Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The Sailing Challenge: Training - In The Drink

I live by the Thames estuary as it heads lazily out past the delights of Southend-on-Sea and into the North Sea, so you'd think I'd find it easy to start The Sailing Challenge...

Some two whole years into The Everyman Olympics, I finally found me a coach.

Thanks more to my relationship than to any close connection to open water, and more precisely thanks to the helpful intervention of my missus grandpa Len - thanks Len!

For you see despite a number of enquiries I'd made (at one point leading me to think I'd have to forfeit the use of a proper Olympic-type vessel), it took the good nature of Len and the positive reaction of one very excellent sailor in Mark Taylor to bring about one particularly expensive, overcast morning in southern England...

Just twenty minutes inside of entering Chichester, I'd met up with Coach Taylor, driven to two shops and found myself driving behind a trailered boat while wearing a skin-tight rubber suit and nearly £250 lighter.

Weebles wobble but they can't fall down
Now some of you may think: Why is he in a wetsuit for sailing? Well the simple answer is that the shop attendant and Mark felt this would be my best investment as unlike with a dry suit, I could wear this for The Triathlon Challenge too. It may be a good investment, it's not my best look.
By 9:30am one Saturday in early February I was stood on a stony beach trying to get my hands into some rubber gloves, while keeping out of the way as Coach Taylor set up the laser; an Olympic category of small sailing boat.

Coach Taylor setting up his own power boat, from which he would guide me.
I was instructed to sit in the one-man laser, holding the tiller and the sheet in a particular way - this would gently take me out towards deeper waters while Mark started his motor boat which he would follow in and guide me from. The motor boat didn't start straight away and by the time Coach Taylor caught up with me I was already in capsized in the water some 80 yards away.

'Well that covers my first lesson then...capsizing' - Coach Taylor

This first session I spent more time in the drink than on the boat, thankfully my wetsuit kept me buoyant, though it it didn't seem to keep me dry - I was joined in my rubber get-up by a few pints of cold seawater, but the ear-to-ear grin showed I wasn't complaining.

Coach Taylor & The Everyman Olympian - note how dry he looks!
As the sun finally showed it's smirky yellow face we packed away, and Mark noticed that somehow I broken a small piece of plastic which essentially had caused me to have a harder time of keeping the darn laser afloat. So maybe there was hope for me yet.

I've since had a few more lessons and been joined in the boat by Coach Taylor. We've managed to stay pretty dry funnily enough. This weekend I'm looking forward to getting out on his yacht for some training on how to better read and maximise the window, and just to show how dedicated I am - I'll be missing the mighty Chelsea against Liverpool in the FA Cup Final...come on you Blues!!

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