark rounding processes and how to create better tactical options by improving mark rounding smoothness.

Point 1. Was eagerly discussed by the participants, and with some simple rules of thumb provided by Hugh the sailors broke down the scenarios they had experienced and generated game plans for the how they would attack the race course the following day. The biggest hurdle most sailors felt was dealing with traffic and keeping options open to be able to sail their race strategy.

Point 2. Most teams were pushing too late with their spinnakers up too close to the leeward marks to be able to make a good mark rounding exit. Using Video analysis the sailors were able to see exactly how far in advance of the mark a good rounding should start. This was then used to improve routines with a more accurate assessment of the time and distance approach to the marks. Conversely at the windward marks teams found that there were many more options open to them than just following the boats in front, the focus of clear air and keeping in the gusts was highlighted as the priorities going forward.

The opportunity for the future of catamaran sailing is bright at the moment with the added benefit of the Americas Cup 34 in catamarans. In order to support this TIME ON THE WATER is running coaching sessions in catamarans as well as monohull’s during the winter months to help raise the level of skill in the UK fleets across the board, if you are keen and want to fast track your sailing please contact Hugh Styles on email Hugh@timeonthewater.co.uk.

Many thanks to Towergate Mardon and NACRA who made the coaching session possible, but also to Grafham Sailing club and Paul Wakeline for helping make the day a resounding success. Thanks also to Magic Marine for the clothing support for the coaching team.