On Saturday 10th October, Tesni King and Izzy Smith went down to Windsport International in Falmouth for a coaching session with ex Olympian Tom Phipps.

We spent time at the beginning of the day discussing and identifying our aims; since we both race regularly on Hurricane’s we were both interested in developing our sailing techniques and being able to apply them to racing to ultimately make us go faster and win!

After agreeing on focusing first on gaining speed upwind and downwind, we rigged and got out onto the water. We were sailing a Topaz 16 which is a small catamaran, ideal for us in the strong wind and gusty conditions that we had.  Once on the water we did a bit of follow the leader, where we followed Tom, on the rib, and tried to get as close as possible without hitting him, adjusting boat speed by playing the sails as well as swerving where necessary.

Next we focused on upwind sailing, practising sailing close to the wind and controlling the boat during gusts (by letting the main sail out and heading up slightly). During this exercise we began to work as a team really well, quickly learning how much each of us would react to the gusts; for example, Izzy knew how much Tesni would head up and therefore how much main to let out and vice versa.  We also worked on our tacking and how to get in off the wire and back out on the other side efficiently, remembering to shorten our trapeze wires to come in and lengthen them again once we get going to provide more leverage. Throughout the course of the day we improved massively and by the end our tacks had got a lot quicker.

Then obviously once we were upwind we had to come back downwind, as we were focusing more on upwind in the morning we didn’t spend too long talking about downwind sailing to start with. However, we had one eventful leg where we were going downwind with Izzy out on the wire in the back foot-strap before one of our rudders came up which meant Tesni couldn’t control the steering anymore. This makes it very difficult to keep the boat upright and we soon got a gust which sent Tesni sliding down the trampoline and Izzy belly-flopping into the water beside her - apparently it was amusing to watch and no damage was done so all was good!

After lunch we worked on downwind sailing, focusing on flying the hull and gybing quickly. We soon got more confident and managed to fly the hull more. Our gybing also got quicker, with Izzy becoming used to coming off the wire onto her feet, then ducking under the boom before going straight back out on the wire on the other side. We were making huge progress until we gybed and went to pull the spinnaker around but found that the halyard had snapped and that we were now running over the kite, but we managed to get it in before heading in for a debriefing.

Unfortunately we did not have time to apply our skills to a race scenario but hopefully we will be able to arrange another session with Tom to focus more specifically on racing, but for now, or as soon as COVID permits us to sail again, Tesni and Izzy plan to sail together more so that we can build up our teamwork and skills, apply them to a race and eventually win!

We would like to say a massive thank you to the Exe Regatta Fund and Starcross YC club for funding support. We both had an amazing time and learnt so much.  Also thank you to Tom Phipps for coaching us and spending a whole day out on the water with us, we really appreciated it. And finally thanks to both our parents for driving us to and from Falmouth, maybe soon we can drive ourselves !