Andy Davis From HD Sails Provides Tips on the Nationals Venue 2015

Really happy that we're going back to North Berwick, certainly one of my favourite venues!NorthBerwick
The sailing club ELYC (East Lothian Yacht Club) are a friendly bunch and put great efforts in to making you feel welcome.
The town has plenty of places to eat, probably why I like it. It also now has a Greggs so we'll be able to stuff our faces with plenty of sausage rolls!

Getting down to the business end, the sailing area is superb. It has plenty of scenery so when your not doing so well it can take your mind off it.
When the wind blows from the east large waves build enough to lose half a solo in the troughs. This makes for good surfing conditions so make sure your well practiced as good wave sailing can give you a good edge.
North Berwick is on the south side of a wide estuary, the Firth of Forth. The coast faces due north, and prevailing gradient winds are from the west or south-west, while easterlies are the next most common direction!
Although North Berwick faces north, the sea breeze comes from the east. The sea breeze will develop depending on the strength of the opposing gradient wind, a westerly or south-westerly morning wind of up to a Force 3 is likely to give way to a sea breeze around noon. A stronger westerly is more likely to persist!
The tide floods east-west and ebbs in the opposite direction. Only occasionally does it run at more than a knot and is stronger the further from the shore you are.
The main tactical questions you need to ask yourself is, when the tide is ebbing and the sea breeze is in, the tide is with you on a beat, so do you go right for the wind as the sea breeze veers through the afternoon or left to the stronger tide? Or, in a westerly wind with a flooding tide helping you, do you go left to the convergence that exists near the shore or right into the stronger flow? The answer varies from day to day and from hour to hour!

There is plenty of space up at the boat park but down on the shore it will be congested. Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to get out to the race course. Since returning this year the sand has washed away in the bay compared to when we were there last. Large rocks have appeared so keep right close to the harbour wall on your way out. Once you go round the corner of the harbour keep about 25- 50 metres from the harbour and spit, don't stray to far left as again there are large rocks. It's certainly worth taking a look at the beach at low tide and work out where your going to sail out and come back!

Hope you have a good week and look forward to seeing you there.


North Berwick Preview

For those of you attending the Nationals this year & who haven’t visited before you are in for a real treat. A beautiful bustling Scottish Seaside Town surrounded by magnificent countryside awaits. For those of you who have been there I hope that the following will serve as useful reminders!
The journey up from the South is pretty straightforward, Sat Nav wanted to take us across country from Carlisle but we found it much easier continuing North on the M6/M74 & going across Country from Abington, Junction 13 M74. Travel time for Cheshire was 4 ½ hours no traffic.
On arrival in North Berwick we followed the signs for ELYC Parking& were directed onto the beachfront area, some 5 minutes walk from the club, which is where you will be parked for the event & where we (or rather you all) will launch from.
Cars then have to be moved & parked in the town. Whilst in the main there are lots of places which are free, securing a place in Summer may well prove tricky for those arriving later on. There are a number of free public car parks in the town, including the station & plenty of places along the beaches without timed restrictions, though vehicles over 7’6” are prohibited from here.
There is lots of accommodation in the town along with Tantallon Caravan & Campsite
which has areas for tents, motorhomes, rents statics & even has Wigwams!

The site is well catered for being a brisk 20-25 minute walk from the club & just 15 minutes from the Town’s Tescos!


East Lothian YC barThe clubhouse is right in the harbour 2 minutes from the main drag, & has good facilities. On the first floor is the most important Bar & on the second floor is the café. There looked to be a good variety of things on the menu, all homemade including fresh cream cake! I am advised that a marquee will be set up for the nationals to accommodate us all but you would need to check with the club on that! Launching is across from the club where the Dinghies will be parked, a jetty makes for easy access to a sandy beach launching directly into the sea reminding me very much of Mounts Bay. The trolley dollies are certainly going to be earning their beer!
Both of the beaches which stretch for miles are great for families & are dog friendly. Golden sands abound & on one beach there is a small Lido which retains sea water when the tide goes out & is great for paddling in. Away from the beach you can keep the kids entertained with a couple of putting greens & playground’s, an expanse of playing fields & a tennis club for the more energetic. The main train line to Edinburgh runs from the town & it takes just 20 minutes to get to the centre. A real shame that our Nationals don’t have a ‘rest’ day as it would be a real opportunity to explore the area with the family!

Facilities in the town are more than adequate for a week’s stay though, meaning you need never venture far if you don’t want to! Tesco’s is a 15 minute walk from the centre, & on the High Street there is a Nisa Local & Co-op along with a Butchers & Bakery all of whom open on a Sunday. None of us will starve as there are a variety of cafes & Deli’s great for lunch & for dinner there are

  • Thai Curry House
  • Indian Restaurant
  • Turkish Kebab Shop
  • Chinese
  • 2 Italians
  • 3 Pubs
  • 2 Bistros

Sadly Brownie will be disappointed as there are no Golden Arches! A famous place for lunch is in the Harbour itself being ‘The Lobster Shack’ which serves local fish & Lobster which is on the menu at nearly every establishment I looked at!
And with the thought of Garda in my head, the local ‘Gelateria Alandas’ serves up a Fab array of amazing flavours for your delight. Having been to visit this weekend I am really looking forward to my week there in August! The sumptuous East Lothian Y.C. bar which will be busy in the first week of August

Pre-race Preparation for the Nationals


There is a lot you can figure out about a venue and what side of the course may pay before you even set foot in your boat or sail to the race area.
Common things to research are:

  • Forecast - Is there a weather system that will effect the days breeze, increasing/decreasing, backing/veering.
  • Rain fall - head right into the cold air from above...?, clouds - head towards them.....thunderstorms etc etc
  • Localised topography - hills, headlands, narrow channels causing increased current, dark land matter that will warm up quickly and start a thermal seas breeze, water temperature, you only need 2-3 degrees of difference between water and air temp to start a thermal system going, assuming the gradient breeze is offshore.
  • Current - tide times, flow direction and probable location of the race course in relation to this.

All these factors you can research before you even go afloat so you can have a picture of which side of the course you would likely be favouring before any localised wind shifts are thought about, in reality 75% of the time I already know which side of the course I want to go before I hit the race area, whether I am correct or not is another matter!

Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the race area, the big sea champs are often held a lot further offshore than regular events/club racing so don’t be afraid to get out there and start learning about the race area. I have a routine I stick to for all my event races. firstly I get to the committee boat, often if you are close hauled or running to the race area you can get some compass headings pencilled into the brain. Once at the boat I sail upwind for 10-15 mins tacking every couple of mins to get the variance in headings according to the shifts. This also allows you to get the setup dialled in for the first beat, I then bear away and run back to the committee boat, by this time there is usually a start line laid so I get a good transit, if there is no land behind the pin end then try and get a reverse transit
from the pin end to the committee boat, anything to help get your bearings on a long line. I always get a transit and if there is a general recall repeat the process so its just part of the pre race routine.

Once I have the transit I check the line bias, then I can firm up the first beat strategy, if I want to go right but there is pin bias or vice versa how do I deal with it, take the bias and hope I nail the start and can tack early? (high risk) or start at the unfavoured end and tack immediately? or trust my transit and start in the middle, usually ahead of the fleet around you if you nail a transit and there is always a midline sag and then work my way to the side I want? decisions decisions.....!!!



In the final minute before the start it does not matter if its a 100 boat fleet as you are only racing the guy to windward and leeward of you, these are the 2 immediate boats you need to nail to get off the start line, its all about jockeying for position keeping as close under the boat to windward to make their life hard whilst opening a nice gap to leeward to accelerate into, but beware to protect this as if you open a nice gap someone will see it and come and join the party!

Then you just have to be aware of rogue elements, usually early on in a big event there is some idiot reaching down the line with their boom banging off your forestay oblivious to any rules (don’t be that idiot!!!)
“10-15 seconds to go its about accelerating whilst watching your transit”, be confident in it, and as long as you have done it correctly, ignore the calls from around you saying you are over! Their loss, your gain! having said that in 7 nationals i have done I have had an OCS in every one! You could argue you are not trying enough if you don’t get one! Once off the line its about putting your pre race strategy into action, stick to your guns and what you think should work, as there is nothing worse, getting frustrated as the boats heading the way you wanted to cross you miles in front after you got distracted and went the opposite way to your plan!

North BerwickCharlie3

As a venue it provides fantastic sea conditions, often mixed in with some unpleasant conditions for a day or so but fantastic for the rest of it, it will likely provide big waves and a decent breeze so you need to be on your game with setup and sailing style to make the most of it.

If its breezy it will be wavy so upwind you need to hike hard and be able to steer around the waves, DO NOT PINCH, its fine to do this on an inland flat water venue but you will get munched in the waves. depower, ease the main and foot, FAST, rake the rig back and raise the centreboard to balance the boat. a balanced boat is a fast boat, too much helm and you wont be able to go fast, the only way to remove this helm is flatten the sail and raise the board.

At the top mark the reaches should be fun! Ease the cunningham, inhaul, outhaul and power up the sail, raise the board up 2/3rds and get the boat planing. Downwind is not the time to rest and in the breeze is even harder work than upwind with constant sheet movements, body movements forward and back and steering, prepare to pant! Do what you can (legally!!) to keep the boat planing, heading up in lulls and bearing away on waves and gusts to keep the average speed up, now its time for the gybe mark. easy, if its fresh to frightening a big ease of the kicker as you steer in will mean the main will ‘auto depower' as the main fills on the new side due to the amount of twist in the leech so steer in confidently and get the boom over, you will survive!

Same down the next reach and prepare for the 2nd beat hike off.....once at the top mark its the run and where you can gain boat lengths over your competitors. Its all about steering, pointing dead downwind at the leeward mark is the slowest and rockiest way downwind, as the wind hits the sail and doesn’t know whether to flow to the leech or the luff, this unbalance creates the roll everyone hates, by heading up to a broad reach or bearing away so you are sailing by the lee the airflow is settled in 1 direction across the sail and is therefore very balanced, this is why you see sailors at the front steering through big angles as they go from reach to by the lee to get the optimum route through, round and over the waves.

Cross the finish line, grab some drink as you recover and get ready for the next one! Nationals day 1 done!
See you all there.
Charlie Cumbley