It’s been Merry Christmas! And the New Year is almost upon us, I am a big fan of this time of year for many reasons. Although my parents have deserted me, to visit their favourite offspring over in New Zealand, I have enjoyed seeing my other relatives with lots festive eating and drinking. This time of year for me is a great opportunity to evaluate how much has actually happened. If I would to write everything I have learnt since September it would become an intense and boring list, so I am going to write down my top FIVE lessons, not in order and perhaps not totally serious.
Pretty early on into my training I learnt a very important lesson through a method that isn’t taught in schools, I think. Before switching on the engine that starts a propeller turning very fast you should make sure there is nothing lying around ready to get sucked into said propeller. The result of which can stop the engine and leave you drifting around like a useless sailboat. Although it was only the end of October diving underwater to untangle the end of a forgotten sheet in your underwear was a horribly numbing experience. This cemented a few lessons into my memory like this next one:
Keep your boat tidy. For a relatively small racing boat we have a large amount of rope on board that like IPod headphones, or any other music headphone, can tangle in an instant. So keeping the boat tidier than I keep my room can actually help avoid major problems, not only prevent ropes being caught around your prop.
In the last few months I have made two trips from Cowes to Lorient which covers a few hundred miles of water. This taught me that a hundred miles in a yacht is a very long way and when not racing can become boring when you’re alone on deck. You can make games in your head and make sure you’re not going to crash into any ships but the miles to the end still ticks down slower than the seconds in a fitness test. Good encouragement to go faster.
So when you’re sailing hundreds of miles the autopilot (Jarvis) becomes very helpful to keep you on course. When racing solo, Jarvis will become faster at sailing the boat than me, as I become tired and distracted he will always steer straight, as long as I have him programmed correctly and look after him. Unfortunately on the last channel crossing he was misbehaving which made it basically impossible to get anything done without leaving the helm. After reading through the manual in Lorient and getting a technician on board the solution was actually very simple. The Autopilot computer works of a gyro sensor which needs to be the right way up, it was upside down somehow. So now Jarvis is back on the right team. The lesson learnt? The Autopilot is very important.
Lesson five is a good one for life in general, don’t break anything. Racing over the length of a few days out on the rough seas opens up many possibilities for things to break and cause huge problems. Looking after the boat by not hitting rocks, looking after the sails by not ripping them on sharp things and protecting the engine and electrics is a very worthwhile process. I will age a lot slower and get round the race course a lot faster if I don’t break anything. Also Joan the fleet captain won’t shout at me.
If you get this far you’ll see I have learnt a lot in 2015 so now I can implement them to a hopefully successful 2016. Happy New Year.