Royal Thames Yacht Club
Thames Five Training Programme.
Thames Five is the Club’s principal work-horse in the on-the-water management of its events. This training programme is intended to allow any member to enjoy a day out being useful on the boat in any capacity from deckhand to skipper. The normal working crew is three: two deckhands and a driver. One of these three crewmembers, usually the most experienced but not necessarily – indeed, frequently not – the coxswain will act as skipper and take command of the boat. The boat is equipped with an hydraulic winch so recovery of marks does not require great strength or grunt: rather the pleasing application of applied practical seamanship.
Working on deck can get you wet: always wear waterproof sunblock
Despite her tubes, Thames Five has to be regarded as more than a mere RIB and experience (some of it unfortunate, from split tubes to split passengers) has shown that just because a Member has experience of RIBs, or yachts, he or she is not necessarily either qualified or indeed safe to be allowed to take the boat away unsupervised. Thames Five is a powerful small high-speed workboat with peculiar but not difficult handling characteristics and with systems that, again, are not difficult but which are a level above those found on a simple RIB and which therefore require understanding.
So much for simply driving the boat: a thorough briefing and a bit of practice at slow-speed, close-quarters handling and some high-speed running to learn the use of the trim tabs should be sufficient to convert someone with the level of skill and knowledge to gain an RYA Level 2 Powerboat certificate into someone who can drive T5 without bringing tears to the CSO’s eyes. But that is only the start…
Thames Five has much more to offer and learning about her and how to operate her will bring immense rewards and much personal satisfaction. Thames Five is probably the best-equipped and most carefully thought-out course-laying boat in The Solent with an all-weather capability to set, lay, manage and recover a full yacht race course completely self-contained. Familiarity with all her systems must be acquired before she (and those aboard her) can perform this task even competently: something rather more than familiarity is needed to allow her to demonstrate her full potential. Once that potential is realised, the personal satisfaction gained is considerable. Running T5 properly, delivering the course for race managers and competitors alike promptly, competently and quietly is a demonstration of practical seamanship skills in which those of us who do it take not a small amount of quiet, not to say smug, pride. Pride can often come, of course, before acute embarrassment. The scope for egg-on-face is both considerable and highly public. Hence this training programme.
How Much Training Am I Expected To Undertake?
A couple of hours practice or one working weekend should be enough to train anyone in the boat’s deckware and how we rig, lay and recover marks.
A couple of hours practice before a working weekend should be enough to convert anyone with RYA Level 2 Powerboat capabilities into a competent Thames Five coxswain capable of driving the boat for a working weekend under supervision and accompanied by a skipper already fully-acquainted with the boat and all her systems.
A couple of working weekends in such a capacity should be sufficient to allow such a coxswain to gain (and demonstrate) the competence and experience to take full command of the boat for the weekend without the CSO having to watch proceedings while peeking from behind spread fingers.
The Boat and Systems.
Thames Five is an 8.4 metre vee-bottom planning workboat powered by a single 240hp Yamaha diesel running an outdrive propulsion unit that drives and steers the boat in the manner of an outboard motor. She has a small wheelhouse containing a chart-table and navigation station in addition to the steering position. Forward of this, there is a working deck with below-deck storage (colloquially known as the bomb bays) carrying up to eight sets of ground tackle for the marks, a centre-line hydraulic winch run off the engine and a demountable overboard davit with a pot-hauler block to lead the mark tackle inboard to the winch when recovering marks.
Thames Five’s primary function is to lay and recover the marks we use for the wide variety of races we run, normally but by no means exclusively in The Solent. Given that we run racing ranging from Sonars team racing on the Shrape through to Fifty-footers racing in The Solent and Christchurch or Bracklesham Bays by way of laying and lifting the temporary marks for Skandia Cowes Week and for Dragons, Darings and Etchells racing on the Bramble Bank the task is interestingly varied, with gear to match.
Marks for each weekend will normally be prepared beforehand by the Bosun and the CSO and usually be inflated. The boat has her own electrically-operated air pump so that marks can be topped-up, or spare marks inflated, at sea. We carry the ground tackle permanently aboard, stowed under the ‘bomb doors’ on the forward working deck. There are various weights of anchor and grapnel, and lengths of line, to suit a variety of mark sizes and depths of water and correct selection of the ground tackle is usually the first skill to be required. On deck you will need to know:
How the marks are rigged (anchor or grapnel onto five metres of chain onto the riser rope onto five metres of mark chain intended to keep the neutrally buoyant rope well below keel depth of the rounding yachts);
How much gear to use: too little and the mark goes walk-about, too much and the riser rope gets too near the surface and hooks passing keels (or T5’s prop) while the mark itself blows around like a loose balloon. 10 metre risers use white line; 20 metre risers use blue line. Aim for no less than 1.5 times the max depth.
How to put it all together (including mousing any shackles that go under water or over the side).
How to stream it without allowing the chain to foul the anchor on the way down (thus causing the mark to drag) and so that the mark ends up exactly where the PRO wants it.
How and from where on the boat to stream it without getting the rope (or, worse, the chain) round T5’s propeller. (Some of the top names in the Club have been caught this way: the CSO has in the Container several chewed ropes-ends, each carefully marked with and in some cases signed by the perpetrator. And by the way, newest recruit to the T5 driving team Clive Chalk is not one of them... yet.)
How to recover the marks: approach, grabbing and hooking-on, disconnecting the mark without letting the chain and ground tackle disappear back over the side; using the pot-hauler and winch; getting the gear ready for a quick re-lay; securing the marks for towing (use of the swivel and strops).
Towing: T5 is occasionally called upon to tow other craft: flat calm. Breakdown, dismasting – whatever. We rig a bridle (already made up) between the Samson posts and have long heavy duty warps for the purpose. It’s another skill. Once in confined waters we tow from alongside.
Thames Five is by now well-sorted, with a number of specially-made-up and useful strops, securing points, grab-lines and so on: you should know where these are stowed, how to rig them for use. We also have several fairly slick techniques for rapid course-changing, such as keeper buoys – pick-up the mark to be shifted, disconnect from the ground tackle, button-on the keeper buoy, take the mark to the new position, lay with fresh ground tackle, go back and recover the old ground tackle at leisure.
All the foregoing is great fun, and the satisfaction of doing it well, in a properly-equipped boat with all the right kit, is most rewarding.
Boat Handling and basic driving
The training will include:
Overview of Thames Five layout and equipment; essential daily routines; safety drills; position of emergency flares; bilge pumps and operation; handling theory; fuel, oil and water – what to fill with, where to fill, how often; VHF radio; depth sounder.
Departure (always come off the berth using astern, to get the stern out and keep the lowest part of the tubes from swinging under the pontoon edge and being sliced open); low-speed driving (steers like a shopping trolley); getting onto the plane; use of trim tabs; higher speeds.
Coming alongside: man overboard; anchored buoy or boat; moving boat; transferring people or kit from Thames Five to boat and vice versa; pontoon.
Basic Navigation – the GPS and Yeoman
(an essential tool for mark laying)
Knowing how to use, and being fluent and practiced with, the Garmin GPS and the Yeoman plotter is an essential skill for anyone aspiring to drive Thames Five as other than a stand-in driver acting under supervision. We lay all our courses using bearing and distance from the committee boat; if the Thames Five coxswain cannot quickly and accurately take the boat to a position expressed thus the usefulness of Thames Five to the PRO is greatly reduced. The PRO will have to con the boat to the correct position over the radio, using a hand-bearing compass on the committee boat for the bearing, and guesswork for the distance. Apart from a lack of accuracy in the course, a continuing monologue of ‘a bit further… left a bit… right a bit…’ on VHF72 not only takes up airtime on The Solent’s busiest channel but renders the callsign ‘Thames Control’ a dubious assertion at best and makes us sound incompetent and amateurish at worst. The basic functions of both the GPS and the Yeoman can be demonstrated when alongside and stationary, but the only real way to learn to use both instruments, together and combined, is to be at sea and underway.
Basic mark-laying driving requires full familiarity with the GPS – but fuller contribution to course management requires use of the Yeoman both to know, simply, where the boat is and to plot the course, predict mark positions and depths, as well as verifying proposed mark moves (‘Thames Control this is Thames Five: do you want the new mark just this side or just the far side of the church?’) and generally keep track of the day. The Yeoman is also a most valuable tool for passage making.
The training syllabus covers:
GPS: switch-on; use of the instrument and how the screen menu works; moving from page to page and function to function; basic set-up options and which ones to use when; marking (‘zapping’) your current position; converting that to a waypoint; other ways of inserting waypoints; using the GoTo function.
Yeoman: switch-on; registering a chart; finding one’s position; using the Yeoman to show bearing and distance both from or to a position; plotting the entire course on the chart; linking the Yeoman and the GPS together.
Depth sounder: how to use so that the deck know what sort of gear to rig.
- 27 Apr '13 to 28 Apr '13
- 11 May '13 to 12 May '13
- 11 May '13 to 12 May '13
- 12 May '13
- 08 Jun '13 to 15 Jun '13
- 21 Jun '13 to 23 Jun '13
- 13 Jul '13 to 27 Jul '13
- 10 Sep '13
- 15 Sep '13 to 21 Sep '13
- 18 Oct '13 to 20 Oct '13
- 25 Oct '13 to 27 Oct '13
- 12 Nov '13
- 26 Nov '13
- 01 Jun '14 to 30 Sep '14
- 29 Apr '13
- 02 May '13
- 07 May '13
- 14 May '13
- 23 May '13
- 23 May '13
- 05 Jun '13
- 06 Jun '13
- 06 Jun '13
- 12 Jun '13
- 27 Jun '13
- 27 Jun '13
- 03 Jul '13 to 07 Jul '13
- 04 Jul '13
- 08 Jul '13
- 18 Jul '13
- 04 Aug '13
- 05 Aug '13
- 07 Aug '13
- 26 Sep '13
- 17 Oct '13
- 22 Oct '13
- 23 Oct '13
- 31 Oct '13
- 04 Nov '13
- 06 Nov '13
- 14 Nov '13
- 21 Nov '13
- 04 Dec '13
- 07 Dec '13
- 11 Dec '13
- 12 Dec '13