Barbados: Living the Sailing Life
When I agreed to learn how to sail with Helly Hansen during 2016, I envisaged a lot of rain and an awful lot of cold winds. So when a call came through to do part of the journey in Barbados – to hang out train with a professional sailing outfit it was a bit of a no brainer.
Now that November is fast approaching, many UK based boats and teams head out towards to Caribbean for a Winter’s training and racing. Steady winds through the Winter and of course some pretty decent weather to boot make it the ideal destination for people looking at Winter Sailing. I actually headed out there back in April but have held off on the piece to make it more relevant to those heading out there now (or thinking about it).
About Team Concise
Team Concise are a new breed of sailing team. Head honcho Tony Lawson has had a love for sailing from a very young age but never felt there was much opportunity for young sailors (both men and women) to get along in the professional circuit. As such, he now has his own team operating a total of 4 different racing boats (plus many more for training and pleasure) and two different core teams. One ladies and one mens.
- Concise 10 – MOD 70
- Concise 8 – Class 40
- Concise 2 – Class 40
- Concise 12 – Diam 24
The MOD70 is the fastest off-shore racing yacht on UK shores and one of the very fastest in the world. The dream being to – one year very soon – win the Volvo Ocean Round the World Race. The two Class 40 boats feature both the mens and female teams depending on the events and time of year. Lastly the Diam 24 is a new boat and is ultimately a mini MOD 70 – tri-hull, very manoeuvrable and trust us when we say it is the most fun you can have on the water! Perfect for training and especially for breaking in younger team members.
We headed out to the Caribbean with Helly Hansen (Concise’s main sponsor) as they wound down their winter training. Team Concise had recently won the Round Barbados Race sponsored by Mount Gay Rum on the aptly named Ms Barbados (MOD 70). There was still a near full male team on site which included: Ned (Skipper), John & Jack (the ‘youngsters’ who would be showing us the ropes), Will (logistics) and dare we say older hand, or perhaps more experienced head, Martin.
That may sound a fair few, but when you are on a 70 foot, 3 hull sailing yacht which spends most of it’s time hitting around 30 knots and at near 45 degree angles to the water, some would argue it isn’t enough. And if that didn’t sound dramatic enough, I recently spotted this Instagram photo of the yacht on its way to breaking a time record for sailing around The Isle of Wight in just 2 hours 41 minutes.
Now of course, when it came to learning how to sail, we weren’t allowed near the important bits of the MOD 70, well not yet..
The beauty of the Caribbean and why so many teams head out there for the winter is the largely predictable weather and wind which comes off the Island. As such we had 5 days to get up and running, with only one of those slightly light for wind. We should be able to find our sea legs and ultimately learn how to sail in that time. As such we started our first few days on small dinghies, probably the most popular way to learn how to sail. Being so small and simple it makes it much easier to grasp the basics and what makes the boat act in the way it does.
We covered the basics around the tacking and gybing as well as the position to the boat in relevance to the wind. You can soon become a ‘sitting duck‘ if you read the wind wrong or push yourself into the ‘deadzone‘ without realising. Thankfully I had Concise 8 Skipper, Jack Trigger with me – showing me the basics as well as some of the tricks of the trade. He made things very easy and explained things well. After all I hadn’t even been in a dinghy before, let alone sailed one!
Two intense days in the dinghies and we made some good progress, so much so we managed to get out and spend some time on the Diam 24. Which for me, was the highlight of the trip. Ultimately a scaled down model of the MOD 70, the Diam 24 may be slower (of course) but as you are so close to the water you feel so much more alive and weirdly in control. You can literally reach out, bend back and touch the water with your hands, all whilst enjoying a feeling of flying through the air. I am not sure there is anything like it on the water. Even Wakeboarding pales in insignificance just as you are purely at the mercy of the wind and natural elements.
After being aboard with Jack and John, with myself mainly just supplying ballast. It was time to hop aboard the ‘mother ship‘. Ms Barbados, one of the quickest sailing crafts in the world – the MOD70. It is an experience which is difficult to describe. Whilst you would imagine it to be quite simple, the amount of technology both in design and on board is quite staggering. The winches used to trim the sails are just incredible, both in terms of size and power (depending on who is winding). I guess the main surprise was the speed and actually the noise of the wind passing through all these incredibly tight lines, ropes and sails – it was nearly singing.
After turning professional (well kind of…), we had a go at trimming the sails and even had a steer from the (non) comfort of the custom carbon fibre seats, but it was all under very strict supervision. It’s an incredible piece of kit and one you are sure to see doing the rounds in sailing competitions over the next few years. It is always doing some showcase stuff at Cowes, amongst others.
Let’s hope the guys have a good Winters training and next year gives them every bit of luck they need in the races!