Are You Ready for the Sailing Season?

It may be cold this morning with frost on the ground but the days are definitely drawing out. British Summer Time is only weeks away! Whether or not you own your own yacht, you may well have spent some time planning your offshore sailing for the summer:Charles Nicholson

  • A long dreamt of cruise
  • A bareboat / flotilla charter
  • Buying your own yacht

Whatever your plans are for the season you need to be well prepared – not just the yacht but also you and your crew. Everyone’s training requirement is unique to them, and is dependent on their previous experience and qualifications. While a formal course generally leads to a qualification, rarely does the course entirely meet an individual’s needs. You should ask the question: “Is the course relevant to what or where I plan to sail?” May be  some “Bespoke” training is required. After all whatever you have planned this year it is:

your sailing, your time, and your adventure

In essence we focus on you!  We offer both theory and practical sail training tailored to your particular needs, at the venue of your choice and within the constraints of your diary.

Practical training options include:

  • Own Boat Tuition
  • Tuition on a charter yacht in a sailing area of your choice.
  • Skills taught that are relevant to your planned sailing area

Theory courses include:

  • Tuition based on the environment, charts, documents and skills that are relevant to the area and yacht that you plan to sail.

Interested? Need to know more? Contact or visit our website

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Yacht Entanglement with Fishing Gear

Several times this year on various passages I’ve had near misses with various forms of pick up buoy attached to fishing gear. And those were the ones I saw – how many I “missed” at night I’ll never know! Being made up of variations on a theme of plastic 5 litre sized containers almost all the buoys were hardly distinguishable against the sea – even in the calmest of waters. So far this year I haven’t snagged a net; I’ve been one of the lucky ones,  several of my sailing colleagues were not so lucky – including one sailing single-handed round Cape Finistere! Yet the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) guidance requires “black flagged buoys” to be used to mark nets and pots.

FishingOver recent years it seems to me the situation has worsened; why? Gone are the days when navigation was far from being exact and fishermen relied on well-marked buoys to find their gear / pots. Today all anyone needs is a not-so-smart mobile phone; they can drop off the buoys, note the position to within feet, and return days later to recover their catch. Indeed it could be argued, to reduce the chances others coming along and pick their gear, it’s not in their interest to make their buoys standout!

There are some yachtsmen now choose not to sail at night for fear of entanglement!  So what can you do about it?

  • Keep a good LOOKOUT
  • On a passage aim to clear coastal waters before dusk
  • Ideally keep in waters deeper than 100ms! (Having said that a few years ago I “caught” a fishing net half way across the Bay of Biscay at midnight)
  • Consider as a minimum having on board wet suit and mask as well as a sharp ship’s knife!
  • If you are unfortunate enough to have to go over the side to untangle the fishing gear, MAKE SURE YOU ARE ATTACHED to the yacht with a lifeline!
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London Boat Show 2014 – Visit Report

Planning to visit the Boat Show? Following our visit on Tue 7 Jan here’s our overview

Boat Show Infrastucture Comments


  • Travel From Liverpool to the show – good service with Virgin Trains to Euston but allow another hour+ to cross London to the ExCel site in the Docklands
    • Don’t understand why organisers have not moved back to Earls Court. There was no meaningful exhibits on the water outside
  • Ticketing & Marketing Very confused – in the 2 months lead up was constantly being encouraged to buy discounted advanced tickets. Once a “deal” lapsed it seemed to be replaced by another (& at times cheaper deal)
    • Were the organisers panicing about the lack of ticket sales?
  • Exhibition Hall Spacious, well organised apart from poor signage on how to access the outside floating exhibits
    • Good range of refreshments at reasonable prices
    • Fairly quiet day in the show: no queues for stalls, plus exhibitors very welcoming (with a couple of notable exceptions – why were they bothering?)

Notable Highlights

There was a lack of a high profile WOW factor; however this allowed us to concentrate on the smaller / more relevant exhibitors. What impressed us:

Challenge of a Lifetime – Atlantic Circuit

  • A charitable event in support of hospice care open to all even those with no sailing experienceAtlantic Route
  • 8 legs:UK –Caribbean & back 14 Oct 14 – 16 Apr 15
  • Using Tall Ships Challenge yachts

See email

Tel: 0845 0342 188 (pity about the 0845 number and no alternative found on google)

National Coastwatch Institution

A voluntary charitable organisation set up in 1994 funded essentially to restore a visual watch along UK shores following the closure of a number of smaller coastguard stations

  • Accidents do happen; high technology and sophisticated systems cannot substitute a watchful pair of eyes

Fifty stations operational with most stations around English coastline from Humber to North Cornish Coast with 5 more around south & west coast of Wales, plus one at Rossall Point in Lancashire and another at Sunderland in the north east

  • In 2012 nearly 300 incidents were reported involving vessels, divers, surfers and coastal walkers
  • As well maintaining a visual watch observers monitor radio channels and can keep a radar watch.  In an emergency they are trained to assist the emergency services through the MRCC
    • If telephoned watch keepers re able to give advice on local conditions

Future development: certain NCI stations may be licensed to brief on locals conditions over the radio and provide radio checks; however this will probably be only on Ch 37 (M1), or 80 (M2)

See email

Dream Yacht Charter

Operates over 450 boats worldwide including:

  • Luxury Yacht crewed vacationsDream Yacht Fairview
  • Bareboat & skippered charters
  • Vacations booked by the cabin
  • Sail racing
  • Corporate events

UK base in the Hamble in partnership with Britannia Corporate Events Ltd; their main yacht being a fleet of 20 matched Oceanis 37s

Also have a boat club:

  • Simple comprehensive membership with no joining fee
  • Upto 44 days per year available for sailing
  • Fully staffed office at Fairview Sailing, Port Hamble Marina
  • Access to South coast & cross channel cruising, training, racing & worldwide charter.

See, for boat club details go to

GT Yachts

In recent years many yachts in the 35 – 50 ft range have been produced with the charter market in mind with design compromises to permit roomy twin cabins aft, bathing gt35aplatforms on the stern etc.  GT Yachts offers a new range of cruising yachts with no such concessions. The concept is aimed at the “Grand Tour” market such as the ARC and other blue water rallies.  The requirement is for extended range performance cruising incorporating seaworthiness, safety, power and comfort.  Designed by Stephen Jones whose previous yachts include: Prima 38, Starlights 35 & 38, Southerly 38

The GT35 will be the first in the range to be launched and is currently in the fitting out stage prior to sea trials in late February and March.  Whilst displaying modern styling, the GT35 embodies all the attributes that define a performance cruiser.

  • Freeboard that is generous without becoming unwieldy provides an excellent range of stability as well as interior room.
  • Deep cockpit coamings, secure transom and running rigging led safely aft.

For more information go to

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London Boat Show 2014

The festive season is over so it must be time to plan the coming season’s offshore sailing; boardwalk_325x217what better place to do that than at the London Boat Show (Sat 4 – Sun 12 Jan 14).  We are making the trip down to the show on Tue 7 Jan but with just a few hours to spend there we need a plan! Yes, it is nice to look the latest yachts on offer and dream about summer days basking in the sun but there’s much more to see:

New Toys – how about:

  • Raymarine (Stand A170) with their new range of touch screen multifunction displays
  • Navionics (next door on Stand A169) – their range of smartphone navigation apps are very reasonably priced but just be cautious all you with iPhones; those who haven’t IOS7 you may need different versions of the app.  Android? – no problem

Publications, Charts & Books

  • Imray are always worth a visit on Stand A108 – ideal for spending those cash christmas gifts

Chartering / Corporate Events / Sail Training

 Do it all in one visit – Dream Yacht Charter on Stand C143 (and don’t forget to mention you were referred to them by Monkey’s Fist Sailing / SkipperforHire)

  • A worldwide network of charter yachts; and ask about discounts:
    • 5% discount for a booking made at the Boat Show
    • + discount for repeat business
    • + discount for early booking for your dream summer holiday
    • + fantastic deals on late bookings (Antigua a bargain if you can go this month!)
  • Corporate sailing / racing – the Britannia representative on the stand will be pleased to chat.
  • Offshore training / chartering cruisers in the Solent – ask to speak to Andy or Chris from Fairview Sailing / Sail Logic

Finally That Yacht

  • Southerly Yachts on stand G122, G119 are a must for a yacht with style and superb finish
  • Alternatively there’s the  GT Yachts with their new range of yachts designed by Stephen James on stand G149.  The first yacht in the range to be built is the GT35. gt35bWhilst displaying modern styling, the GT35 embodies all the attributes that define a true cruising yacht.
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How to win the ‘Round the Island Race’ with a novice crew – or at least take line honours in your class!

This year Mike (Monkey’s Fist Sailing skipper) was invited to act as tactician on a chartered classic racing yacht in the J P Morgan “Round the Island Race”. Despite having a very novice crew (who sometimes took over 2-mins to tack the yacht and return to target speed) they were able to take line honours in their highly competitive class. In this article Mike is going to explain the key tactical moments in the race which lead the team to this most unexpected victory.


As expected the pre-start was chaotic with the crew unsure as to what was going on whilst the well documented carnage that broke out around us. As will become a common theme in this article, the main aim of the start was to have clear air and stay clear of any bum fights whilst still trying to remain competitive by going full speed across the line on the gun.  By some miracle we manage to achieve this and set ourselves up in a nice wind lane for the beat.

Beat up to Hurst Castle

On the first leg of RTIR crews are usually overly keen and play the tidal advantage game too much at the expense of sacrificing clean air. This year’s RTIR had over 1900 entries, what’s the point for going for a spot with 0.3kts more positive tide if you’re in dirty air and having to duck crossing yachts every 2-mins. Instead, treat this leg like big lake sailing, aim for a good clean wind lane (usually up the middle to mainland side) and focus on your VMG (velocity made good). Especially if your crew are novice you don’t want to be short tacking up the deep channel as each tack will cost you many precious boat lengths.

As the fleet condenses at Hurst Castle keep an eye out for a good gap to tack into, don’t rely on being able to bully your way up the bank calling for water.  Don’t forget for many of the yachts on the water the RTIR is their only race of the year and might not understand calls for room; even if they do, they might be somewhat slow to react. Be conservative, rather than ducking, tack into the big gaps for that precious clean air.

The Needles

Rounding the Needles

The Needles is the first opportunity to make big gains and the ideal time to make one critical calculated risk. This year, yachts were giving the wreck an unprecedented wide berth. As the time went by and the later classes passed through, skippers were following the yacht in front but staying slightly further offshore just to be safe, following each yacht the one behind would do the same and so on. The net result was yachts detoured massively and lost well earned ground. I took my crew inside everyone yet still far enough away from the wreck to know I was 100%; this move gained us a shed load of places.

Needles to St Catherine’s Pt

As things started to settle on this next leg, the general plan was to stay on the shore side of the rhumb line; not only did that give us some tidal advantage but as ever we stayed in clean air. On this leg it’s very easy to match-race with a fellow yacht. Although this is great fun, this is not the aim of the day! If you end up match racing you’ll loose sight of the bigger picture; you’ll find that in a matter of minutes you’ve haemorrhaged places to yachts around you taking advantage of your diverted attention.

A capsized yacht off St. Catherine's

Bembridge Ledge Bouy

The leg leading up to the Bembridge Ledge cardinal rounding is much the same as the previous, keep it clean, play the tide if the air is right and avoid the match races. However, close quarter rule knowledge is important at the only mark rounding on the whole course. The fleet yet again condenses on the approach and in our case we were rounding the same time as about 20(ish) other yachts. From as much as a mile out, have your approach planned and start positioning yourself on the inside to call water on the yachts stuck outside of you. If you can’t position yourself in time don’t be afraid to slow down to let the pack go through then round seconds later but close to the mark. You’ll find that you will have still made gains by controlling your speed and getting a good line. This year setting a good line was especially important; with shifts, the next leg was at some points a fetch.

Bembridge Ledge

For some reason down this leg, yachts have the tendency to loose the perspective on where they are and where they’re heading to. As long as it make wind sense, keep your course to the red posts SW and W of No Man’s Land Fort as short as possible. These posts aren’t part of the course; therefore do your calculations to see if you can make it on the inside of them.

The Final Stretch

This was where I made massive gains just by not over analysing the tactical situation and not being a sheep by following the crowd. Crews, albeit tired, yet again become overly keen on the final leg and yet again overdo the tidal tactics. As with leg one, this year clean air was king beating up to Ryde Pier. However, after the pier crews were loosing sight of how the tide could help them even though it was on the nose. The vast majority of yachts were short tacking up the shore trying to stay in slacker waters in their final bid to make gains. When under pressure from my crew to follow the crowd inshore I simply instructed them that we were to pinch and go for direction not speed. By heading up those extra few degrees we managed to leebow the tide which naturally took us inshore saving us at least 6 tacks. This unquestionably won us the race.

Drinking some well deserved champagne after taking line honours!

The Finish

Nevertheless, “it’s not over ‘till the fat lady sings”. Make sure your final approach to the finish is a good one, not forgetting that there are two lines. If you’re on the North line make sure you set yourself up to finish on the starboard end of the line; if you approach the port end on port, you’re likely to come across scores of yachts on starboard trying to head towards the Southern line. These late disruptions can have a detrimental effect to your overall result and if racing is close, your class result.

In Summary

The RTIR is a great fun race, but it’s easy to loose sight of the bigger picture:

  • Don’t become involved in too much detail with tidal tactics.
  • You won’t win the race by going from match race to match race.
  • Don’t hold grudges.
  • Be bold enough not to follow the crowd.
  • Sail in clean air.
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