Vane sailing is largely match racing, boat for boat racing in round robin competition, each boat sailing a windward leg and a downwind leg, 3 points being given for a win to windward and 2 points for a win downwind, the yacht with the highest point accumulation at the end of the event is the winner.
Instead of using radio control equipment, free sailing skippers and their crews use vane gears which react to changes in wind direction and so steer the yacht on its way down the course, vane sailing demands a clear appreciation of wind variation down the course, great insight into sail setting and the fine adjustment of the vane gear.
They say that once the technique of vane sailing has been mastered the skill’s carry very successfully into radio racing, with many of the top radio sailors coming from a vane sailing background this can be considered a true evaluation.
As mentioned above it is essential for every skipper to have a mate to ensure the boat can be re-trimmed from either shore, the skills of the mate are no different from that of the skipper, indeed many of the successful crews have mates that are skippers in their own rights.
Today in the UK, free sailing is largely limited to A Class, 36R, Marblehead’s and to a lesser degree 6m class yachts, with active competition for both modern boats and Vintage examples of these classes.
At Bournville we have a number of highly successful vane crews in fact we can still boast the current Vane World Champion – Mike Harris.
Unfortunately Vane sailing has been surpassed as the premier element of our sport with Radio Sailing now taking the major role.
There is however, still a keen following for this discipline and indeed the 36R class in particular is seeing an increase in race attendance in a number of regions around the UK.
We at Bournville do not currently have a race series for vane sailing, however, there is an element within the club that are hoping to reignite the passion for this highly skilled sport with a hope to start racing on Saturdays. - watch this space!