This report details a very pleasant visit to Coniston Water, in the Lake District, organized by The Open Canoe Sailing Group (OCSG) and which included members of the Amateur Yacht Research Society, North West Local Group, John Shuttleworth, Mark Hillmann and Colin McCowen. The event was very well organized with a safety briefing at 10.00 am before launching, a sign out/sign return sheet and a ‘Buddy System,’ where two or more boats agreed to stay close to each other. At the safety briefing we had been warned that the temperature of the water was a mere 4 Deg C. so if you fell in you would be incapacitated very quickly. Buoyancy aids were mandatory. John had a full dry suit on. He must know the hazards of cold water.
The weather was lovely, sunny with a very light breeze/gentle wind. John and I thought that if we sailed North to the Blue Bird Cafe we might have to paddle all the way back as the wind was so light. So instead, we sailed gently across the lake from the campsite at Coniston Hall on the Western shore, to the cafe at John Ruskin's house, Brantwood, on the Eastern shore. We tied up and had a really good coffee while sat on the terrace enjoying a view of the mountain called the Old Man of Coniston.
My canoe had a 4sq.m ex windsurf learner's sail which might have been fractionally bigger than John's sail but we both tootled along with no great difference in performance in any direction. A good few of the canoes have their outrigger side floats positioned quite high above the water so that they can be seen sailing along some times with both floats out of the water thus reducing drag. They must be there for safety and/or stronger winds. A couple of OCSG people commented that they were surprised to see me sailing towards the stony shallow shore and then quickly revolve the aluminium cross tube so that the two keels on either end were lifted swiftly into the air. As the canoe is also fitted with a special shallow water rudder it can be easily hauled up on to the gravelly lake shore.
In the evening we met up again for a group meal at the Ship Inn. The food was excellent, stories and chat very interesting. During a lull in the conversation, while they were all enjoying the food, I got to my feet and on behalf of the AYRS members present, thanked them for such a well organized and enjoyable weekend.
Next day, Sunday, there was racing for those so inclined. The weather was dull, a bit drizzly, but a good breeze. I am 73, can you believe. I had had enough sailing from the day before to not be bothered to get the canoe off the car roof rack again. I had not taken my 15ft wing mast which together with the sail makes 10sq m. or approx.100 sq ft. I considered Lake Coniston it to be too big a lake to be rescued from the middle in the event of a capsize. Instead, Val, my wife, and I watched some of the action, with the aid of a pair of binoculars from behind the protection of a glass windbreak at the Blue Bird Cafe, while drinking hot coffee.
Mark Hillman brought his plywood tenth scale mock up of his Self Righting Proa to the shore of Coniston. It generated a lot of interest from quite a few people. There is an extensive write up about it in a recent copy of Catalyst. (Number 51 – January 2017). When we were leaving we had a chat with an OCSG member, who had been sailing with his daughter. His boat is a light blue Solway Dory, which was an experimental boat, which had two extra long narrow stability floats. He was pleased to tell Val and me that he had recorded 12 knots using a satnav. The theoretical speed of a 16 ft displacement hull according to the Froude Formula should be 5.6 knots, so it just goes to show that you can go faster than the theoretical displacement speed if your hull is extra slim.
The wing mast and sail, I mentioned earlier in this article, have now been tested three times on a small lake near my home, Manley Mere, Helsby, near Frodsham, Cheshire. The second test ended when I forgot to release the mast steering control and did a slow but graceful, undignified capsize as I was tacking. It was 20 yards to the bank and part of the boat was stuck on the bottom. I had to lower myself into the water and do a fully clothed, buoyancy aided swim. The wing mast has performed perfectly since, even to the extent of my removing the two 29 litre. safety floats at each end of the transverse aluminium cross tube.
I am currently working on kite pulled hydrofoils. It is still too early to give out details but the experiments are going well so far. I am hoping to publish details soon.
Report by Colin McCowen
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