I just came back from a weekend of single handed sailing training in Heiligenhafen at the Baltic Sea. Organized by German Yacht Magazine, us 12 participants were joined by three coaches, all Mini Transat veterans:

The 3-day class consisted of a bit of theoretical lectures on land, accompanied by lots of light wind sailing on three Seascape 27s and a Pogo 10.50. With only three people per boat, everyone got lots of single handed sailing time, plus the opportunity to ask our coaches tons of questions. I was mostly interested in racing topics such as spinnaker handling, so I did a lot of that: hoisting, gybing, dropping. Rinse and repeat. The first few maneuvers were still a bit shaky, but it did get better pretty quickly for most people. We soon started engaging each other in short match races around the cans, which was a lot of fun with the very lightweight and agile Seascapes. Winds were very light between 3 and 10kn, but the boats managed the conditions perfectly.

I did take away a lot from this weekend, but here are my favorites:

  • Trail important lines, such as a halyard during a drop, in the water to make sure they don’t get tangled somewhere in the cockpit
  • Tie a slipped overhead knot into the spinnaker sheets so they don’t run out (this turns out to be useful in so many places). I remember that knot from my teen sailing years, but seem to have forgotten about it. So had everyone else.
  • How to drop a spinnaker single handedly — with the jib up, behind the main and into the companionway
  • Non-furling jibs are actually easy to manage (at least on these small boats)
  • You don’t really need an auto pilot during maneuvers — balanced well, I was able to sail my boat for minutes while standing at the bow, not doing anything

The class ended in a match race into the harbor. In 3kn of wind we managed to go 5kn. Since the entrance to the marina was pretty narrow, the other boats trying to motor in had to wait a bit while we tacked our way up. We touched ground close to the finish, which almost cost us our first place, but then still managed to sail straight into our box first, leading by a few meters.