Water Trial Report

Santander March 2012

The following are our blog entries from the water trials in Santander. The whole process was a great experience. The Arup Skiff prototypes were a credit to the UK Cherub fleet, their owners (Dean Ralph, Simon Jones and Paul Croote) and the professional fabricators at Aardvark and Bloodaxe. During a week of heavy sailing we suffered no damage and needed no running maintainance except replacing a jib car that lost all of its balls.


Day – minus 2 – Arrival

We arrived today into Santander on the same ferry as Hartley Boats and RS, finding Mackay and the cats for the mixed multihull trials already at the Prince Felipe High Performance Sailing Centre. After some fun and games at customs it appears that two pairs of keys for a rib is far better proof of ownership than any documentation money can buy.

The afternoon was spent rigging both boats, with just enough daylight left for a quick sail, although the wind had all but gone by this point

As we were packing up for the day we were glad to welcome Ovington Boats who had encountered trailer troubles causing them to miss the ferry, and take an alternative 660 mile drive through France and Spain.

Day – minus 1 – Shakedown

With one day to go still we are the only Skiff to have actually got our toes wet. Everyone else appears to still be on the shore with power tools. As a boat with proud UK Cherub heritage this may appear to be the wrong way around, but the competition is shiny and the level of entry is impressive. Amongst them all the Harley Rebel is looking seriously good and it may possibly be that everyone else has underestimated the Arup Skiff?

The morning session with a guest 49er squaddie saw no wind, but in the afternoon Maf found a 29er crew smaller than 30kg and went for a play. Carmella had never trapezed before, but was soon in control and came off the water grinning from ear to ear.

Day 1 – Where did that come from?

Day 1 of the ISAF evaluation trials threw up an interesting bag of weather. The morning started sunny and windless and a happy couple of hours was spent introducing the guest women sailors to the boats in the massive CEAR boat hanger.

After a relaxing lunch in the sun the wind started to gently fill and the boats slipped gently into the bay for a gentle afternoon’s drifting about. The Italian representatives took Arup Skiff 1(Eleanor) down to the sailing area unaware that there was a surprise waiting for them.

Those left on the bank watched the 20+ knot wind roll down the bay to the sailing area. The dominos that followed were probably more fun to watch if you did not have an interest in the boats left on the water. The RS900 with their works crew on board stole the show before the guest sailors on the Arup Skiff returned her to the team.

Memory of the day remains the Arup Skiff being the last boat still sailing skipping past the collection of ribs trying to recover a NACRA cat with a broken mast. At this point, hit by an increasing gust, she did the only reasonable thing – bore away and hoisted the spinnaker. After a monster run, she then blasted about for another half hour before twin trapezing back into the marina (last boat to shore with no assistance).


Day 2- Dogs broken, chains everywhere
Although first thing in the morning the weather looked fair, the wind quickly blew up to 30 knots and despite several optimistic postponements, sailing was called off for the day.

The least said about a day on shore the better.

Day 3-The future of women’s sailing?

Finally some good sailing weather and the Olympic sailors began to really get to grips with the boats, demonstrating their impressive sailing skills and showing what the boats can do!

The morning session saw pairings from New Zealand and Denmark, Great Britain and Japan sailing the Arup Skiff, experimenting with the T-foil and enjoying the sensation of sailing such a light, responsive boat (including the relative ease of capsize recovery). Arup Skiff team member Maff jumped on board with the GB crew for a coaching session, and provided the perfect lesson in how to hit a sand bank, pitch-pole and swim after the consequently escaped T-foil.

After lunch Swedish, French, Australian-Swiss and Canadian crew combinations took the Arup Skiff out. The wind was variable, but the crews were easily twin-wiring up and down wind. After the Olympic sailors had finished their day of sailing, the Arup Skiff team and the RS 900 team took their boats out for a gentle sail – only reasonable after the previous day’s weather-induced frustrations.

Arup Board Director Ian Rogers had his first taste of crewing the green Arup Skiff (and acquitted himself very well) and Arup employee and former GB squad sailor Harriette enjoyed bossing the grey one, and opting for a large for small “Trim transplant” of her crew as the wind conditions lightened. Many thanks to team members Paul Croote, Harriette Stone, Dean Ralph and Ian Rogers who have returned home today for their valuable contributions over the last few days.

 Day 4 – A slow start, then great conditions in the Bay

Another fine day started with a mirror across the bay in Santander. ISAF wisely delayed the start till after midday and most evaluees and manufacturers headed to the coffee shops.

The wind filled in and the afternoon sail proved to be truly worth the wait. As a steady 8-10 knots filled in, the boats left the shore “like ants climbing a tree”. An enjoyable afternoon of skiffing and cat sailing was had by all. First on-board were the Singapore team. They seemed to be having fun.

The women sailors are now starting to push the kit and find the boundaries. It is incredible to see how quickly these women pick up new skills. Over the week we have had the privilege of jumping on board with some of the nominated sailors. After ten minutes with a team crew these ladies are invariably teaching us lessons. Then we put them back together and watch smiling as they send-it across the bay…

Day 5 – No Wind

Enough said. A frustrating day on shore. Many coffee shops tested, but finding WIFI fast enough to upload video over is proving hard.

Fantastic buffet reception provided by Yacht Club, but we’d all rather be sailing….

Day 6 – Morning

No wind, but it’s sunny and hot for the first time. The team have spent a morning in the sun playing with the camera drone (it flys and takes video).

STOP PRESS – Wind! Time to go sailing…….

Day 6 –  In the bay and in the mix

This was the first time we took the boats out of the harbour and into the bay. This was also the first we have seen of the Kite Surfer evaluation. Sadly all we had was an afternoon of gentle winds and some rolling swell, but ISAF had a plan to spice things up. A series of 2 lap windward/leeward sprint races to show the close quarters handling of all the boats presented.

ISAF have made it clear that the selection process is not to find the fasted boat around the course; today this was the FX. The rebel also showed some good turn of speed and apparently some impeccable manners. The Arup Skiff held her own amongst the competition and enjoyed some close racing.

Stars of the day in the Arup Skiff were team Japan, who showed that hooking the foil up and footing off really paid. After a slow start in race 3 it was noticeable that the Arup Skiff was  swapping P3-P5 with a Rebel and an RS900. Sadly their challenge ended damply on the final lap, when they hoisted an hourglass into the wind shadow of the closely chasing Rebel.

At the end of racing Matthew and Roland inexplicably ended up joining the race after a crew swap became a bit more permanent than intended. They showed good pace upwind, but as the ind dropped their combined mass began to show. After several laps with her regular crew, Penny Clark invited Simon Jones onto his own boat to show her a few more of the tricks to optimise the boat’s performance. As the wind dropped these crew were then stuck with the drift back into the harbour and home. Happy, thirsty and ready for a Civic Reception at the town hall, many thanks to the Mayor of Santander for his hospitality.

And Finally….
A couple of fantastic shots from day 4 courtesy of photographer Martina Barnetova.


Day 7 – Noppakao Poonpat

Friday dawned sunny and again windless, but with a forecast of good wind to follow. ISAF looked at the conditions and deemed that format for today would be one boat with a “works” team on board and the other with a pairing that had shown promise during the week.

Our allocated representative sailors were Japan’s Kenji Nakamura and Megumi Taniguchi. They have shown previously in the week that they can dial up an Arup Skiff and drive it hard in race conditions.


After literally weighing our crew options, Matthew and Hayley were about to take to the water when Noppakao came to say hello. As she was keen to sail with us and meant we could show the Arup Skiff with 77kg +43kg on board – we happily accepted her offer.  Noppakao may be small and has very little trapeze experience, but Matthew is still grinning from his sail. Matthew has also used his data allowance trying to find out how many times she has won the Optimist World Championships (reports are not clear, at least one maybe three).


Conditions in the bay were rough, almost windy and with big rolling waves. As sailors tired many from all teams except the FX went in for repeated swimming sessions. Without a crew to swap with, the guests on Ellenor (the Grey Arup Skiff) tired and eventually one long swim led to Roland taking her main off and sailing her home under jib. After Noppakoa tired Marmite (the Green Arup Skiff) went for an eventful blast before heading home. All boats were ready to sail again almost straight away, conversely all the crews looked a bit broken or have meetings to attend.


When even the cats are swimming the conditions are challenging. Just remember, when the women get their hands on the Arup Skiff as their equipment, after a week or two of training they will relish these conditions.

Day 7 – Reflection

Someone asked me as I left the club yesterday “So what would happen with the Arup Skiff  at a Worlds here in 2014?” After a great dinner and a good night’s sleep there are some simple answers to this question:

1)      With minimal proper training time in the Arup Skiff the crews will not flounder, but race hard in these conditions. Without coaching and experience, 49er and 29er crews used to struggle in similar conditions.
2)      Some mistakes on tacks and gybes would lead to capsizes, but limited to individual boats and certainly not in every race.
3)      Nations would not bring teams who had not sailed the boat in the expected conditions, but would bring sailors who are experienced and coached to bring optimal performance from the Arup Skiff.
4)      The footage shot would make television viewing figures shoot up worldwide.


Photo: Martina Barnetova

Yesterday the Arup Skiff  struggled with the conditions in the bay. Any naval architect will point out that the ideal boat for handling big sea is as long and heavy as you can make it. The evaluation committee yesterday will have seen a good example of this. However, we are here to evaluate which boat is the best differentiator of the world’s best women sailors, not the best boat in swell.

Ask any 12ft skiff , R- Class or Cherub sailor  how they would handle conditions of moderate wind, short steep chop and big rolling swell and invariably the answer will  be “with a grin”; and then after some thought “with complete teamwork”. Boat handling and co-ordinated weight movement was key to keeping the Arup Skiff driving yesterday. The crews we put out there were both scratch crews armed with a good fitness level and general knowledge to compensate for not having hours of experience of moving together.

Noppakao and Kenji both proved that the Arup Skiff can be sailed and raced in the conditions, but without the time in the boat needed to master it they tired quickly and then mistakes led to swims. Swims are even more tiring. Once into double figures it was noticeable that Kenji and crew started to struggle to bring it upright. Noppakao certainly appeared to enjoy her sail yesterday and was even making signals that she wanted to get back when the decision was made to head for home.

Day 8 – Team Crew fastest

Today saw an alternative to the windless starts to the previous days. There was wind at first, but by launch time it was dropping off fast. The green Arup Skiff (Marmite) was first off the slipway with Matthew and guest helm Harvey Hillary. Despite being a Sail for Gold Olympic coach and a star of legendary sailing video “higher and faster”, Mr Hillary has probably never had a more exciting sail. The excitement was due entirely to guessing which direction the next minute puff of wind would appear from. An epic sail it was not, but the two of them did show conclusively that an Arup skiff with more than 150kg on board slips through the water nicely in only a zephyr. The other boats watched from the shore and decided to keep their feet dry.

In the afternoon the wind filled in and the boats headed out to the bay. With only one crew allocated for the first session, Roland and Hayley navigated the green Arup Skiff (Marmite) out to a series of short races. The wind remained marginal twin stringing up-wind, but both Arup Skiffs showed good pace at times. Roland and Hayley consistently overhauled the nominated sailors in the other Arup Skiff, despite a series of interesting start line decisions. By the end of each two lap race the “Team Crewed” Arup Skiff was usually sandwiched between the two 29er XX’s and ahead of the nominated sailored Arup Skiff.

Day 9- Weighing your options

We are sure the readers of this blog may be getting bored of reading it, but – today dawned once again with no wind. ISAF took the sensible decision not to send anyone sailing and called a close to the evaluation event. This left one last round of sailor evaluation forms and a weigh in of the boats. The request was to provide a number for the boats fully rigged and with everything needed to go sailing. the table below shows the numbers written from the scales by Matthew Kiddle.

Aura – 101.7kg
RS900 – 119.5kg
29erXX – 108.95kg
Rebel – 95.1kg (wing – 7.25)
Arup Skiff – 75.1kg
FX – 131.05kg

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