What’s sailing all about?

James CloseUncategorised

I’ve had a busy few days working on fortissimo, our new class 40. Antifouling a 40ft hull that is 4.5m wide takes a bit of time and gives you chance to reflect. Cleaning and painting boats reminds me of the other boats I have owned or been involved with, fortissimo is definitely trumping them all and is the culmination of a progression through sailing that has now become a way of life.

My first sailing experience was when my Dad brought a Mirror dinghy that we sailed in Portsmouth harbour. We had no idea what we were doing, but liked it. Joining Portchester Sailing Club seemed like a good idea and it was. We were soon racing, and learning what to do from the others.

Next was the wayfarer, this was a much bigger dinghy, 16 foot and we happily cruised her and raced. The bit we most enjoyed though was setting the spinaker and heading off on a reach trying to get the boat to plane. A planing Wayfarer is quite an event with spray shooting out and the whole boat humming, the rudder becomes extremely sensitive and your senses are on edge reacting to every gust and wave to keep all in balance. Working together, crew and helmsman and the boat, all sharing a moment that is hard to describe to people, you just have to see for yourself and then you’ll know the excitement of being on the edge of control at the mercy of unpredictable wind. We liked this a lot, so we got an RS400.

The RS400 is a classic racing dinghy designed by Phil Morrison, loosely developed from a merlin rocket but with an asymmetric spinaker. This could plane more easily and was fantastic. Again we were probably a bit out of our depth but learning how to sail her was very exciting.

The first boat I owned myself was a laser, and again the most fun for me was the exhilaration of planing on a beam reach. We brought the boat from an old farm, it had been kept in a chicken shed for 10 years. You can imagine the state she was in, but there is something special about cleaning a boat, bringing them back to life so you can enjoy the pleasure of sailing them. Each boat has a character, and as you clean them you learn all the details of how they work, they are aesthetic objects and cleaning them helps you appreciate the lines and beauty of the vessel. You can begin to understand what the designer was thinking.

I love boats, I like learning about them, drawing them, cleaning them and sailing them, finding out their character and then trying to sail them in way they like that makes them go faster. Fortissimo is the ultimate boat that takes the thrilling sensations of dinghy sailing out on to the open sea. I hope to take as many people out on her as possible to discover that magical feeling when the crew working together operate the boat to harness the power of the wind. That is what sailing is about. Of course there is cruising which is lovely, but sometimes the sailing is secondary to relaxing and enjoying the views. It’s a bit like going for a drive in a Rolls Royce or a Ferrari. If you want to experience driving you choose the Ferrari.