Hiscocks diary from the Musto Skiff Gold Cup
(Webmasters note: For those who don't know Simon is
a double Olympic Medallist in the 49er so knows a bit
about skiff sailing!!!)
Day One. Hang Over Travel.
a rather drunken party in London I made my way to Stanstead
for a seven o clock flight to Brescia or Verona in Ryan
air speak which is like calling Stanstead London. Hangovers
and patience are don’t generally go hand in hand, patience
and Simon don’t go hand in hand either the two together
can a potential disaster. To start with the queue to
go through security virtually began at the check in
desk. One long wait as the announcer asked people to
empty metal objects from their pockets. Would this be
better asking them to place metal objects on there bodies
so as to prolong the queuing of those behind. It really
can’t be that hard, Can it ?
There was a plan that Bov ( Ian Turnbull
mast builder extraordinaire ) would pick me up from
the airport, thus saving me taxi / hire car dosh. However
he and fellow Geordie’s ( sorry Sunderland ) had encountered
some teething problems with their trailer and were still
in the middle of France. Quick booking of hire car and
a new problem in patience appears – that of navigating
whilst driving whilst still hung over. There are two
options in driving from Verona ( sorry Brescia ) to
Garda, there is a motorway and there is an A road equivalent.
The A road takes a bit longer but not as long as the
motorway when you drive past the exit. There must be
a good reason to only put the name of one destination
on the exit sign for the next motorway. Probably to
confuse hung over, patience lacking hire car drivers
who only looked for signs for towns in the direction
they want to go. So Modena is on the same road as Garda
but in the opposite direction. New lesson look for where
you don’t want to go.
Having eventually extracted my self from
the real Verona and made my way back towards Brescia
and then on to Modena but taking the opposite direction
I found my self in Malcesine in search of the Geordies
( sorry Sunderland ). Locating them in a bar in the
old part of town was at first a relief, which quickly
degenerated in to a 3.30 stagger home.
Take one hangover and add a 3.30 drinking
session and a night’s sleep in the Geordies ( sorry
Sunderland ) van and you have, in the morning, one Olympic
athlete ready for some virgin Musto Skiff sailing.
Day Two. Hung Over Virgin Sailing.
I find Paul Manning and get introduced
to my boat, which I am pleasantly surprised to find
is rigged and ready to go. Taking it easy I listen to
Mark Rushall’s coaching group go through the manoeuvres
on dry land. I am on holiday so partaking in coaching
and serious training is work and mustn’t be undertaken
at any cost. Anyway the lads have been running through
sailing these boats all night ( sorry morning) long
and I should be an expert?
Sailing the musto skiff requires mainsheet
trim, kite control ( ie hoist, drop, gybe, trim ) and
boat balance via the trapeze, easy all the tasks expected
of a 49er crew, just like the day job. Except one thing
there isn’t a helmsman ! Problem.
Immediately I start to rig and get changed
there are many hands offered to help, I later spot many
items on the boat that I didn’t rig and would have been
quite oblivious to had some kind soul not taken it upon
themselves to carry out these tasks. Later I realise
that the camaraderie between the sailors is born out
of the lack of helmsmen, without one there is no one
to hold the boat whilst launching and recovery and no
one to check on all the rigging errors.
without some trepidation I set off on my Virgin voyage
(photo right shows I I got it right some of the time).
The boat is narrow, it has tubular racks, unlike the
49er, which means places to fall through, it has big
sails and more than one of them. It is quite scary but
also tempting to drive hard.
Luckily there wasn’t much wind a genteel 8 – 12 knots
enough to get on the wire and enough for the boat to
let me know how it would punish mistakes when the wind
blows a bit more.
It is surprisingly similar to 49er sailing
the techniques for gybing, tacking and other manoeuvres
share the same basic principles just with fewer steps.
I am impressed at how well sorted the boat is and how
there seem to be few compromises to make in finding
It is closer to windsurfing in the fun
from simply sailing around with a bunch of boats trying
to out do each other ! After several hours of sailing
and only two capsizes I am starving hungry having had
just two slices of toast all day. Time to find accommodation
and some food.
Day Three. Supposedly no Hang
Felt worse this morning than any other
for the last few days. Not helped by most people asking
if I was Hung over this morning ? Perhaps there is a
problem here, also felt worse when sailing the boat,
an inadvertent main sheet uncleat going in to the first
tack led to my first capsize, not the only one, but
the only one I can put down to near non driver error
! Where is the helm ?
Lots of fun today all the boats racing each other up
and down the lake, no formal course and certainly not
a formal start, it seemed you started roughly where
you thought it right, I let a few go and tried to play
catch up !
A few goes at this and I am thinking this really is
good fun, also naively thinking I might be getting the
hang of it….. Off to the opposite cliffs where more
wind can be found and it’s a whole different story !
Still feel a bit happier that come some wind there might
be a vague chance of survival. One more day of practice
tomorrow then its in to the racing, personally I cant
wait its one thing sailing up and down quite another
when there are marks to go around and other boats attempting
to do the same. Off for some beers in Malcasine tonight,
o dear a definite hang over is looming tomorrow and
I told my self this would be a sober holiday.
Beers last night took their toll, no sailing
today and missed some good wind this morning as a result.
Mind you this is a holiday and sailing at 9.00 on holiday
isn’t the go in my book. More of a bus mans holiday
going skiff racing and helping Martin fix is broken
pole, a result of hitting the rocks on the way in, turned
it into a working holiday. It’s been a while since fixing
boats so all good fun. Rather frustrating trying to
track down the necessary ingredients for the repair
as we met one unhelpful Italian after another. Finally
we found some encouragement and were sent of to an industrial
estate near Riva. It turned out to be an F2 windsurf
manufacturer and Patrick whom we met there sorted us
out with some epoxy and carbon. Fingers crossed for
the resin to have gone off properly.
Registered this afternoon and read the sailing instructions,
must have been bored as this is normally a last minute
job. Haven’t got around to reading my notes on the racing
here which I made after the 49er Worlds in 2001, perhaps
wont bother, some times it’s best to go with what you
see rather than any preconceived ideas….
Chris is lying 4th in his Mumm 30 event in Corsica so
hopefully might have some chance on the race course
and see if we can both pull of a good result, with no
practice it would be surprising if either of us did
First races tomorrow, no drinking tonight am looking
fwd to seeing what it will be like, so far I have thoroughly
enjoyed my experience its like crewing with out a helmsman
Who’s Jiggling ?
No wind what so ever today, lots of sitting
around doing diddly squat ruminating about the jiggling
flags that never got near to erect. Very very very early
start tomorrow half past eight like ! It’s going to
be a long day.
Breastroke, Crawl and lots of
Not beer, but Lago de Garda ! It was windy
20 - 25 knots, sometimes more….Cant say that it was
very easy - although Sten and Bov and many others made
it seem that way. As far as I could tell, from my lowly
position on the centreboard, every one else had there
share of the problems, some more than others….Rueing
missing that morning with breeze to have experienced
some of it before. Alas by the last race, of four, I
was making the turns only to be let down by the short
chop on two occasions sending the transom skywards !
A lot of fun and if we get the same again I might make
it around in one piece. Making it around unscathed is
a virtual top 10 result certainly top 15. This boat
rewards practice and learning the techniques for each
manoeuvre. I am battered and bruised but have had a
lot of fun, its like learning to sail again, like when
you are young, and its fun to capsize ! ( Like. )
Midday start, which is soon postponed
until 13.00. The wind came in pretty quickly and fairly
strong, there we were looking fwd to some light wind
racing only to be met with another gale, at least that’s
what it felt like to me. Managed just one swim in the
first race to bag a 7th losing three boats in the process.
Followed this with another 7th which is my first non
capsize race with the actual joy of overtaking boats
! The later races were not so successful, being some
what worn out by the early races and a headache from
god knows what ? Ashamed to say I managed to capsize
in very little wind whilst virtually last ! Also ashamed
to say this led to me pr’ing this one. The next race
wasn’t so much better which became a drift down wind.
Still the front-runners were pretty much the same and
I am beginning to look decidedly average.
Sleep became this evening’s entertainment
and still it could have been longer.
The last day and it’s howling.
the previous gales into perspective, a capsize pre start
followed by the realisation that the kite is rigged
wrong takes some time to resolve, I just make the start.
Seeing a few boats with out spinnakers quickly made
up my mind to what I should do – leave it firmly in
the bag. The second round lying in a good position and
feeling brave I attempted the downwind sleigh ride !
Only to stack it into the back of a wave and then precede
to make a complete mess of the recovery with many more
swims before reaching the finish.
Race two is just as windy I am 5th at
the second top mark – wow, after leaving the kite in
the bag and just one swim ! The kite is staying put
and a no gybe policy firmly in place. Three boats make
it past by surviving the run but still bag a result.
Nothing to be proud of no gybes and no
kite, maybe if had adopted this policy early on the
scores might have been better ? But how much fun is
it ? Especially when enduring the post race ribbing…..At
least it wasn’t for both races !
To sum up…..
Finishing 12th overall certainly wasn’t
a spectacular result. But I had a lot of fun in the
process, which was the general idea of doing the event.
The boat is a lot of fun to sail, it’s a bit tricky
but at the same time its quite manageable once some
methods of gybing, hoisting and dropping are learnt.
Probably fair to say that I had some ideas of how to
sail that were based on perfection rather than survival
and ignored some early advice of this matter, always
listen to the advice of those who sail the boats regularly……O
The fleet is incredibly friendly always there to help
each other launch, recover and general advice and discussion.
There seems to be a strong increase in the fleet size
and, I expect, the standard to continue to improve.
A great boat, great people and good wind
is the recipe for a great event which is just what is
was, a great thanks to Bov, Paul Manning, Luca Modena
and last but by no means least Beat Blasi who kindly
lent me his boat to swim around rather a lot, he doesn’t
speak much English ( none ) so wasn’t so easy to thank
Would I do it again ? For sure, if I had some spare
cash I would buy one straightaway.