Team Racing is often seen as the preserve of university and private school sailing. But have you ever thought about how it could be used to help your OnBoarders get a better idea of racing?
The annual OnBoard Feva Frenzy in Cornwall does exactly that, and this year around 40 sailors, including for the first time from North Devon YC, contested 35 fun team races in one day at what has become a staple on the South West OB calendar.
So why has this event, which is believed to be in its eighth year, captured the imagination of clubs, sailors and parents so much?
RYA Sailing Development Officer Tim Cross, who has organised the last three Feva Frenzies, explains: “It’s competition in its loosest form and it stays true to the OB ethos of enjoying sailing not performance sailing.
“There is a range of OB abilities there but it is a low level ‘introductory’ event and for many of them it’s the first time they’ve had “Starboard!” shouted at them or “Room at the mark!” It gently helps them understand how the rules work in practice.
“There is a really, really strong social aspect to it on and off the water, and because of the style of racing, you don’ get boats stuck in a procession following each other around the course. It isn’t always the same boats that come out on top.
“One crew this year took so much delight just from crossing the line first, as they had never done it before, regardless of the fact their teammates were last! Magic moments like that make it. Some are so new they still find sailing upwind a challenge; if they all go away thinking it’s a fabulous event we will keep them sailing.”
How it works
Don’t be lulled into thinking OB team racing has to require the maths ability of Carol Vorderman and the tactical nous of Sir Ben Ainslie, it is very different to what you might find going on at high level events.
For a start there are just two boats, not three, in each team in each race, and there are no complicated points to work out, if you win you win.
Two courses are set, with a round robin of two flights of five races in the morning, so everyone races against each other once, before going into a knockout format for the top four teams. A regatta fleet is also run to keep all the other teams sailing too.
All racing is done in club-owned RS Fevas, and to add to the sense of team camaraderie, all teammates are in the same colour OB rash vests.
The key to the event’s success is how it’s run, as no one wants to scare sailors and parents off. The SIs are as complex as ‘you will be briefed on the morning’ and for some races the first mark will be set as little as 20m from the start line to make everything feel achievable for even the most inexperienced rookies.
Coaches and instructors are there throughout to hold the hands of those sailors who need it around the course, another important aspect of its informality.
Tim continues: “The starting sequence is 3-2-1-GO and it’s just numbers on sticks, no flags. The courses are so small that if a coach projects their voice it will carry to the windward mark, so there is always lots of shouting encouragement and advice to reassure the sailors they’re going the right way or as to what they should do.
“The sailors aren’t left sitting around for long spells too, which is important. They sail out a race before their race, and with racing on two courses there is always someone either sailing out or back or racing.
“Everyone walks away with a goody bag with event sponsors Harken and RS Sailing providing caps and prizes. Steve Dean from RS Sailing came along this year and he was blown away by it all.”
Location, location, location
In recent years the Feva Frenzy has moved from Stithians Lake in central Cornwall to Siblyback Lake further to the east of the county to give more clubs from Devon the chance to get involved too. The more competitors, the more fun the event.
Siblyback Lake is also a very narrow stretch of water in its own valley at the top of Bodmin Moor, creating a natural Amphitheatre for parents to stand at the top and look down on their children racing.
One of the Feva Frenzy’s biggest aims is to give parents and volunteers an early experience of packing up boats, loading up a trailer and travelling to an event, showing them it isn’t as daunting as they might first think.
Location is key to that Tim believes.
“Where we host it is a spectacular spot and because they’re all together watching their children sail, it’s a very sociable experience for the parents too,” he concludes.
“Parents meet other parents and the realisation that there are a lot of like-minded adults there makes everyone just that little bit more prepared to travel. As a stepping stone to encourage sailors to progress to the next level, the Feva Frenzy works.
"The fact we use team racing to do it just makes it more fun, more sociable and with more action. What more could you want from a OB event?”