Solo sailor and top helmsman Brian Thompson shares his magic touch with us for a new series

This week I’ve been out on the water working with professional solo sailor Pip Hare putting together a video and feature series we’ll be running next year. In this, we investigate the secrets of sailing faster and doing downwind manoeuvres more easily, with less crew.

On Monday we spent the day broaching and Chinese gybing in 20-25 knots of true wind (and rain) showing how to get the boat back under control and prevent the worst happening, even when you’re on the edge.

Yesterday, we had Brian Thompson aboard. Brian is one of Britain’s most talented sailors. He’s sailed alone non-stop round the world three times and broken 25 world records, including the Round Britain and Ireland record for the third time last week when he sailed on the 130ft trimaran Banque Populaire and smashed it by a huge margin to set a new time of 3 days 3 hours.

Brian has a magic touch in helming and trimming boats to go quickly, and he took us through some of his tips and tricks yesterday. We were focussing on how to keep a boat moving in light airs, those times when most crews are sorely tempted to turn on the engine.

Brian, shown above working through his script with Pip Hare, had some fascinating things to say about how he steers through waves (he doesn’t, he just goes dead straight) and how exactly to helm for accuracy and speed, and some great pointers about sail trim for boatspeed.

He’s an expert on reaching, having done so much of it. About 40 per cent of the Vendée Globe round the world race, he revealed, was white sail reaching, and Brian showed us how the simple trick of using an outboard lead could add a knot to speed.

Fascinating stuff. There are going to be lots of goodies like this in our video series next year. As they say, watch this space.