Roll Tacks - June 2013

Great to see Luke Patience and Stu Bithell throwing themselves into the Wilson Trophy, the sort of unofficial world championship of team racing. We don’t often see the Olympic stars get involved in the nitty gritty of the amateur dinghy racing scene, and who can blame them? Must be a bit of a busman’s holiday, going sailing in your spare time. So it’s nice to see it when it does happen, like Paul Goodison and Saskia Clark doing a bit of Essex dinghy racing last summer just weeks after London 2012, and now Luke and Stu getting stuck into team racing.  

The thing I remember from the team racing is the speed of thought and snap decisions that you need to make. Often you’re forced to act on instinct, and hope that your instinct was right. When you get back on to a big fleet racing course, it’s amazing how much time you have to make the next decision. Everything feels like slow motion compared with the rapid fire of team racing.  

I’m surprised more of our Olympic stars don’t give team racing or match racing a go, as I think the precision of time-on-distance in the start and many other facets of these specialised forms of racing would really sharpen up some of their skills for the fleet racing, particularly in starting. But even if it’s not team racing, generally it does seem that the Olympic aspirants are being encouraged to diversify out of their day jobs, more so than in the last Olympic cycle.  

One of our best and most accomplished 49er sailors was complaining to me a few years ago about how they were expected to show up at every Grade 1 ISAF regatta and perform at the highest level all the time, as they looked jealously across at the Aussie 49er sailors who were off doing all kinds of other sailing across the season. In the year leading up to the Olympics, Nathan Outteridge won the Moth Worlds and was seen competing in many other classes including the SB20 and the 505 World Championships. Didn’t do him any harm, as he and Iain ‘Goobs’ Jensen wrapped up the 49er Olympic gold with a medal race to spare.  

So it’s good to see some of our own Olympic hopefuls buzzing around in Moths or, in the case of 49er crew Alain Sign, a Musto Skiff at my home club Stokes Bay. Interesting to see other former 49er sailors like Chris Draper finding time to go Moth sailing in San Francisco in between America’s Cup duties with Luna Rossa. One of the risks, you might imagine, of sailing a Moth is that it’s so much fun, it might make anything else seem pedestrian. But it hasn’t done Nathan Outteridge any harm in the 49er, or Mat Belcher in the 470, whose victory at the recent Delta Lloyd Regatta in Hollands takes his unbroken winning streak in the 470 to 15 consecutive regattas, including of course last year’s Olympics. That’s the kind of winning streak that starts to put Belcher in Ben Ainslie territory.  

Even though Ben has hung up his hiking boots (although I still wonder if he’s going to have a Steve Redgrave-style change of heart for Rio 2016), this year has been a phenomenon for British Finn sailing, with Mark Andrews’ victory at Delta Lloyd Regatta making him the fourth different Brit to have won a major regatta in the past few months, the others being Ed Wright, Giles Scott and Andrew Mills.  

Nice that Mark dedicated his Dutch victory to another great Finn sailor, Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson. “I’d known Bart for ten years or so since I was fresh out of school,” said Mark. “He kind of took all the guys – not just the Finn sailors but everyone in the team – under his wing. He was always supportive of everyone and the kind of person you could talk to if you had a bad day, or anything technical. He was that perfect guy who always had time for someone and was obviously a fantastic sailor as well. Definitely this one’s for him and it’s good that we kept the Finn winning streak going.”  

My first memory of Bart goes back to 1990 when I’d recently left university off the back of some success in the student team racing scene. I was invited to Pangbourne School in Berkshire to impart my wisdom to a bunch of 13-year-olds in the school team. There was one particularly big lad, name of Andrew, who kept on asking difficult questions to which I didn’t know the answer. Quite embarrassing. This 13-year-old seemed to know more about team racing than I did. Anyway, it didn’t surprise me to be reacquainted with Andrew - or Bart, as he was known by then - on the Olympic scene 10 years later. His knowledge and passion for the sport was immense, as were his achievements. But success never spoiled him, what you saw was what you got with Bart. A big bloke with a big heart.  




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