Friday, November 02, 2018

Autumn Gales

Greg Paquin has run the Autumn Gales for 10 years now and this is the second time I’ve gone. The main event is three days with plenty of opportunities to get top notch instruction in conditions. Greg gets world class coaches from both the local area and England.
Both of the times I’ve gotten to attend, I have only done a single day out of the three. I have also always managed to attend on days where the conditions are borderline crazy. Today the forecast called for 15-20knt winds with gusts to 30knts, rain, and big swells. There was also a chance of thundershowers. The wife thought I was a wee nuts. I was thinking it was perfect for some adventure.
After a quick briefing we headed out to the breakwater. It provided a nice place wher we duck out of the wind for chatting with the coaches and then head back out into the wind and swells to practice boat skills. I was with Greg and Pete Jones from the UK for coaches. They had us practicing turns into the wind. We practiced different strategies like using short quick strokes at the bow to pin it down and allow the wind to blow the stern around; using forward and reverse sweeps to pivot. We experimented with what paddle positions worked best to turn up wind and turn down wind. There was plenty of wind to practice with and three to four foot swells to make things more fun.
We also practiced surfing swells and paddling in following seas. Greg helped me figure out why I have so much trouble keeping the Aries from breaching in surf. One problem is that I always go straight for a stern rudder, which is not effective and because of how I turn in the boat to place the rudder, causes the Aries to turn even more. He suggested using sweep strokes instead.
He also noticed that I tended to lean forward when I catch a wave and that when I lean forward I arm paddle. Basically, instinct takes over and ruins my form. I have probably been doing it forever and never noticed; the Q-boat was far less maneuverable than the Aries. Greg’s expert coaching was a big bonus.
It was a hard day on the water. I was exhausted at the end of the day - in a great way. If I can only get out once in a while, it has to be worth it. This definitely was.