British Police at the D-One National and European Championships, 2014

Once again, Simon Hawkes represented the British Police in a National Dinghy Regatta having won the PSUK Singlehanded Sailing Championship the previous year.

.This time sailing his Devoti D-one.

D-One National and European Championships.
at Brightlingsea on 27th - 29th June, 2014

Having sailed the Finn over the winter with the full intention of staying in the class and hopefully racing in Europe, I made the mistake of going to Weymouth and trying a D-One for a bit of fun. For those that have not seen one it is a single hander with an unstayed fully battened rig of 11.5m2 and a 13.5m2 asymmetric spinnaker. It is mostly carbon fibre and has wings that extend out over the sides to assist righting moment. There are quite a few similarities to the Finn as the carbon wing mast is fully rotating and requires mainsheet tension to create an efficient sail shape.

It took me ten minutes to decide the boat was for me and I would purchase one. Suntouched Sailboats took my order and as part of the deal kindly loaned me a demonstration boat until mine was delivered.

This enabled me to enter the Nationals /Europeans at Brightlingsea. I had never visited there before and had sailed the D-One only twice, so it was clearly going to be a steep learning curve.

With financial assistance generously given PSUK my son and I made the long trip and camped on the Thursday night.

I was unable to attend the training day but started with the other 22 boats on the Friday morning. The boat was quite a handful, providing blistering downwind speed with comfort and refinement on other legs.

Things that were new to me were:- windward leeward courses which I had never previously done, and starting to get to know what made the boat go. The other competitors were very helpful and offered advice as and when it was sought. Thankfully Nick Craig was on hand and gave me the most relevant settings.

Race One arrived on a lovely morning with a shifty force 2. Went surprisingly well coming mid fleet and going up and down in the fleet as I got some bits wrong and some occasionally right. Upwind was OK but I could not get the angles downwind and had to watch others to try and figure things out.

Race Two was a force 4 with wind against tide which was lumpy and awkward for a novice to hoist and drop the kite as it felt quite unstable. I was leaving the traveller too loose and going fast but not pointing. In the Finn this worked but not in the D1. The D1 needs stuffing to windward almost to the point where it trips over itself. As the sail shape is created by mainsheet tension, letting the sail go via the mainsheet in a gust is a last resort and you steer hard through the gusts. If you release the mainsheet, for the initial part it would actually make the sail more full causing problems until you had let out an armful of sheet. Hence this could be very tiring.

Gybing was now becoming interesting and I knew this was going to be an issue over the next few days although I survived this race with a respectable 6th.

Day two dawned and a nice steady force 2.

Every race seemed to bring a different problem, whether starting, which route to take, and then the handling problems in the vicinity of other boats. It made me realise how comfortable you become in a class you know and your boat handling and expectations of how it reacts become second nature.

10th in the first race which was OK and then the rain came. It actually became quite cold and energy sapping as we waited for the wind to settle and the next races to start some time later.

The second race of the day followed a similar pattern only this time I managed to tip it in on the downwind which was a shame as I was towards the front for a change. This did not only happen to me though, and it makes you feel a little better when you realise you are not the only one struggling with problems. This led to an 11th.

The wind started to build for the last race of the day and the sea came up. I wanted the pin end of the line and the wind changed in the last second. I had to gybe round as I could not clear it. That left me firmly last as I crossed the line.

One of those strange times when you switch off to everyone else as they are with the group and decide to follow your own route working the shifts with your compass. Head down and working hard, not really looking at anyone else or their progress as you drive upwind.

I was mindful not to take a flyer as I knew I could regain some places but just sailed conservatively in the shifts. Approaching the port lay line as most had gone off that side I made a judgement as to where I was going to fit in at the mark.

To my surprise and everyone else's I was first and somewhat shocked. Nothing dramatic had occurred that I had seen. Just for once after the dreadful start I had got every shift right!

Now what? Oh no! I'm in front! I am in the best position of the series and faced with a whole new set of tactical issues I had not considered as I never expected it. Kite went up and I think I will sail conservatively again. Don’t bang corners and watch everyone else.

It’s windy now and every bit of concentration is on not tipping it in. Keep gybes to a reasonable minimum and get to the bottom. I expected to lose a couple of places as those that know me realise I am not a featherweight. Nick Craig and the Polish sailor do get past but I know I will go well up the next beat and I have developed a bit of a buffer from the crowd. Sure enough, 3rd at the top mark and downwind we go again.

At the top mark I take an early gybe to stay towards the middle, not taking risks. Would you believe it….a huge gust comes from the right and the left and every boat in the fleet goes out to one side or the other.

I am left sat in the middle of the course watching boats zipping past half a mile either side of me and I am barely moving! I get to the bottom, the course is shortened and I am second to last! I could not believe it. Never have I been in a boat that can crush you so whole heartedly. The phrase ‘ from hero to zero ‘ had never been better applied to 17th.

In we go and a fun evening with sponsored food and drink. The ex-Phantomers start taking the mickey about taking over the class which is becoming evident). Aching a bit and being ribbed by everyone about my sons starting being so much better than mine in his Laser Radial. There was a Laser Open at the same time so he had come along. Overall he performed much better than me…grrrrrrr)

Day three and two more races. Swimming again in the first race was not a good plan and put me down to 13th and the wind moderated in the last race. This was good as I could apply more of what I had learned over the event and I felt I was able to start competing properly and tactically. This netted a 5th with which I was quite pleased as it was still a challenging race.

Overall I was tenth. Happy for a first outing and loads learnt. So many training items to concentrate on and so many strokes to improve! I was awarded the 1st Grand Masters prize which made up for all the swimming and the front to back race.

Then they realised they had got it wrong and I was 2nd Grand master and they took the champagne back!