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Sabre Sailing Dinghy

Australia's most popular one design single handed class. The fun Single hander that is easy to sail but difficult to master.

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Report by Wayne Bates

What many consider the most important Sabre event for the year is now over. The South Australians produced a friendly and well run event with very few hiccups. Wayne Bates sailing Outabaloo was a worthy winner with Maree Early (Hello Buoys) a very good second pushing Wayne all the way and Fiona McCulloch sailing well to finish 3rd.

Apart from the fact that one of Team Chic’s members did not win the Title they had a most successful regatta and set a few new records. Stephanie Styring was the first lady ever (in 25 years) to win the junior title. Maree Early set a new record in winning the Ladies trophy for a 5th time. In fact she has never been beaten for this trophy whenever she has competed for it since first winning it at Paynesville in 1993. Finally, although I have not checked this, I suspect that this is the first time that 2 girls (Maree Early and Fiona McCullock) finished in the top 3 of a national title.

With all this success I thought it was worthwhile investigating the way they train and prepare for races. Confidence is not a problem with these girls as their slogan for this year was “Beware of Fast Woman”. What I discovered was a training routine that most of us males could not keep up. In short their technique was to shop hard and often. The night before Fiona went on to win the last heat she was shopping up a storm in Glenelg. In fact I believe they shopped at the clothes shops there more than once. We are well aware of their matching tops and pants but I am now informed that a number of them own matching rash vests. 

In the battle of the teams, Team Chic was clearly way ahead of Team BB although Team BB took home the major trophy. The rest of the team did not hold up. Team Disney (or Team Heuy, Dewey and Louie) are I believe breaking up as a result of their disappointment in their results. This is a pity as their t-shirts were one of the highlights of the series. Following below is my diary compiled during this series.

At last it has arrived – the opening of the series. After a briefing in which I must congratulate the organisers on the way they handled requests from the sailors – in particular the request for sign on and sign off sheets.

Invitation race - with 60 boats registered we were all a bit toey. It was nice to be greeted on the water by a comment from Bob saying it was nice to see someone of a decent size out their sailing (I hope this was a complement). After one general recall we were away on a code flag I start. Local sailor Fiona Wilcox led the way from a group containing Wayne Bates, Jamie Chivell and Maree Early. In the light 5 – 10 knot breeze the lead swapped a number of times and true to form the Hogwart Express put in her normal charge. Maree Early pulled out on the last jibe mark claiming illness (just because she was throwing up that morning was no excuse) when coming second. The race was won by John Gratton (well I guess that is the end of his series) from Wayne Bates with Robert Edwards third. Team Chic was fairly happy with their results as they showed some promise. Team Heuey Dewey and Louie however were not so happy. Team BB were all praying for more wind with their leader slapping his decks and chanting “ 30 knots, 30 knots”. It was noted that despite the frowns from some of her fellow members one member of Team Chic was seen participating willingly in the chant.

Peter Reid has been listening to those who advocate loose rigs at Black Rock. However when someone advocates a loose rig they should stress that it still needs to be tied up. Peter however forgot this minor requirement and had his mast fall down 300 meters before the finish. The rest of team Disney did not fare well and in the race that mattered in the over 100kg class I managed to beat Bob after several lead changes.

Back on the beach at the welcoming BBQ it was noted that Big Foot was about when Wicked Sister cut her foot. Wayne in true Bates fashion was coming up with some innovative rule changes (all of which for some reason worked in his favor). Team Chic were making plans for New Years Eve and all were waiting for the next day and the start of the real thing. In the fashion stakes on the welcoming evening Team Heuey, Dewey and Louie won the night with matching team T-shirts. Team Chic showed their lack of preparation wearing last years tops while Team BB were that disorganized they had no uniform at all.

Day three and the series starts for real today. Team Chic stung by the sartorial elegance of Team Disney turned up in their uniform for this series (purchased the day before). They even had caps with the team slogan for this year “Beware of Fast Women”. Their main concern before heading out for the race was the state of their nail polish on their toe nails. The race was held in 5 – 10 knot breeze with Wayne Bates leading from start to finish. Maree Early after a bad start was 8th at the first mark but managed to work through to second. Third was Daniel Rantanen.

Day four and heats 2 and 3. Team Chic must have been feeling really poorly about being outclassed by Team Disney (or is it just that they liked to shop). Today they turned up in new matching tops but all of a different colour. We all left the beach shortly after 9 am for the 10am start. The wind looked promising but soon was swinging and falling out to almost nothing. After a couple of hours of drifting around we were sent back to the beach. Over lunch the wind started to build and forecasts the club had indicated the possibility of 40 knot squalls. However the conditions looked sailable and after abandoning Heat 2 Heat 3 had to go on. In a wind of 20 knots the fleet launched led by Wayne Bates who had a huge smile at the breeze. A number of sailors decided on caution and stayed on the beach. The race started and Sean Hackett was in the lead at the first mark but was quickly overhauled on the first reach by Wayne Bates. Maree Early again was only 8th at the first mark but started to quickly pick up places to be third by the end of the triangle. By the run Wayne had a comfortable lead over Maree with the rest of the fleet following. At the last mark Wayne had a 44 second lead from Maree and the control tower after announcing the first 10 places said that the first 3 places should remain as called. However a big shift and some quick sailing saw Maree finish a few seconds ahead of Wayne to give each a win and a second place. Third again was Daniel Rantanen. Now for tomorrow with a forecast of 22 – 27 knots. Let us see what this will bring.

Back to the club again in the morning to try again to sail the abandoned Heat 2. We were greeted with winds averaging 30 knots and even Wayne and Sean did not pull their boats onto the beach or start to get ready to sail back inside the club. As one race officer put it there were only three problems. One the wind was above our limit, two they would not be able to launch the committee boat and three we would not be able launch our boats. The club on the basis of sea conditions and the forecast canceled for the day and with the next day being New Years day that gave us a day and a half to be tourists. Before we left we held the AGM and re-elected Maree Early as Secretary/Treasurer and Phillip Johnson as National Measurer. Fiona McCulloch as Victorian President became the National President. Well without Phillip Johnson we would have a complete domination of Team Chic. Team Chic were disappointing in their dress today and only managed to co-ordinate their pants and hats. As for the book they are running on New Years Eve – Andrew and I wish to read the form guide first.

Back to the club after New Years Day and we noted a change to sailing instructions to allow for back to back races. On the water for the morning race and we note that the new shorter course is called for. After a couple of practice starts in the 5 – 8 knot breeze we got underway with the committee using the black flag. The race followed normal form with Wayne leading form the start and Maree not in the top 10 at the first mark. Maree recovered to be third at the top mark the second time around with the Hogwart Express between her and Wayne. Maree rounded the last mark just behind Fiona and was able to get a small shift on the 100 meter beat. The finishing order was Wayne Bates first (again he led from start to finish) from Maree Early and third Fiona McCulloch.

We then sailed the second missed heat “back to back”. In this heat again Wayne Bates lead at the first mark form Fiona McCulloch and Maree Early. The three boats chased each other around for the next lap but finished in this order. We then went back to the beach for a well earned rest and some lunch.

To give us time to eat the club postponed the afternoon race and it got underway about an hour late. The wind had filled in to about 10 – 12 knots and promised more but never delivered. Maree Early lead form the first mark from Wayne Bates and these two very quickly established a significant lead on the rest of the fleet match racing each other. It looked like these two were sailing a different class. Maree held on to finish just ahead of Wayne with Dean Francis third. This result left the series slightly open and we packed up looking forwards to tomorrows racing which as for today could decide the title if Wayne wins just one more race.

The second last day and the regatta result is in the balance. If Wayne wins he wins the series, if Maree wins the series will be decided on the last heat. At the start both Wayne and Maree went for conservative starts at the boat end of the line. The two boats then match raced up the first work sailing up the wrong side of the course in the 5 – 10 knot breeze. Both boats rounded the first mark out of the top ten and started to make up ground with Maree ahead of Wayne where she had to be. As the wind filled in to 15 – 20 knots Wayne moved into the lead. Final results were Wayne Bates first, Sean Hackett second and …… third with Maree fourth. This meant that Wayne was the National Champion with Maree Runner up. But just before we left the club drama hit as the results were posted. Maree was listed as OCS and now had to finish in the top 15 to hold second place. A request for redress was immediately put in by Maree but this would not be held until after the last heat.

The last day and Wayne decided to sail. We left the club in a light offshore breeze but while in the starting sequence the wind shifted almost 180 degrees. The postponement was posted and after half an hour while the course was swung we finally started the race. Maree and Wayne were well back again but as the wind filled in to 10 knots moved to the front o9f the pack. The Hogwart Express (Fiona McCulloch) was up there all day and on the last work Wayne was leading from Fiona and Maree. Wayne picked up a bit of weed and this saw Fiona win (Her first titles win) from Wayne and Maree. After the race the redress hearing Maree was reinstated.

The final results overall were Wayne Bates first, Maree Early second and Fiona third. A good regatta was had by all.

Report by Wayne Bates (National Champion) 

Sailing at Brighton Seacliff brings fond memories to me as it was the place where I won my first Sabre National Title In 1984-85 when I was 17. I was 1st overall and 1st junior. I ventured back to Brighton Seacliff for the Nationals in 1992 and finished 2nd overall. My memories of those occasions are of moderate to strong breezes and big seas.

As the conditions mentioned suit me well I was keen to sail in the 2002-03 Nationals but the conditions were certainly not what I expected. Not only did I have to contend with the lack of expected wind but I found there was a necessity to go left; left even when you think you should go right.

The Nationals kicked off with the Invitation Race and there was certainly a lot to be learned from this. The breeze patterns gave an excellent indication of what was to come in the series. How I read it was: the “mean” or most common compass reading was generally as far right as you could get, then a slow clock to the left, hold for a short time then quickly back to the right (the “mean” heading) for a time before doing this all again.

This type of swinging breeze is not common for most of us. As a result, the time to tack when the breeze is swinging left is very important, so that you don’t sail around the outside of the shift or sail into the knock for too long. The choice of tack (port or starboard) had a huge gain or loss as we all found out.

Wind pressure variation also played a roll in the choice of direction up wind and down. Consequently it was necessary to keep your head out of the boat when at all possible. You need to be able to sail fast without having to look at your sail all the time. The seaweed in the water was also a problem for the entire series and often cost people dearly. When not checked regularly, you will go very slow dragging seaweed. All these things considered, it is also important to consider sail shape, the waves, mainsheet position and body position.

Because of the lack of wind in this series, things like sail shape play an important role in overall boat speed. The Sabre in a underpowered boat (small sail area for the size of the boat), which is why we all love some breeze, particularly us bigger bods. This leads me into the ideal weight for being competitive in a Sabre. I believe that 65 – 70 kilograms, providing you a very fit, is the ideal body weight. However, many Sabre sailors are 85kgs or more and some juniors are 55kgs and under. In deciding to sail in these National Title I decided that if I was to be competitive, I would need to lose some weight and gain some fitness. As I was in the over 85kg bracket, I worked hard to get my weight down to 77kgs, a weight loss that was realistic for me and that I felt I could still be competitive.

I would be keen to hear other people’s opinions on this though. In summary, I strongly urge Sabre sailors to simply spend lots of time in their boat so you know how every little thing feels in all conditions. This way, when you are racing, you can keep your head out of the boat and concentrate on many of the things that I have spoken about to ensure that you can sail fast in the race. When racing, clean starts, towards the correct end and having a good understanding of what the wind is doing is extremely important. If anyone has any questions or is not clear about anything I have mentioned please speak to me. I encourage you all to communicate through the Sabre Discussion section of this site.

Regards Wayne Bates 1610 Outabaloo

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