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Jottings by Dan Jarman


Jottings from the National Champion - Dan Jarman

Coming back to the Unicorn it could be said my sailing career has gone full circle. There were several reasons for this. Having sailed a Tornado for the last 10 Years or so it was becoming increasingly more difficult to co-ordinate work, home, kids and crew to name but a few, not to mention the Unicorn seemed to be the ideal choice with the main advantage of being able to go for a sail at a moment's notice. Another reason is that Unicorn sailing always seems to be in the blood having spent most of my teen years trying to beat the old man its never really gone out of the system.

The first five years of sailing Unicorns came to a sudden halt in 1982 by suffering a bit of a prang and being a wayward 18 year old got side-tracked into helming a Fireball for the next five years with a couple of years in Lasers to boot. Fortunately I was able to keep my hand in being lent a boat by former member Ray Ellis to compete in a couple of the Nationals back in the early 90's. There have been no regrets about coming back as bang for bucks, it easily compares with sailing the Tornado. In some cases its more exciting on a Unicorn as you feel slightly more vulnerable, and its trickier in a blow making more of a challenge to sail.

It must be sail that last season, in terms of results, was a boom year for our class. We featured at the top of several major events and got a reasonable amount of vital publicity through Yachts and Yachting magazine. Of those reports were Bala, (Will Dawson), Camel Week (Unicorns top 5 places), the nationals at Roadford, and the re emergence of some Unicorn sailors in Scotland with a report from the Royal Tay S.C. winter series (2 Unicorns in the top 3). Unfortunately the ones that didn't make the Yachting press through the respective clubs not sending in race reports were Weymouth Regatta, Grafham Cat Open and Weston Cat Open. Unicorns 1st, 3rd, 1st respectively. Although not totally lost as the Shearwaters sided with us in reporting in their own write up the 'veteran' Unicorn winning Weston, putting across that Shearwaters and Unicorns are still a force to be reckoned with amongst the new genre of high tech racers. This has never really been in doubt anyway, as with any long-standing racing class experience is always in abundance. Take Bob Dorks for example; over 30 years in the class and still winning National races and still going as quick as ever. This could also be said for the other Stone guys like Peter Toft and Ivor Harris notching up consistently good results at the Nationals. As always good publicity for our class is imperative in attracting newcomers to the association, therefore a bit of a pity the aforementioned events never got reported to keep the class in the public eye.

It was encouraging to see in the last newsletter people wanting boats and to join the association. At Weston last year a Hurricane and an F18 sailor approached me showing genuine interest in getting a boat. I spoke with Gary Piper recently and he said that around 4 cat sailors had been in touch with him wanting boats purely on the strength of that one regatta at Weston. Also at this event I got chatting to local sailor Paul Sales who was keen to get his boat going quicker with a new Caws sail on order.

The Stokes Bay fleet was strengthened last year when the former Boss sailor Mike Harrison coming on board mid season to make a total of six competitive Unicorns. Mike also had a crack at the title last year and despite being on a steep learning curve put in a couple of really good results and I'm sure this season he will be giving everyone a run for their money.

We're sorry to hear Tony Burstall has retired from Unicorns but no doubt John Wade will keep the flag flying down in Weymouth Bay, and maybe some of us will join him for their 3-day regatta in July.

Although in terms of numbers the turnouts at meetings have been a bit low key, the class seems to be holding its own with around a dozen boats competing each year at the Nationals, and a total of 15 appearing somewhere on the traveller series. But lets face it, a lot of other classes seem to be on the decline such as the Hurricane with only 22 boats at their Nationals compared with the 60 odd they used to enjoy a few years ago. The Dart18 also seems to have been on the down turn over the years. If recent events are anything to go by it seems that we're on the up. I think we are safe in the knowledge that having survived 34 years the Unicorn isn't going to disappear overnight and a reasonable class membership should continue to flourish. There's more encouragement due to the fact that Gary has almost completed building yet another boat and I did hear that someone up country somewhere had built a new one. We've also seen the re emergence of the Scottish guys at the Royal Tay. I particularly remember Grant Mitchell who came to the Nationals at Stokes Bay many moons ago. You never know, maybe this year?

For the Stone Fleet the 2001 Nationals should make up for their long trek to Roadford Lake in Devon last year. Sailing in their own back yard and with a strong home fleet looks promising for a better than average turnout (oh to have 22 boats!). I've heard that Stone Regatta week is famous for it's apres sail, it should be a cracking week.

Onto other events happening this season the traveller series will hopefully kick off at Starcross Cat Open in Devon in early May. Speaking with Phil Chester recently he seems keen to do most of the major opens with myself and some of the regular Stokes Bay crew. Due to other commitments I won't be there on Saturday, but still worthwhile doing Sunday and Monday so I should be there for that. Next will be Weymouth Town Regatta in July. Well worth a look in albeit a little close to the Nationals. The majority of the racing takes place inside Portland Harbour making it ideal for Unicorns. Even out in the bay, providing its not blowing an easterly tends to stay flat. Looking at the map it looks like Starcross is a similar set up. After the Nationals at Stone the series takes us to Camel Week at Rock S.C Cornwall in August then onto Stokes Bay Cat Open early September. Grafham in October then probably Weston after that. All of these open meetings are highly recommended and always well attended by cat sailors of all levels. So come on guys, support your class by doing a couple of opens!

It was interesting to note the different sailing techniques at the last Nationals. Probably the main influence was the difference in the hull shapes. Peter, Bob and Ivor from Stone were all using fibreglass hulls originally built by Condor. They have a much straighter keel line and level deck line compared to the Stokes fleet. These are sailed to windward by the traditional method of trapezing just aft of the mainbeam and sticking the lee bow in almost level with the water which enables the boat to point higher. All the Stokes Bay helms were using Gary Piper built boats, a slightly different beast. These are built with maximum rocker tolerances within the class rules. Gary refers to this as the Dewen shape, which was adapted by Roger Dewen a number of years ago, before he went into designing his own style of 'A' class.

These need to be sailed free and fast up wind with the trapezing position level with or even aft of the centreboard casing (see below). This cuts a much shallower groove and reduces the wetted surface area of the leeward bow section sometimes to the point where the bow even lifts clear of the water in gusts. What you loose in pointing ability you make up in speed through the water. I have found this shape tends to go through chop better and has less tendency to bury the bows downwind in a real howler. Another noticeable thing in a force 2~3 conditions was that the 'Stones' were quicker off wind and had the ability to sail a few degrees lower. On several occasions Peter and Bob breezed through to leeward no problem at all. One contributing factor may be that they all look considerably leaner and lighter than us lardys with most of us weighing in the wrong side of 14 stone. The breeze most of the time at the nationals averaged around F3 which provided optimum conditions for close competition especially the days when it was shifty. Although there were a few gripes with regard to the shifts it was pleasing to say we trapezed every race at one stage or another. For an inland lake in the height of summer we must be grateful for this - it could have been a lot worse!

Another technique I have been experimenting with is the 'wild thing' which has been around for about 10 years and used by most 2 to 3 sail cats these days. Its not been proven whether it works on a Unicorn yet but I'm pretty sure it does in the right conditions. Even so it adds a very exhilarating dimension to the Unicorn when sailing downwind. If I can get the hand of it properly perhaps I'll do an article in the next issue.

See you soon.



Wild Unicorns



I mentioned in the last issue of Unicorn news about doing an article on the Wild Thing technique, which is Aussie for flying a hull downwind. This technique was developed by the Australian Olympic Tornado Squad about 10 years ago and has caught on well with most 2 to 3 sail cats and is widely used in the A class fleet.

The idea is to reduce the wetted surface area of the hulls to increase speed. Although initially you have to sail slightly higher to cock the hull out of the water, you eventually end up sailing as low, if not sometimes lower, than a cat that is sailed conventionally. Because of the added speed your apparent wind angle comes forward, therefore you can sail deep and fast.

On a Tornado you have the ‘luxury’ of sending the crew down to leeward to reduce the leverage on the windward hull. My old crew used to describe it as ‘standing on your head under the Niagra Falls!’ Even more fun during the frostbite series! Being a single hander we don’t have that luxury.


The wind band for ‘going wild’ is around 15-20 knots and works much better on relatively flat water so avoid waves if possible. Gybing is a bit more of an issue, as it takes longer to get up then get settled once gybed.

I must confess though, I have struggled to make significant gains against a conventional downwind technique. I used the technique quite often at the Weymouth Open, although I wasn’t losing anything, I didn’t seem to gain much either. This I could put down to a couple of things; one, lack of practise and two, my weight is a little suspect – 14 stone sat on the rear quarter is slightly incompatible with downwind cat sailing. I am convinced an 11 stoner could really make it cook downwind but I don’t think I’ll be seeing 11 stone again!




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