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Superb weekend sailing in the Xenon

I have managed to sail almost weekly throughout a most awful English winter. Apart from the ice and snow the wind was either totally absent or blowing a gale - the day we organised a 'Xenon Have a Go day' we were able to look at videos and discuss capsize procedure - but sailing? no chance the reservoir was like a mill pond. Last week we were sailing through a thin sheet of ice.   However this weekend......   lots and lots of wind with superb sailing.

Friday evening we looked at the forecast and decided that sailing on Saturday was a must. We duly packed the 'nappy', much to the amusement of the children, in the hopes of using the trapeze.

On Saturday morning there was a strong SSW wind almost directly onshore. I duly noted that launching needed care but would not be a problem but landing in an onshore wind could be a problem in the Xenon. The danger of a strong onshore wind is that the boat will be driven at speed into the land or will be broadsided onshore. Most boats will suffer damage from such a landing and, although the Xenon is much tougher than most I would not like to risk such a prospect.

The text book solution to handling a landing with a strong onshore wind is to position the boat upwind from the landing area, drop the mainsail and run in using just the Jib. The jib can then be quickly released as shore approaches and the boat has sufficient momentum to reach the landing point. The boat is then turned across the wind and the crew steps out on to dry land! That's the text book.

The Xenon has a large powerful Mylar sail that in any sort of breeze is almost impossible to drop. Even if you could drop it the crew may have to jump overboard to make room for it!  If anyone has a technique for dropping the main in such conditions - or if you think I am a wimp, please advise or add a comment!  We launched anyway.

Almost immediately the power came on and crew was on the trapeze. We were able to head out crashing through the waves on a close reach (upwind but with the mainsail not fully pulled in). The wind was both strong and fairly consistent and by diligent playing of the mainsheet I managed to keep the power on whilst fully trapezed. The Xenon undoubtedly responds well to the trapeze, driving through waves with the bow wave being thrown well clear of the boat.  However I struggled to keep the Xenon flat. Whilst the video of our sailing suggests the Xenon was on a reasonably even keel it is misleading. For most of the time I concentrated on keeping the waterline just below the gunnel, letting out the mainsheet fully only when water began pouring in the front and jetting out the back.  On countless occasions I have marvelled at, and been grateful for, the fully self draining deck and this was no exception. Sailing with a flat Xenon in such conditions proved extremely difficult

The wind was so strong that we could not resist an afternoon session.  However we did have some capsizes - two down to my helming and one when the gust simply flattened the Xenon even though the sail was fully out, fully trapezed and me hanging over the side. Great fun!

Sunday - wind not as strong as forecast but still decent in the morning. When racing my function is as crew. I am fortunate to regularly race with a very able helm. We had 4 Xenons on the start line,  one of which was equipped with a trapeze and which was used to good effect until a capsize. The number of Xenons in the club has been steadily increasing although not all race. We made a reasonable start after some shouting at some RS400s - all part of the fun of racing to which I am now addicted.  As the races continued the wind strength increased until just staying upright was the main preoccupation. Many boats capsized and we saw one turtled Xenon (not using any floats). I very unwisely commented to helm that we were doing well as we swept past an RS400 with is highly skilled crew swimming around it. Approaching the finishing gate it was necessary to gybe to pass through the gate - the gybe appeared to go well with gennaker inflating nicely on t'other side, I scampered up on to the side but obviously not quickly enough as with some hesitation the Xenon tottered and then passed the point of no return and in we went. Yes we rapidly righted and finished with pride slightly dented.

For Sunday afternoon I had agreed to take out a father and daughter for a trial run in the Xenon. They were considering purchasing a Xenon hence their interest. At lunch time the wind was still strengthening (averaging 18 knots on the local weather station) and I certainly did not wish to give anyone a bad experience in sailing - it may put them off the sport.  I expressed my doubts and warned of the high prospect of capsizes and suggested we postpone to another day. They were not put off so after demonstrating the rigging of the Xenon we launched. My passengers expressed a willingness to helm! The Xenon is a big boat but they seemed keen and so we launched with 3 of us in the Xenon - plenty of room - and I jumped on the side as the Xenon really took off.  What a ride! foam curling away from both sides of the bow, the Xenon clearly had not noticed the additional weight and handled beautifully in the excellent wind.  I owe my passengers an apology! they were both obviously expert sailors and handled the Xenon with great ease and much pleasure. In the strong wind, and being 3 up, in these conditions was absolutely ideal for the Xenon. The sun then decided to come out making it the perfect sailing experience. Surprisingly, and probably a reflection on their expertise as helms even the additonal weight did not cause the Xenon to take on water even in the strong gusts.  Sadly after 2 hrs we had to return to normal life. As I drove home I reflected on the fact that this weekend had been one of the most enjoyable sailing weekends.  After 6 years I still have no reservations over buying the Xenon and so far the maintenance has been limited to replacing worn ropes.

If you have Xenon sailing experiences good, bad or terrifying let us know so that others can learn.

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