Fishers Green SC Solos
Consistency in setting the boat up from race to race
In the Summer ClubLine we had to omit some illustrations, in part to save space. With technical help from Marek (thanks, Marek), here's some of the gaps plugged. (For now you may need to click the browser's 'Back' button to close a picture and get back here)
For a control which rarely needs adjustment, and when changed then stays the same for a long time. A length of dyneema with a loop in one end. Thread the tail through the loop, tie knots at intervals and move one more knot through the loop to tighten, one knot less to slacken. Shown here on my tack, kept on knot 4 for the last 6 months or so.
Similar principle - each knot is a step - but often needs adjusting. This example is on the rudder uphaul. The right hand knot (the ashore position) keeps the rudder clear of the ground, yet just far enough down to provide some steerage leaving the dock. The left hand knot (shown 'engaged') stops the blade going more than half way down. It's the 'weed setting'.
Here's an adjustable and calibrated mast chock
The Solo: Ageless Appeal.
It's difficult to characterise the Solo in a way which does it full justice.
Widespread, active, friendly, extensive open meeting circuit, fast growing. It's all of those
An active second hand market which means you can buy or sell quickly and easily. That, too.
In a way the Solo is the Ford Fiesta of the sailing world. If it's price, performance, size and weight are anywhere close to your needs it's the best bet around.
Yes, it's all of those things...and something more.
The age spread of Solo sailors is remarkable. The boat was never aimed at any particular age group, but it attracts a wider range of ages than almost any other class I can think of. Some new to sailing, some returning to the sport after a break, and some giving up the complexities and responsibilities which go with a 2 person boat in favour of a single hander.
At this club pensioners win races and sometimes series. A surprising number took up sailing on retirement. 3 are still active into their 70's, one in particular fuming whenever illness stops him from sailing.
We're underrepresented among the under 25s, where the Laser, Olympic classes and pure speed (rather than close, well matched racing) are rival draws. A trickle will try out a parent's Solo, but then opt for something else.
A dinghy chandler (who knows the scene well), learning I'd taken up sailing again after a 30 year break, remarked 'All the rock stars sail Solos'. Well, I'm a few weeks older than Mick Jagger. But if I had his money, I'd still sail a Solo.
No, we'd be kidding ourselves.
A good old boat can win races, but that's 90% skill and determination. It still needs 10% luck.
The new boats, using new construction methods and materials and exploiting the dimensional tolerances, are faster. Period.
We could lament this, but when even the class association talks openly of the 'new shape' boats (yeah, it's a one design class in which all boats are physically identical) we should accept and exploit it. If stronger, lighter materials didn't improve performance we'd be doing something seriously wrong. And that's even if our knowledge about boat, sail and mast design had never progressed.
We should instead think of a 'starter', 'improver' and new boats and how to climb that ladder.
The starter boat is the boat you buy with a view to selling on after perhaps a year, by which time you'll be clearer about what you want next. That's wider than 'which Solo', it includes whether you want to sail at all, single or two handed, dinghy, catamaran, windsurfer, sand yacht or keelboat, trapeze or not, at this club or another.
All justify a cheap and cheerful, toe in the water boat bought with a view to selling it on in a year or so. As I write there are 4 boats advertised on the solo website for £1000 or less (3 a lot less) and asking round your local club will uncover more, those the owners have put aside yet never bothered to sell.
You'll get all the help you need in valuing, buying, sailing and firkling the boat just by asking other Solo owners. Just don't spend serious money on it. You're aiming to sell it on in a year, for perhaps £100 less than you paid. Adding a £500 centreboard or £250 rudder and tiller just reduces the budget for your next boat. It might win you one more race.
There is a famous exception. The 48 year old Solo 1102, bought on eBay and meticulously restored, led the fleet in its day...and still can. But it's a restoration in much the same way as Trigger's broom (Trigger was the street cleaner in 'Only Fools and Horses') is original. Original, that is, "after 17 new heads and 14 new handles".
Now, Solo 1102 doesn't have aft sheeting, a wooden mast, cotton sails, brass fittings, galvanised rigging, hemp ropes and shellac varnish.
Fleet (class) vs menagerie (handicap) racing.
Currently, only the Solo class at Fishers Green has strong enough turnouts to justify its own races. Around half the time (and declining) Solos have class racing, the rest is on handicap. While I grew up with class racing and that has coloured my views, I'll try and be dispassionate in these comments.
In an individual race, handicapping is always unfair. Only over a whole series can the swings hope to cancel the roundabouts. Examples where it's plainly unfair include races in a falling wind (it favours the faster boats who finish while the wind is still stronger) and a boat only able to make 4 knots sailing against a 5 knot tide - who never finishes, while a 7 knot boat does.
Yet without handicap racing, participation in sailing would halve. Worse, all the 2 handed boats sail on handicap. Yet crewing is the seedbed for most everyone to enter the sport. And helms & crews develop life enhancing collaborative skills which historically have populated most of the volunteer posts which keep our clubs (and sport) alive.
On the other hand, class racing encourages best of breed. Bad sailors get better and better sailors get good because that's human nature. All helped by the feedback loop - Fred beat me today because I made more mistakes, not because the handicap favoured him.
It goes deeper. A sailor looking around for a new club will rate highly the one which offers class racing in a boat which they would suit. Good racing attracts good racers. Handicap racing is like judging who is the better of Mo Farah and Usain Bolt.
So we'd expect the average skill level to be higher in the class racing fleet than the handicap fleet. And it is.
If the skills were equal and the Solos made up half the handicap fleet, they'd win roughly half the races. That's not unfair (which is how it might look), it's common sense. The skill levels are not equal. So expect the class racers to win a bit more than half the handicap races, and to have somewhat more than their fair share of the top half of the combined results.
As you'll sense from this, a common thought after a Solo race is 'how can I do better next time'. After a handicap race it's too often (and destructively) 'how can I get my (unfair) handicap corrected?'
I'm not sure if this will work, and a way to find out is to try it.
Here's one of Marek's videos. If successful, look out for more. From anyone with material worth posting. Send YouTube links, jpeg's and short videos to me if Solo related, Godfrey for general stuff and other class captians for their classes.