On sailing a Folksong

On tuning the boat

The Open 60s are in Les Sables d’Olonne undergoing final tuning for the Vendee Globe.


I remember one day, in my early teens, sailing Falcon solo out of Fowey, around the Cannis Buoy off Gribben Head and back again – all of three miles.

A big adventure for me.

Falcon – early sixties, racing with my Dad and sister

That day, the wind was light, the sea calm, the sun shining – (it always shone on those days). It was the day I learnt what sailing was all about. I got to thinking about my being the connection between wind and sea. Take away the boat and here was I, sitting a few inches above the water, my feet below the waterline, moving steadily along the coast with just the wind to drive me. If I got the balance right, even for a few seconds, the equation would be sea + me + wind = performance Add Falcon back into the equation and it became:: sea + hull + tiller + me + sheets + sail + wind = performance Fantastic, I thought, the wind may change, the sea state will vary, but, with an adjustment of a sheet here, a quiet movement of the tiller there, I can ride the energy between them. What I was recognising in my rather slow way was that sailing is about sailing – any talk of a destination, or of racing, or of my voyage to the Cannis buoy and back was just an excuse to be out there moving across the sea. Many years later, when I heard someone say: “Life’s a journey, not a destination.” I thought: “Oh. . . just like sailing.”


So . . . tuning – improving performance on the water. The general equation is: hull – tiller – person – sheets – sails (with some fiddly bits in between – or a lot of very sophisticated fiddly bits on an Open 60). Start with tuning the person. Well, this one learns a lot writing about sailing, learns more reading about it, but never learns as much as when he’s out there doing it – and he needs to take more exercise.


Looking at the picture of Falcon, I remember Dad being very critical of it – he didn’t like the way we’d set the mainsail and spent some time working on it – adjusting and readjusting the set until he got it right. I now realise how much the picture affected him. He became very particular about setting that sail. I guess he used pictures to critique the boat and then . . . . oh, good grief! I’m turning into my dad!

One thought on “On sailing a Folksong

  1. Indeed you are – but there are worser things at sea! You’d have liked the boats in Essaouira – will email photos to you – taken with my brother in mind 😉 xx

Comments are closed.