Skipper Refresher Weekend – Practice Rescue

The Coastguard Helicopter in formation with Yacht Vis
The Coastguard Helicopter in formation with Yacht Vis

Skipper Refresher Weekend – March 19th to 21st 2010

(an extract from BTOSC Spring 2010 Newsletter)

The BT Offshore Sailing Club season often starts with the Skippers’ Refresher Weekend, if no one has been intrepid enough to take on the “Frostbite” racing that starts a few weeks earlier. This is an opportunity for the Club Skippers to undertake a variety of exercises to keep their skills fresh and sometimes to develop some new ones. This year we were also able to find room on the boat for a couple of aspiring skippers to develop their skills and experience too.

Saturday was wet and windy – Gusting up to F8. Undaunted, nay positively enthusiastic we headed out into the Solent with the possibility of doing a hi-line exercise with the Coastguard SAR Helicopter, based at Lee-on-Solent arranged by the Cruising Secretary.  In the event, the Coastguard were not able to go through with it, as their programme became too full that day. That left us free to press ahead with a series of man-overboard exercises under power and sail – we even managed to expand our repertoire of techniques.

After a full morning of getting wet and windswept we headed for the lee of Osborne Bay for a late lunch and a little anchoring practice for good measure. We also took the opportunity to get the storm jib out and put that up – not as straightforward on some yachts as you might imagine! The day was rounded off with some sailing and sail balancing practice – with reefs put in and shaken out and headsail furled and unfurled in the gusty, variable conditions.

Having spent the night in Cowes we started the day with some boat handling in the marina and then eaded into the Western Solent and up-tide to create some sea room for another attempt at the exercise with the SAR helicopter.

This time we were successful at arranging a rendezvous but the helicopter crew were forced to call off the exercise early because of the risk of contact with the mast in the helicopter’s downdraft, with insufficient wind in the sails to steady the yacht – again not what you might expect. This was still a useful exercise as we experienced the helicopter overing off our port quarter, the noise and the edge of the downdraft – to say nothing of a little excitement.

Our contact at the station has left the door open for the club to try and arrange an exercise on another weekend.  We had planned to spend the rest of the day doing close quarters boat handling under sail, but with the wind dying further we decided to focus on more boat handling under power in the Hamble. By way of consolation, the sun did come out!  All in all, a grand weekend and a useful opportunity for Club Skippers to polish their skills at the start of the season. We are looking forward to seeing other members out on the water in the coming months.