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Below you will see some of our blog posts. To see any older posts, hit the "previous" link, and to see any newer posts, hit "next".

Mon 27

JUL 2009

Fun and frolics at Plas Menai

We've just come back from a weekend at Plas Menai sailing centre in Wales, brushing up on our seamanship skills.

Situated on the Menai Straights next to Anglesey, Plas Menai is the National Sailing Centre in Wales. Sailing there gives you a good feeling for how tides affect you when you're sailing. We went up to brush up on our seamanship skills on their Improving Techniques course.

Thanks to Jo for a good weekend in testing conditions, Force 3 and building on Saturday, sailing in Laser Stratos and Laser 2000s, covering things such as man overboard, coming alongside and rudderless sailing, Sunday's weather went south, starting out raining with Force 5 winds and building.

Expect some articles on seamanship skills soon!

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Fri 17

JUL 2009

Topper PDF Rigging Guide

We've just finished and put live our first printable PDF rigging guide, for the Topper dinghy. If you've ever tried to print out our rigging guides before you might have realised they're not easy to print!

The printable rigging guide has the same content and photos as the website version, but it's all laid out in a nice printable format. We've got more coming up soon, and hopefully some new rigging guides, and some more downloadable content and resources. If there's any interest, we may also start selling printed out colour versions of these guides (for a very small cost to cover the colour printing).

Download the printable Topper Rigging Guide. If you cannot view it, you need to download Adobe Reader.

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Thu 21

MAY 2009

Neilson Teos Part 3

Check out the low down on our final few days at Teos with Neilson. Catamarans, Lasers, water-skiing, Laser SB3 races and collisions...

On Thursday it was time for a change - instead of being on the water, I decided to get in it, and try my hand at water-skiing (Bec opted to sit this one out in the relative dryness of the powerboat, with the camera). They have two water ski boats there, one with a bar on for beginners. After adjusting to the still chilly water (it's only May and not really warmed up yet, but still warmer than back in Blighty), I managed to get up on the bar for both attempts, then switched to the rope. I couldn't stay up as long on this (as you are dealing with a lot more of a choppy wake rather than the relative flat water on the bar), but managed to stay up for a few seconds, twice. After a couple of face fulls of water, I decided enough was enough, and I had successfully knocked that item off my list.

Next, we were planning to go sailing on the Laser Bahia, but it turned out the cat clinic was running 6 hour earlier than I thought. Becky decided to take out a Laser (one of her previous bad experiences on a cat is well documented in our Bala post from this time last year), and I went on the cat clinic, going out with another guest. It was pretty good, with a nice gentle breeze, enough to get the windward hull flying a few times. Unfortunately, the instructor running the session was insistent on taking our 3 darts into the middle of a massive stretch of water and playing follow the leader with a powerboat as slow as we could go, and then tight circles around a power boat, and then gybing on the whistle. I'll admit it got our skills up pretty well to scratch (and your's truly apparently did some "brilliant" tight turns around the powerboat), we didn't really get to open them up as much as I'd like to have (guess that'll have to wait until we get on the Prindle 19 this weekend at Bala).

Eventually we went in for lunch, just in time for a massive thunderstorm to arrive over our sailing area. Sailing was cancelled, the beach was closed, and there was talk of evacuating the SB3s to a nearby marina (I say nearby, it would take 20 minutes to sail them round), but fortunately it passed quickly. We planned to do the SB3 racing again, but that got cancelled, so one of the senior instructors "volunteered" one of the windsurf instructors who needed to brush up his sailing to go out on a Dart with me. It wasn't quite as good fun, as we decided to reef it for safety when it didn't really need it, but it was still good - I even managed to teach him how to sail a catamaran, despite only learning myself the day before! That evening - BBQ (paying £20 each for the same food we were getting in the restaurant inclusive, oh well), then some beach games (first week of the season, they need some improvement), and then an early night.

Our last full day we awoke to pretty good conditions - a nice light gentle breeze, giving very flat water, no chop, and perfect conditions for a go in the Bahias. We took it out, sailing back and forth in the bay, and after plenty of complaining from me, had a go with the spinnaker. This was going well until we tried to drop it (not realising it was on the wrong side), and after four attempts sailed past the view of the tower and had a powerboat chasing after us (oops!). After that, we went out for a brief sail in two Laser Radials (I managed to not capsize this time).

After lunch, it was time for the first Teos regatta. Basically, you choose a boat, put your name down for it, then race it. We chose the Laser Bahia. They split the start, and had double handers first, then single handers, unfortunately all crowding the start at the same time. I helmed, with a pretty poor start, 20 seconds after the whistle before we hit the line. We got pretty much everything else perfect, and came second out of three Bahias.

Next came the event everyone had been waiting for - the final of the Laser SB3 race. The three instructors had been chosen for the three boats taking part, and one instructor had spent an hour and a half fine tuning the rig on his boat. We couldn't have Nick from the previous race as he was running the race, so we got a guy called Ali, who was pretty cool and had already won a race that week, with another guest in our boat. We started off with the other guest (let's call him TOG) helming. We had an average start, for a similar course to the regatta, just much larger, and three laps. The other two boats tacked pretty quickly off the start line, but we carried on, and ended up at the windward mark in second place - although at this point, the lead boat decided to bear away and head off downwind the wrong way, so we ended up in the lead. After the gybe mark we were in the lead, although the other two boats were catching slightly.

Lets timeout for a second. The Laser SB3s are a wonderful boat, 18 feet long, with a lead keel. They have a huge sail (and boom, which knocked a couple of people out of the boats that week), and quite a few sail controls. We were cranking on and off everything we could on each leg and trimming the boat as perfect as we could - and so was everyone else. The boats were amazingly well matched for speed, which meant the race came down to tactics, just as it should!

Back in the race, we decided to tack after the start line this time, but not until we'd sailed off a bit, against my advice. We arrived at the windward mark now in last place, not helped by TOG insisting on oversheeting the sails every few minutes, until we were nearly close hauled on a downwind leg. At this point we swapped on the helm, me taking over, and Becky happy on the jib. We followed the two boats down past the gybe mark, and on the last downwind leg of the second of three laps... and were well back enough (but close enough) to see the first Laser SB3 collision of the season as the two lead boats went through the start line, just brushed each other, but bounced an inflatable rib a few feet. We scooted around the outside of the one boat as it did a penalty turn, and tacked immediately, only to have it follow us, and hide us in it's wind shadow. We arrived at the windward mark in second place (third place was pretty well clear behind us), and started the downwind leg, trimming like crazy, but not gaining any ground.

However, the lead boat didn't take the best course to the gybe mark, and we managed to sneak up their inside around the gybe mark. On the last downwind leg, we were literally inches away (about 18), with them trying to force us off our course as windward boat. This cat and mouse continued for a few minutes (the wind had dropped a little now), until the third boat came along.

At this point, for some unknown reason the instructors in all three boats decided that the last leg was a straight race to the finish line, without going around the left of the committee boat. We were flanked on either side by SB3s, both pretty close, until the left hand side one bore away to the right hand side and suddenly we were the outside boat. It was neck and neck down to the line, so unbelievably close, and had it been a straight race to the finish, we would have lost by inches.

However, about 60, maybe 70 feet from the finish, the race OD noticed three SB3s bearing straight down on him, and started shouting at us to head around the committee boat, so naturally the other two boats started bearing away towards us, and with us on the outside, we'd have to give water! At this point, TOG in our boat, an apparently very experienced racer, shouted at me to bear away and go around the outside of them - we would have come last.

I took one look at the other two boats gliding through to the right of us, another look at how close the committee boat was, thought "sod that", and headed behind them, with inches to spare, screamed to sheet in everything, and we glided across the finish line, no more than 6 inches in front of the next boat, winning the race! What a fantastic result, it couldn't have been better!!!

That night, we had another great meal, and the prize ceremony which dragged on a bit, where people were awarded their qualifications for the week, and Becky got an award for christening the mountain bike accident book. We didn't stay up too late, because we had plans for the next day, although we did visit the newly opened Moonlight bar, which that night appeared to be the staff bar, as they were the only ones in it...

Getting up (relatively) early and packing everything before breakfast, we headed down to the beach. No messing around today - straight into a Laser Bahia. There was a nice breeze, a bit stronger than the day before but only Force 2/3. The sun was beating down, about 20 degrees, pretty flat water - damn near the best sailing conditions I've ever been in. Leaving the spinnaker well alone, we had well over an hour on the water, hiking hard, getting some great photos.

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. We went in, had a quick kayak, and then tried to find someone to go on a Dart with me - with no luck. We cleaned up before lunch, then decided to spend the afternoon by the pool. We wished we'd gone sailing more, it was absolutely perfect all day.

We left for the airport about 6 - and a few words of warning to anyone going through Izmir airport. They are fanatic about baggage allowance - one family got charged over £130 for being over weight. Also, get something to eat before you go, as there's a crappy little bar, and a crappy little Burger King who don't understand any English, and duty free is an unbelievable rip off. Finally, if you go to Teos, try to book the Manchester departure instead of Gatwick, as the flights are both around lunchtime, not both landing near midnight.

What a fantastic holiday - great kit (some did break, but that was more to do with the wind strength we had), a great place, great staff, we'd definitely go back again. A great resort, with some great staff and some great kit (if they haven't broken it already by now), and is well recommended. Thanks Neilson!!!

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