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Weight and Sea

"Some are born great and some have greatness thrust upon them". As one who was born great, 13 1/2lbs according to my mother (just over 6 kgs. for the post 1970 reader) fitting this greatness into a National Twelve and attempting to sail competitively seems like an impossible task.

I could, of course, join that currently popular exercise of finding a small crew. Thanks in part to the Royal Harwich Yacht Club baby boom (what else do you doin East Anglia during the Winter?) there should be no shortage of crews lacking in that not so vital ingredient - obesity. They are also expendible when they pass the magic 6 stone limit, find another one.
That still leaves a major problem in my case, a suitable light weight crew to enable me to match pound for pound what is rapidly becoming the norm, would have to weigh no more than 3 stone; which throws up further problems such as "do they manufacture sailing clothing that small?"

Uffa Fox is credited with that immortal saying related to all things nautical and boats in particular "The only place that weight is of any use is in a road roller". I have no desire to rush around the country squashing tarmac flat.

There are surely disadvantages in picking a small, lightweight crew. These to my mind can be summarised as follows:
1. They cannot sit out far enough to leeward on a run to balance the boat.
2. They cannot sit out far enough to windward on the odd occasion that the wind rises above a Force 3.
3. They have to be in bed before 9 p.m. (there are exceptions to this as I am sure Chris Atkins would point out)
4. They have little conversation either of a tactical nature, or to relieve the boredom when you have once more made a bad start.
5. They cannot stand their own round in the bar afterwards.

So why are these small crews so popular? The only reason I can come up with is marginal planing conditions.
We all know that in strong winds the ability to control the boat can be more important than flashes of boat speed with lots of swimming practice thrown in. In very light winds (displacement sailing) even a plank and a blanket drifts at a similar speed to your latest high tech. National Twelve, it is the bit in between. Unfortunately this bit is a big bit. Marginal planing in my case starts at least one strength higher on the Beaufort scale than for the light weights. So why stick with a crew who has put up with me for the last four Burton weeks. Again, I can only summarize, and whilst these points are applicable only to my sailing; they make the difference between enjoying the sailing or merely taking part.

1. We both hate the same conditions, usually drifting conditions that lead to an early retirement, hot water in the showers and a cup of tea.
2. Conversely, we both like the same conditions, particularly what has become known at Portchester as "revelling" weather.
3. I am constantly updated on such important facts as what happened in the last episode of Cheers, missed only because I keep programming the video for the wrong day, time, etc.
4. We both share the same taste in good red wine.

So, unless a new rule is introduced requiring all boats and crews to be ballasted to meet the weight of the heaviest, we shall continue to drag our combined weight of 23 stone around the course; safe in the knowledge that to a minority of the fleet we arc the lightweights.

Andrew Turner  

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