The British Keelboat Academy (BKA) Core Squad were this weekend welcomed by quadruple Match Racing World Champion Ian Williams who shared his skills, experience and knowledge with the next wave of British keelboat sailors.  

Williams, who claimed an impressive fourth ISAF Match Racing World Championship title in December 2012, dropped in on the action at UKSA in Cowes, Isle of Wight for the second phase of training for the BKA Core Squad - and even though sailing had to be cancelled due to strong winds the BKA sailors made the most of the opportunity to quiz Williams on his illustrious career to date.  

A formidable force on the match racing scene, the two-time ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year nominee who only narrowly missed out on unprecedented fifth World crown in 2013 spoke to the BKA sailors about his career, how he became a professional sailor and what it takes to make it in the industry.  

With Match Racing forming the basis of the third BKA Training weekend, Williams also shared with the sailors his top tips and gave advice on specific Match Racing scenarios ahead of their penultimate Core Training weekend at UKSA at the end of the month.  

Earlier in the week the sailors experienced their first Online Coaching session with BKA Head Coach, Ash Holmes. The aim of the session was to prepare the squad sailors for the weekend ahead, looking at Solent tides and hazards and to come prepared with a detailed forecast.  

RYA Keelboat Racing Manager Nigel King talked through the sailors’ CVs, giving them vital information on how to put a CV together and what information they should be focusing on depending on what they are applying for. The evening concluded with a look at some scenario based situations in the Solent, looking at tidal flow, wind strategy, J80 Polars and how to work out VMG (Velocity Made Good) to maximise their performance.  

With the wind gusting over 50 knots on Saturday, sailing was called off. However, due to the wind direction, the River Medina outside UKSA was sheltered which provided an ideal opportunity to go through the J80’s sails, their safety equipment and controlling the boat under engine. The sailors had to perform a man overboard exercise to understand the manoeuvre and what to do in an emergency. Sailors were also taught the effect of Cold Water Shock, Hyperthermia, Hydrostatic Squeeze and Post Rescue Collapse.  

Saturday continued with a fitness session ran by the BKA’s fitness coach, Jack Grundy. The sailors were taken to Parkhurst Forest to test their navigation, fitness, communication, motivation and ability to complete a simple task whilst suffering from fatigue.  

“Although we did not get the opportunity to sail it was a real eye-opener to visit many of the other aspects of keelboat sailing. Looking at the effects of fatigue on our simple cognitive skills really highlighted to me the importance of having a very tight knit team of sailors,” explained Core Squad member Michael Calvert, 18, from Sittingbourne, Kent.  

“This weekend enabled the team to see each other’s strengths and weaknesses which I feel will help in training weekends and events to come in dealing with the more stressful and intense situations in keelboat racing. I am now looking forward to putting all of this new knowledge into the match racing weekend as I'm sure the stressful aspects will apply there!”  

The day finished off with Campaign Planning, looking at what it takes to get to a major event and the finances involved. This was of huge interest to the sailors coming from dinghy racing, especially the increased entry fees, rules and regulations for towing a large trailer and managing 4-5 crew members’ time.  

On Sunday the winds peaked at 35 knots, so the decision was made to look at crew roles, positions and benefits of dry training, where the sailors practiced manoeuvres alongside the pontoon, working on communication, teamwork and timings.  

Continuing with the focus of communication, the sailors played a game of Goal Ball. This involved blindfolding the sailors, which made the sailors think about their other senses and the importance of two-way communication, which is vital on a keelboat. To finish the weekend, the coaches ran a session on sail controls, focusing on their function and the effects of sail shape in a keelboat.  

BKA Head Coach, Ash Holmes, added: “We were faced with very difficult conditions where most training weekends would be called off. However, we made the most of the weekend and achieved a lot in the short period of time. It was good to test some new sessions to emphasis different skills and situations which will be valuable when the new squad members start racing.  

“Again, a massive thanks to the BKA coaching team, Phil Devereux, Jack Grundy, and to Ian Williams for his time. We now look forward to Core Training 3 which will focus on Match Racing.”

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