Archive for May, 2011

Couples on the water

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Sailing downwindIf you’re an experienced sailor and you’re in a relationship with someone who doesn’t know, but wants to learn, the ropes, your best option is to book them in to a series of courses at a sailing school. Why? Because there will be fewer disagreements on your boat and they will not pick up your bad habits!

If you need help in selecting such a course, you may want to read my article, How to Find a Good Sailing School – 10 Questions You Should Ask 

If you plan to take off on an extended cruise, you really need to be sure that your other half has received sound training and, hopefully, picked up some qualifications along the way.

For example, when navigating a passage. If your partner becomes skilled on the helm, you will be able to go below and check the charts, update your position and make any corrections to the course, knowing that the boat is in safe hands.

The level of skills you should share also depends on whether you carry crew. If there are just the two of you, the ideal is for you to have equal skills, particularly if you plan on ocean travel.

So, the basic rule should be, the fewer of you and the further you go, the more you need to know.

No one would want to be left in tragic circumstances in the middle of an ocean without the ability to get home alone.

Got something you’d like to add? Please leave a comment, below.

What makes a good skipper?

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Sir Robin Knox-JohnstonSir Robin Knox-Johnston, founder of the Clipper Round the World race had some wise words for the 10 men chosen as skippers for the 2011-12 race which starts on 31 July. He just about summed up the skills required of any serious offshore racing skipper, when he said:

Leading a team in a race around the world is one of the hardest and most challenging jobs that any skipper could ever undertake and we’re confident these 10 men are up to this challenge. They have all been through a lengthy and rigorous selection process and we have chosen a group of exceptional individuals as our race skippers. They have the ability to draw the line between competitiveness and safety while, at the same time, motivating the crew to retain their focus during races lasting several weeks at a time, whether it be through roaring gales and towering seas or the frustration of tricky calm spells.

Read more about the skippers and their crew on the Clipper Round the World website.

Howard Van Lieu Bloomfield

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Cruising has two pleasures. One is to go out in wider waters from a sheltered place. The other is to go into a sheltered place from wider waters.

Howard Van Lieu Bloomfield was born in 1900, graduated from Harvard in 1922 and died in 1998. His career was in journalism and he wrote several books including Sailing to the Sun (1946), Last Cruise of the Nightwatch (1956) and The Compact History of the United States Coast Guard (1966).

In the 1930s, when editor of the pulp magazine Adventure (published from 1910-1968) he was quoted as saying:

A good writer is never paid what he is worth.

And isn’t that the truth!

Who takes over? – Tip #8

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

OK, so we know from our last newsletter that the skipper is responsible.

But how would your crew fare if you fell overboard, had a heart attack or were knocked out by the boom? These are just three of many scenarios that would prevent you from controlling your yacht.

Firstly, don’t assume “It will never happen to me!” – that approach is asking for trouble. We know, first hand, that these things do happen. And, how your crew react may mean the difference between life and death – yours.

As skipper, you need to:

1. Have nominated a second in command, who will take charge of the boat and crew. Your choice probably will depend on the size of your crew. With a small crew, nominate one as mate – each time you sail. A large crew, split into watches, will have two watch captains. One of these will do.

2. Ensure you give that person plenty of opportunities to run the boat for you, including man overboard drills, mooring and coming alongside.

3. Encourage your crew members to undertake first aid training– and keep your qualification up to date.

4. Have more than one person qualified to use the radio, particularly if going offshore. Mobile phones may work but should not be relied on. In any case they can reach only the number you ring – not a wide audience.

5. Your deputy has to be more than somebody you trust – the crew has to trust them too.

In both The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship and our newsletters, we promote safety on the water.


1. Racing with a difference

In the last few weeks we’ve seen notices of races and sets of sailing instructions for several rather different events.

For example, the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club held the inaugural Hong Kong Nations’ Cup, contested by “anything from a Laser, through J80s and Hobies, up to Jelik” and catering for racers and cruisers.

But the fun is in the requirement that everybody on board had to be of the same nationality. However the rules governing ‘nationality’ are fairly broad, namely:

“A sailor qualifies as a national of a country if ANY of the following apply:
* The sailor was born in that country
* The sailor holds a valid passport of that country
* The sailor has the right of abode in that country (i.e., HK requires a Permanent HKID Card)
* The sailor has been normally resident in that country for at least 10 years at some stage in their life (for clarity, the 10 years need not be continuous)
* The sailor has represented that country at a major international event, for example the Olympics, the Rugby World Cup, the United Nations, or the Miss Universe pageant
* The sailor fluently speaks the language of that country
* The sailor can sing the national anthem of that country (in the native tongue)”

And the results? 58 boats competed, with 55 finishers. An English team led by Russ Parker won, from Jamie McWilliam (Ireland) and Warwick Downes (Australia) in a Flying Fifteen.

Other teams completing the course were from 17 different countries, while one of the boats that failed to finish claimed to represent Uranus. We wonder what his ‘passport’ was to race and under what flag!

Check out the whole story.

2. Old meets new

Before sailing from Sydney as skipper of HM Bark Endeavour, Captain Ross Mattson exchanged letters with NASA’s Space Shuttle Endeavour, Captain Mark E. Kelly. The latter wrote: “…We are proud that our Space Shuttle shares its name with your sailing vessel and all that it represents.”

Part of HM Bark Endeavour’s mission on her current circumnavigation is to promote the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships to be held in December. Ten Olympic class world titles will be contested, all of which are important qualifiers for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Endeavour has been chartered by the organisers of the Perth 2011 for 2-18 December. Event Director, John Langley is pleased to have her back in the West. He knows her well as he supervised her building in Fremantle in the early 1990s.

It will be quite a contrast between the go-fast modern skiffs and the sedate 18th century replica.

In their own words: GEORGE ELIOT

I would not creep along the coast but steer
Out in mid-sea, by guidance of the stars.

This couplet is sometimes, incorrectly, attributed to T.S. Eliot. The proof? It is the opening of chapter 44 of George Eliot’s Middlemarch.

George Eliot was the penname of Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880), who also wrote The Mill on the Floss and Silas Marner.