Solo sailing conference a success

Many topics covered at last weekend's gathering at the Royal Southampton YC reports Jerry Freeman

Tuesday March 20th 2007, Author: Jerry Freeman, Location: United Kingdom
The first Solo Sailing Conference at Southampton was a sell out as single-handed race enthusiasts from nine nations gathered for a packed programme of presentations by designers, builders, skippers, sailmakers and race organisers.

Class 40 was the hot topic with detailed studies of two contrasting designs, the Express40 presented by builder Paul Metcalf and the Simon Rogers 40 by James Day. Both craft are in build and delegates will be able to compare the two in the flesh at next year's conference.

Race skipper Ian Munslow was the star of the show with a riveting account of his splendid third place in the Route du Rhum sailing the Owen Clarke designed, Jazz Marine SA built Bolands Mill. Ian had generously flown in from Stockholm where he is building the next generation Volvo Ericsson twins. Ian's own boat was the first non-Pogo 40 to be measured and it caused such a flurry in the class establishment that they had to change the box rule in retrospect, Graeme Sutherland led the skippers through the nitty gritty of the new design rules, some designs have had to be altered in the mould!

Solo race organisers dominated the middle session with presentations by Paul Peggs on the RIOW Solo, to be held this year on 28 April followed by the Petit Bateau Solo race to Ireland on 14 July.

The new Mini Fastnet from Plymouth, June, was presented by James Tingle of the UK Mini Class Association this is a ground breaking co-production between RWYC and the French classe Mini, largely bought about by James' efforts and the massive over subscription of Mini races in France.

Jester Challenge winner Eric Andlauer's plans to practice his English were scuppered by the closure of the Channel Tunnel. OSTAR 2009 was enthusiastically promoted by three veterans of the race which happily coincided with the opening of the entry list for the classic RWYC event. Jerry Freeman analysed the appalling attrition of the Open 40 class in the 2005 race when only one of eight starters managed to complete the course. Charles Allen (2000) dissected the Notice of Race 2009 for 'gotchas' and Stuart MacDonald,second in class in 2000, shared a taste of the horrors of the race with his video nasty. OSTAR 2005 veterans Steve White, Lia Ditton, Huib Swets and Bart Boosman added their support in an audience comprising many potential Ostar competitors who plan to enter via Petit Bateau's 1200 miles official qualifying race in 2008.

One design ocean race boats with powerful rigs were the subject of Charles Bertrand's talk on the exciting new Class 9.50. The young designer presented his vision for the FoX 950 which forms the perfect bridge between Mini 6.50 and Class 40. Dutch designer Dick Koopmans countered with his IRC optimised VQ32 of which three have already been ordered and which complies with the 950 box rule. Water ballast is a vital ingredient of speed in all the classes discussed but sail power is the key to high performance.

Peter Kay, owner of the Quantum Sails loft in Hamble, guided the delegates through the decisions that control shape, speed, durability and trim.The offshore solo race boat places unique demands on the sailmakers art and Peter's slides of wind tunnel testing of sailplans held the audience's attention to the end of a very long and informative day, emergency re-hydration was performed in the bar at the excellent Royal Southampton Yacht Club .

The diversity of age and back ground in the solo race world was underlined with student and conference organiser Katie Miller , 'Young Sailor of the Year' sharing a joke with Desmond Hampton veteran of the BOC Challenge around the world race in 1972 when he sailed Gypsy Moth to discover Gabbro Island In Australia. Solo sailors need no excuse to party and the social networking was as valuable as the formal presentations, while in the marina Steve White's Open 60 was open for all to drool over and Rob Craigie had his brand new J/122 on show for the first time afloat in the UK.

The conference was organised by Racing at Petit Bateau Ltd, source of all things innovative in solo sailing in the UK with the support of bluQube, thedailysail.com, Quantum Sails, Express40, Raymarine and Offshore Rigging systems. Special thanks go to Royal Southampton Yacht Club for opening their splendid club for the conference and to Jacki Peters and Kathy Smalley for their generous assistance. The 2008 Solo Sailing Conference will be bigger and better.

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