Chris Hogan, Ric O’Shea 136, wrote this in 2001 after winning his first of eight National Championships. He tells how to plan to win the Nationals. The six P's? 'Proper preparation prevents p**s poor performance!'
Get yourself a good boat. Chris's planning started four years ago with the search for a championship capable boat. He thought 136 looked right and a telephone call to Salty gave confirmation. 'It's a good'un. Buy it.'
Get it right. Chris stripped everything out of Ric O’Shea, leaving just the hull and keel. Floors and tanks were renewed and the boat was re-rigged using a layout similar to that of the new Parker boats. This took a year. He then spent almost as long fairing the hull and keel - no bumps, no hollows, no dings - everything smooth as silk.
Get the right competition. Chris joined SCYC, hosts to the 2000 Nationals. The competition there he describes as 'friendly but fierce' and their record speaks for itself. The last three National Champions have hailed from Abersoch.
The vital piece of the jigsaw is to get yourself an ace crew. Here Chris had some help from his wife for Ric O’Shea's sharp end is looked after by son Mark. This is not pure nepotism. Mark was trained by no less a person than Jim Saltonstall, Tony's brother, as a member of the Welsh Squad and then the British National Squad, starting in Oppies, moving on to 420's and the branching out into Fireballs and the like. The crew's job on Ric O’Shea sounds simple enough. Mark calls the tactics on the beat, constantly on the look out for greater wind pressure, judging and calling the wind shifts, noting who is around them, giving information on who is doing what and going where, feeding everything back to the helm who concentrates upon sailing for speed. He probably works the jib and spinnaker as well.
Get yourself a tuning partner. Here Chris and Mark are lucky enough to work with Dave Best and Mark Thompson. They spend a full weekend once a year tuning against each other. On the first day, one crew leaves everything alone while the other tries things out, adjusting settings and judging the effect against the other boat, using it as a standard to measure against. On the second day, the roles are reversed. This process enables both crews to finalise their settings so that come race day, they have total confidence in them. Chris and Mark are a little on the light side which was OK in the lighter stuff in the early part of the week at Lowestoft but meant that they had to work a lot harder when the wind picked up. Chris remarked how exciting it had been sailing windward/leeward courses in high winds. They also learned that you have to pump out all the way down the run. However, they had tried out their new sails, decided on light and heavy wind settings, had confidence in the rig and were thus able to concentrate on the racing.
Get to know the water where the Nationals will be sailed. Chris says that Lowestoft is 'very fair as a venue.' Anyone can buy a chart and work out where the banks are and what the tide effect will be. So Chris and Mark bought themselves an echo sounder and took pains to work out the likely effect race by race. Chris points out that a notice was posted each day indicating the general area of the race. A study of the chart onshore gave basic information. Then they went out to the race area early, sailed the first beat and checked the chart in situ.
So there it is
Six simple steps. Easy isn't it? Start this four year plan now and you too can win in next time round. Mind you it does help to have talent. We have noted Mark's credentials but Chris has himself been national champion twice in Hornets and has been at the top end of the GP14 fleet for several years. Many people have commented that the Squib is best sailed as a big dinghy and Chris says that the Squib rather resembles the GP14. Pressed for hints and tips, he recommends Mike Probert's article that appeared in Squibble (No 97 Spring 2000.) He had a comment on the mainsail clew outhaul. 'Pull it on as tight as you can on the beat, though perhaps a little less tight in a chop, and let off for the reach. Unlike a loose footed main, the bolt rope sticks in the boom and doesn't run too well. It needs a tug to free it off.' Chris is looking forward to Belfast. Asked about preparation for the 2002 venue, he said, 'It sounds a bit different. There must be mountains around the Lough but I do not even know how big the sailing area is or what the tides may do. No good asking the Irish. They just say, "Come over and find out."' No doubt Chris, Mark and Ric O’Shea will be doing just that.