We’ve just finished a great weekend at West Kirby SC hosting the Manchester Challenge which, this year, was supported by the BUSA Development Fund. For the first time we invited development sailors from other universities to this event and it was great to see people with a range of abilities attending from both Liverpool and Loughborough.

It was a slight relief when we saw the lake looking like a mill pond as the forecast had predicted gusts of over 35mph winds! We were luckily in the middle of a system because many other sailing events over the country were cancelled.

Despite a slight delay because of the rain we started the morning session by splitting into ability groups, with those with less experience in RS Fevas, and the more advanced sailors in Firefly dinghies. The Firefly group started by focusing on boat handling. Tacking on the whistle drills gave our student volunteer coaches the opportunity to break down the roll tacking technique and explain how sailors could be more effective with their use of the tiller and with weight movement. We saw a good improvement in technique over the course of the drill, so we moved onto more advanced exercises that put their boat handling under more pressure. We created tight spaces and racing scenarios, so the sailors had to tack quickly with short notice, as you would need to do in a team race. It was great to see our ‘development squad’ sailors stepping up into helming roles against team sailors and growing in confidence throughout the session.

Meanwhile, the RS Feva sailors enjoyed learning the principles of both helming and crewing in double-handers, before moving onto practicing tacking and gybing. The conditions were perfect for getting used to balancing the boat and swapping hands while manoeuvring around a given course. We started with some figure of eights around two marks, getting used to the difference between up and down wind, before moving onto a follow-my-lead exercise. Towards the end, the session descended into a ball-tag tournament, which brought with it some good and fast manoeuvres, as well as some very poor shots. Everyone in the session learned some valuable new skills which they were able to put intopractice later in the day.

After a welcome BBQ lunch break, we went back out for the afternoon session, with those in Fevas progressing to crewing in Fireflys. This gave the helms from the morning session the chance to apply what they had learnt and pass on any tips for balancing the boat during tacks to the crews. We tried to squeeze in some races, but unfortunately these became ‘drifting competitions’ as the wind died completely, so the schedule had to be cut short. This wasn’t all bad though, because our volunteers had a good selection of snacks which waiting for us ashore.

The food continued when we got back to Manchester where we all enjoyed our curry social. This was a great opportunity to get to know everyone, laugh about the day and see some of our members who couldn’t make it to the day’s sailing. The social continued as we showed the Loughborough sailors some of the Mancunian night life which we all deserved after a long day’s sailing.

We’re looking forwards to inviting other universities back to The Manchester Challenge next year, just hopefully with more wind!
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