Waples Wines Northern Travellers – Tip of the Month 2 !!

Travellers tip #2 Kicker setting:On my boat the kicker is one of the most constantly adjusted settings.  In simple terms, other than the main and jib sheets it is the control which mostly affects the speed and balance of a fifteen. Therefore, it should be in a very accessible place.  I have mine on the mainsheet jammer which I like because you never run out of adjustment which can happen with the twin control system if they are not continuous. There are well documented numbers about kicker tension in different wind strengths but my view is you should learn to develop “feel” from the rudder without looking at the sails all the time.

Light winds upwind and downwind i.e. when the crew is in the bottom of the boat; it should always be very slack.  You don’t get much rudder feedback from a fifteen in these conditions. Medium winds upwind.  This is when you can “feel” the difference.  Start to apply kicker just as the boat starts to become overpowered (ie: the rudder loads up and you find yourself having to ease the main to stop the boat heeling and luffing into the wind).  You will find as you pull on the kicker the boat will heel less, the rudder will “feel” more balanced  and you can keep the boom centralised which will help with pointing. However, you must be quick to ease the kicker again if the wind lightens as the leech of the main will quickly become too tight and will stall. You should “feel” the boat rapidly slowing down and the rudder going very light.  I can’t stress enough how important it is not to be ‘over-kickered’ when this happens.

Medium winds downwind; it should always be slackish.

Heavy winds upwind; keep pulling on the kicker until the mainsail shape distorts (excessive creases from spreaders to outhaul) and then let it back a bit.  If boat is set right the rudder should “feel” almost neutral (ie: a little weather helm but you are not fighting it all the time).

Heavy winds downwind; firstly, make sure you ease the kicker lots before bearing away around the windward mark.  This will make the manoeuvre much easier as you will not have to fight a rudder which is trying to make the boat head into the wind.  It will also be kinder on your gooseneck fitting! When reaching with the kite it should be well eased.  This will let the spinnaker do the work and keep the boat flat, the rudder neutral and the boat will “feel” under easy control. When running it should also be well eased but if the boat starts to lose control and keeps trying to bear away into a gybe pull the kicker back on a bit until the rudder loads reduce and the boat is back under control”. Helm, Greg Wells, ƒƒ4030.

Expert Tips – Launching/Recovering, Coming on to the Jetty in a Blow….!!

At our Club, we just had a good discussion about the challenges of recovering Flying Fifteens from the Jetty in a bit of a blow – and how daunting that can be for FF beginners.

This tip from John Hanson  will not help the launch / getting off the pontoon, but is great for coming back ashore.  There is also a cracking good idea from John about hoisting the main away from the jetty in a breeze.   This is what John suggested:-

” We use  a Sea Anchor.  We have this rolled up and in the tank all year round.   When coming in to the pontoon we clip it on to the main sheet eye and throw it over the side.  It allows us to approach the pontoon slowly  minimising damage and there is no need for the crew to jump, she just steps off when alongside.  See the photos as a demo.

You can in case of an issue or when pulling up the main  clip this on the bow and it will keep the bow head to wind and reduce the speed the boat goes astern when you have new crew unsure what to do”

Ed : Very good idea






Paul Elvstrom was a Key Figure for All of Us Lot ….!!

Hello fellow Flying Fifteeners  and friends.

I grew up with Paul Elvstrom being my idol. At 14 I’d be reading his books in bed and marvelled at the way he could win races in so many different classes.

As my 71st birthday present to you all I’m sending this article that I kept. I am sure all of you will learn some little jewel that will help your racing technique and also enjoy the company of your fellow sailors even more. I know I have.

Big hugs

Michael Clough, Majorca


Paul Elvström has won four Olympic gold medals and eight world championships in five different classes. He has designed racers ranging from two-person trapeze boats to Two Tonners, and recently designed a 21-foot singlehander with a sliding seat for those, who, like himself, still want to sail and race alone, but are “less agile than they used to be.” His sailmaking insignia, the Elvström crown, appears on sails in a wide range of classes throughout the world, and there are very few sailors who are not familiar with his name.

In fact, when Elvström talked about his preparation for a championship, he became adamant and intense.

At 51, Elvström is extremely fit, with an immense amount of energy. His English is relatively good, but when he can’t find the words to express his thoughts, he more than makes up for it with elaborate hand and body gestures. He loves to laugh and he was extremely comfortable with all the sailors participating in the Ontario seminar.

During the week of instruction, other attributes surfaced, relating directly to Elvström’s racing ability. He is extremely intelligent, and in an intuitive way, he’ll know that something should or shouldn’t work, often without knowing why. Over the years, his physical conditioning has been without equal, and when his athletic prowess has combined with his intuition and cleverness, Elvström’s truly awesome sailing abilities emerge. For instance, his strength was a vital companion to his seemingly innate mental powers when he skippered a 505 from the wire to a world championship, figuring correctly that his weight would place more tension on the forestay and produce greater speed.

He is obsessed with perfection, and is downright impatient with anything less. During the training week, after watching a boat sailing upwind get struck by a puff and heel momentarily, Elvström jumped up and cried, “Oh, no. This is bad. You must keep the boat flat all the time.” And it was obvious that he made the same kind of demands on himself during his own training. In fact, when Elvström talked about his preparation for a championship, he became adamant and intense.

To him, the preparation was more important than the actual sailing, because at the uppermost levels of completion, he claimed, most sailors could race well, but there were often huge differences in the amount and quality of preparation each performed.

By the end of the week, the message came through as to which has become great, and why so many of us fail to reach our own full potential. Quite simply, Elvström set for himself the highest possible standards of excellence and then worked extremely hard to reach them, trained and sailed eight hours a day and worked nights for income, continually thought out ways to improve his boat, his sails, his equipment and himself.

As a result, he has become what some consider the greatest sailor in the world, and has gathered as much sailing experience in his one lifetime as most would gather in ten. What follows are some of his philosophies and thoughts on various aspects of racing, derived through a startling career as athlete, sailor and, ultimately, as master.

“Why Are We Here?” I think during the time here, the most important thing is that you try to know each other; that way, you are smiling and happy and you like to be together. I think that what you will learn here you all know before because you are good sailors; but you can teach each other and become very good friends, because after this training week you should go back and play yachting, play racing with each other, because that’s the only way to be good. We like sailing. We like to compete. We like to play. If you are playing in a group where you live, you will automatically be very good because you will teach each other. You’ll go out. Racing because you love it, and I think this is the most important thing.

“You Are Fair”

Here is an important idea: If you are fair and a nice man to everybody, they will accept that you are first; if you’re not, then nobody will accept you are first. So it’s much easier to be first if you are nice. Let us say for instance, starboard/port. If the port is a little close to you, let him sail past you, because you shall pass him if you are better or you are faster. If there’s doubt, let him go, because this man, he will always accept that you will beat him, because he felt you were so fair. And another thing. In a regatta, some people are crying, “Starboard!” Why? It’s unnecessary. The man on port is not stupid. He knows that you are there. So it’s nice to compete with people who are not using a big mouth.

“We Shall Not Be Nervous”

We come to a big regatta and there’s a skippers’ meeting, and everybody sits there with the rules, and they’re so nervous; and I’m always hoping that there would be a member of the committee who would break this, and try to make even important events fun—everybody smiling and looking forward to going out and competing in the boats and being nice against each other. And when you enjoy yourself sailing in that way, you are sailing much better than when you do something to make yourself nervous. Remember, we are sailing for fun. That’s why we’re here. We shall not be nervous. That’s my experience in my life in yachting.

“Only When You Are 100 Percent”

The preparation is the most important thing, because only when you are 100 percent sure you know everything and have forgotten nothing are you racing, and you can concentrate on starting in the right place and using the tactics. Remember this formula: P6 = Proper Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.

The important areas are the physical conditioning, boat preparation, and the racing rules and tactical ideas they give you. Also, when you come to a regatta, look down the list of entrants, review the strengths and weaknesses of the ones you know and find out about the ones you don’t. Because when you come to the start you know what they are used to doing, and if they’re used to being wrong you know it. And you can calculate that they can be a little stupid sometimes, like falling down into you at the start, or they don’t respect the rules. And I never try to fight against people who break the rules; I try to get away from them at an early stage.

“My Compass Headings”

To calculate where the wind is moving before the start, I begin sailing upwind once I am near the course area and notice my compass headings. I might notice that I was pointing one way for two minutes, then l was pointing lower, etc. So I know what are the high compass direction, and the low. Then I say the highest we had three-quarters of the time, the low for one-quarter of the time, and from that l calculate an approximate median. Whenever the wind changes, there is a good possibility that it will come back, unless there’s an obvious reason why it won’t. For instance, the starboard is very high, so I stay on starboard because there is a very good chance it will go back.

As the race progresses, and I’m behind, I will use the other boats to tell me when I will get the wind shifts, and take the benefit of them, because sometimes people bear away in headers and wait a little to see if they will stay, and that helps the boats behind.

“Sail Your Own Tactics”

Once you have started and are sailing upwind, and the boats begin to tack away, it is most important for you to sail your own tactics. If you see that you won’t gain by tacking, don’t tack. Only tack when you see that you are gaining. If you tack just because others are, then you are only following, waiting for them to pass you. If you are in a good position, why not try for a better one. I see too many good sailors following each other around. Let’s say you have calculated an 80 percent chance of becoming headed, that is, there is a chance that you won’t become headed. You must continue on and carry out that tactic. You must not be weak and say, ‘I think its better to follow the fleet.’ Because you are not the winning type, you are the careful type. And the careful type is never the winner because of this.

“Keep The Speed”

Here is another important rule: When you are sailing upwind and you feel you cannot point as well as you’d like to do, then keep the speed. If you get a header, bear off and keep the speed -speed, speed, and speed. And then if you see the advantage by tacking, tack, and always keep the speed. And when you have bad luck, or when you are on your own, don’t try and point the boat too high or force the wind. Bear off and think, speed, speed, speed. And if you stay calm and work hard, you will go fast and point well, and soon you will have good luck, too.

“A Favorite Wind”

A storm. I love the water in a storm. I like nature. I like all winds. I enjoy the change, but I especially like strong winds, especially with spinnaker. I pull on my vang and let my sail all the way out. Pulling in my sail would hurt me because I know I would be losing some speed. But you must practice to get confidence.

“Tack Without Losing Speed”

When to tack if you get headed depends on the position of the racecourse. If the header is slow, then wait for the wind to go back to the median and tack. If it is quick, then you will want to tack immediately. That is why it is very important to be able to tack without losing speed. If you can’t tack without losing speed, you can’t take proper benefit of the shift.

“Good Fast People”

If there are good fast people in front of me on the reach, then I will follow, but if it is people I can easily pass by planing, I will go up. But I will wait until they are in a bad position and slow, so they won’t luff me.

“I Sail With Only a Tiller”

I cannot feel the boat with a wheel. If all you had to do was to sail with your eyes, anyone could do it. You must also use all your feelings; the wind on your face, the palm of the hand, the sensation of the boat. I cannot sit to leeward. Then, you can only see the sail. You must always steer to the waves, not follow the sail.

When tacking, roll the boat hard. The sail should luff just once, when it goes from one side to the other. Cross the boat like a cat, on the balls of your feet, and be very sensitive to the heel. In a jibe, let the sail out 45 degrees, then step and sit down very hard, pumping the sail up against the wind. And with waves, the main thing is that instead of going into a wave, you must pass a wave. If the wave is low you can bear away and pass around it. If it’s high, then you must luff to pass it. The worst thing is to bear off for a wave because we think we can catch it, then we don’t catch it and we slow down more in speed. So if we bear off, we must be sure we can catch the wave. Also, on the reaches, it is much quicker to correct sail trim with tiller than by working the sheet. We have always known that if you take the right benefit of the waves and the boat and the rudders, you can pass someone very soon who is sitting still.

“Know Which Way To Go”

The most important thing on starting tactics is to know which way you want to go after the start. If you want to continue on the starboard tack, do all you can to have free water to leeward. If you want to go onto port, you may have to start one boat length late so that you can be sure to get onto port immediately. Because what is expensive at the start is to go the wrong way. Now, if the line favors the port end, or its even, I will start near the port end, because soon after, starboard tack is usually headed. But if the line favors the starboard end, I can be sure most of the boats will try to start there. Then, I position myself to leeward of the group because even though I’m behind at the start, I quickly get free wind, and if it turns back a little, I get more free wind, and finally it goes back more and I can tack and cross ahead of the group. This is instead of taking the chance of getting the best start but getting forced into a very bad start or being forced to tack immediately.

“I Am Happiest When I Am In a Boat”

That is the reason I go out sailing as much as I can. I feel well in a boat and if I’m not sailing, I don’t feel well. That brings me to a very good point. Now you are all young, but young people can have problems, too. And if you have problems — business, education, family — give up racing because you will be bad. Because you cannot really concentrate on the race. And I have seen so many friends, who are very good, but they went into a divorce, and they were hopeless on the racecourse.

They were not concentrating on the race, but thinking about how bad everything was. And I went into business problems, and I knew I was out of racing, and I love racing, but I was bad. I couldn’t concentrate, my preparation was poor. I didn’t work hard enough, and yes, when the race started I gave everything I had. But I knew I had lost before I started. I then get angry at myself when I make a mistake I should have seen, because I like to do it perfect. If I lose because of bad luck, then I don’t do anything, but if I lose because I have been stupid, then I’m angry.




FF Insight Zone Does “Light Airs Techniques”….!!

During the last Association training session at Datchet, coached by Association President Jeremy Davy, we managed to capture a fair bit of video.  We have some great footage on light weather tacking and spinnaker handling.

You can find it in the FF Insight Zone in the Members area of the Association website.  Go to the home page and select UK Association/Members/FF Insight Zone.  You have to enter your members password first.

Matt Alvarado on Jib Ratchets……

Having any type or size of ratchet on the Jib sheet, in my opinion, is absolutely essential for any size, shape or strength of crew. My main reason for having ratchets on the jib sheet is so i can ease the jib a bees wotsit in a lull, or when we need to grunt up the jib for a bit of choppy water… (they are also good for windy two sail reaches when i can’t see anything) Without the ratchet, its hard to control the amount you ease, inevitably you let too much out then re trim. There are others pros as well for ratchets, can’t see many cons apart from the extra ££. For what its worth, we use 40mm switchable ratchet blocks from harken, and we use a 6mm calibrated/marked sheet. Even with 6mm sheets, it does help light wind tacks if you can turn the ratchets off.


Goacher FF Masterclass Online…..!!

Do you remember the excellent Goacher Masterclass video from a few years back??  It’s still very current and up-to-date, even now!!

If your household is like ours, we’ve gone hard disk, DVD and whatever – and the VHS machine has gone to the dump!!  Good news !!!  BIFFA has had the videotape digitised  and put online.  It has enough resolution to use on a larger screen – for training sessions at your Club fleet maybe.

You can find it in the Members area of the BIFFA website – click on “UK Association” then select “Members” and then “FF Insight Zone”.

Or you can click here

More on Inverted Mainsheet Jammers….!!

apthorp jammerI swapped to one last year, and found it brilliant to use up wind, it does require a different approach at the top mark when bearing off, and reaching, but upwind in a blow, especially when gusty,  brilliant…. I didn’t have to sit up to create the angle to release the main sheet…some will now suggest I don’t lean out, but just occasionally there are “double cheek” days!!


Winter Gusts – Releasing the mainsheet…..!!

Yes – we probably all know that feeling!!  The strong gust hits, you desperatelly struggle to release the mainsheet, you are hanging right out, so cannot flick the sheet upwards – aaarrrggghhh!!!

apthorp jammer

So what about inverting the mainsheet jammer??  Well, it’s worth a thought isn’t it??  Most of us will have not even tried it, so really wont know if it’ll work or not.  I’d been wondering about whether the swivel arrangement would need changing, a different arm angle maybe??

Well, here’s a top flight member of our fleet with the cleat inversion in place.  It might just be as simple as mounting the cleat the other side – dead easy to try for most people.  There has to be a slot in the swivel arm for the new sheet to lead through.  For the moment, I don’t know if I have a slot in mine without taking the covers off!!

Let us know what you think !!

First-Time Fifteeners – More on Twinning Lines….!!

A few days back, as part of our series of posts for First-Time Fifteeners, we ran an item on the use of twinning lines.

David Williamson has kindly sent in this extra tip:-

In most conditions running square, we actually spring the windward twinner approx. 2 feet from the cleat and set the leeward to match. The kite still flys balanced and square while remaining quite powerfull. The benefit is that gybing requires no movement of either twinner. While the crew smoothly gybes the pole, it is very easy for the helm to fly the kite (hopefully without collapsing, aided by the twinners controling both clews). This makes re-acting to windshifts and the presence of other boats a lot smoother and easier.

Datchet Training – Jeremy Davy on Tacking in the Light……!!

Tacking in the Light

BIFFA recently ran a coaching day at Datchet, with our Coach for the day being BIFFA President, Jeremy Davy.

We have a number of videos to show you, spilt into three groups – today we focus in two videos on jib slot management.  Turn your sound up to hear Jeremy’s commentary !!

Datchet Training – Jeremy Davy on Jib Slot Management…..!!

Jib Slot Management

BIFFA recently ran a coaching day at Datchet, with our Coach for the day being BIFFA President, Jeremy Davy.

We have a number of videos to show you, spilt into three groups – today we focus in two videos on jib slot management.  Turn your sound up to hear Jeremy’s commentary !!


The jib slot is very influential in developing power from the rig. After you tack you are looking for the bowman to take in as much sheet as he can so that the upper tell tale on the LEACH of the sail is just about flowing.  It is very sensitive to even 5mm of sheet tension so keep experimenting until you are used to it. As the wind strength fluctuates, you may have to adjust sheet tension several times during the beat to keep that upper telltale “just” flowing. Sitting to windward, you can view it through the upper mainsail window. When sitting to leeward, just strain your neck a little to look up directly into the slot and see what the telltales are up to. Now view the videos….


Datchet Coaching – Jeremy Davy on Spinnaker Flying….!!

Spinnaker Flying

BIFFA recently ran a coaching day at Datchet, with our Coach for the day being BIFFA President, Jeremy Davy.

We have a number of videos to show you, spilt into three groups – today we focus in two videos on spinnaker flying.  Turn your sound up to hear Jeremy’s commentary !!

It was a gentle day as far as the breeze was concerned, which for video may have been a good thing!


You will be looking to keep the spinnaker luff curling, but not solely by trimming either the guy or the sheet.  You generate more forward power as a rule by squaring off the pole as much as you can without causing the spinnaker to go tight across the foot. Keep playing the guy as well as the sheet, and use the cleat beside the shroud to maximum effect. Now see the videos….


This next video is a trial of a system called videopress


Video above…..

BIFFA Coaching at Datchet ….!!

BIFFA Training Day at Datchet Water SC

Jeremy Davy – our class President and erstwhile UK National Coach – came to Datchet Water on the first Saturday in October to put 5 Flying Fifteen crews through their paces. The wind was light which allowed us to practice our ‘sub-powered’ sailing skills.  The day was structured as 2 ‘on the water’ sessions sandwiched between 3 classroom sessions.

We started by listing all this things we wanted to work on collectively (pretty much everything!) and Jeremy gave us the low down on starting tactics before we went out for a series of very short races.  Jeremy gave us real time advice on starting, boat trim, tacking, hoisting and gybing from a RIB with Emma Bunting capturing the advice and impact on video.

We reviewed the video footage over lunch (we shall try to get these examples online soon) and shared our learnings before going out for a significantly improved sail in the afternoon (sadly the video memory card was full so you’ll have to take my word for that)

jeremyWe ended the day with a recap of what we had learned on the ‘areas for improvement’ identified at the start of the day (see the whiteboard in the photo) and everyone went away buzzing with enthusiasm to put their new found skills into practice.

The format of the day worked very well and I would heartily recommend any club to take up the offer of training if Simon Kneller knocks on your door.

Many thanks to Jeremy – and to Simon for setting up the day in the first place.

Mervyn Wright

(Datchet Water FF Fleet Captain)

BIFFA National Training Launched…!!

You may have heard that BIFFA is launching a National Training Program.  Hopefully at least a couple of times a year, top quality coaches will run training sessions at key Regional Venues.  First off in the program is going to be held at Datchet and all comers are welcome.  Our very own fantastic Mike Hart will be the Coach – and numbers will be limited, so enrol quickly!!!  This is what Datchet Fleet Captain, Mervyn Wright, has to say about it:-

mervyn wright photoI am really excited that Datchet is being used to host the BIFFA training event on Saturday October 5th.  Datchet is regularly used to host training events for other classes because it is such a large piece of water so close to London and has great facilities indoors for training sessions.  We are delighted that the visiting Flying Fifteeners and Mike Hart will benefit from that experience.

Those of you who haven’t visited Datchet before will have seen on the blog how easy launching is – and those of you who have been before will have your first chance to see the fantastic new changing rooms and showers that have been installed in this year. 

We would love for all the visitors to stay over and join us in extended club racing on the Sunday to test out your new found skills straight away.  This will be at a reduced fee of £10 and prizes will be awarded.  We also plan to arrange a social gathering nearer the time for that all important exchange of views in a relaxed atmosphere that we all know is so crucial to consolidating learning!

Finally, if October is getting near the end of your normal sailing season, you are more than welcome to keep your boat at Datchet over the winter and join our club racing which goes all the way through – and of course you’ll have a head start of local knowledge for the Midwinter Championship and Winter Warm-Up series in February.

You’ve probably twigged by now that our cunning plan in hosting this event is for Datchet members to grab all the places available and boost our chances at future Open Meetings – so you had better sign up quickly if you don’t want that to happen!

Mervyn Wright


Click here to download the entry form