Monday, October 16, 2017

Rule 23

Once again there’s been a long pause between blogs 

I didn’t stop sailing. I just sailed another boat.

RS300’s don’t like it if you sail other boats. Being the prettiest boat in the fleet you wouldn’t expect the RS300 to be insecure or jealous but they are highly strung creatures who react badly to being neglected or overlooked. 

So my flirtation with the more sedate but much more competitive “Snoopy”  (an OK dinghy) is temporarily on hold while I re-establish the relationship with the RS300.

What can we look forward to over the next  few months?

The only sporting silverware I will receive between now and next summer will be running medals (for completing races, not winning them, I hasten to add)

Having taken the OK dinghy home, my brother and the Finn fleet will hopefully stop whining about my boat having an unfair handicap.

To prevent me having an unfair handicap in my RS300, courses will now consist of upwind / downwind legs only with no reaches.

I will no longer suffer the stress and anxiety of having high expectations in terms of results.

I will now suffer stress and anxiety through the fear of looking stupid, drowning or physical injury.

Although I will often be in company with the Finn fleet I am too busy dealing with boat-handling and survival issues to notice – or even care – about flagrant breaches of rule 42.
In return for my lack of attention to rule 42, I would like other sailors to be aware of rule 23 as this now specifically applies to me and it will crop up from time to time:


If possible, a boat shall avoid a boat that is capsized or has not regained control after capsizing, is anchored or aground, or is trying to help a person or vessel in danger.  A boat is capsized when her masthead is in the water

So here's looking forwards to an eventful and incompetent winter's sailing.

Take care everybody :) 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sea Interclub April 24 - the Return of the 300!

My arch-rival and nemesis, Luke, has been away for a while.I had a hand in his prolonged absence.

Luke, as you may know, is a big bear of a man. His small parts are wider than my large parts are long, and eventually his RS300 began to buckle under the strain of his huge prowess. 

So, when the boat began to disintegrate I suggested he took it to my evil apprentice, Rover. “Rover will fix it” I claimed. Luke was grateful and took his RS300 to Rover’s workshop. 

What I omitted to tell Luke was that Rover will fix it in about 9 month’s time – or whenever he needs the cash or workshop space for another project. So I knew all along that Luke would be out of my hair for a long time.

Instead of using his enforced downtime to practice sailing and go faster. I used the time to eat, drink and compose strongly worded  emails to colleagues  at work. I blew my opportunity to get fit and become a better sailor. 

And suddenly Rover needed the money and the workshop to build himself an OK dinghy. Basically because I beat him once and I won't lend him my boat anymore.

So Luke has returned with a repaired boat and he's a man on a mission.

Here we are on a brisk Sunday morning. On our way to do battle with Highcliffe Sailing Club in the annual collision-fest that we call the Sea Interclub. 

Not so many Christchurch boats today. The Big Ginge fractured something important during skipping practice. Sneaky Laser sailor has taken up a new hobby which thankfully doesn't require him to be at the Sailing Club every weekend. The Wire Haired Terrier sailed yesterday and she probably has family things to take care of and it's too cold for the estate agent who is probably busy selling a Mudeford beach-hut to a  millionaire.

I sailed the day before. Thinking the practice would be good, I managed to break the clew strap, capsize, soil my hikers in the process and reduce my confidence level to zero. So basically I’ve rediscovered my old form.

There should be 3 clubs racing. Mudeford won’t leave the harbour for some reason.  They prefer the smell of mud on their dagger-boards and watching coots mating. In total there are about 15 of us out there today.

Luke looks mean, fit and focused. I know this will end badly for one of us and I expect I’m the one.

We survive the long sail out to the race area. It’s sunny but cold and the northerly breeze is shifty and gusty coming off the land. The only benefit is flat water. But flat water is just as cold and wet as lumpy water if you fall in.

In race 1 I clatter a Finn’s transom on the start line which unsettles me. Luke is in clear air and going well – at the top mark we’re both surrounded by Finns and bogged down in the pack – but he’s ahead and stretches away. I sail like a twat – still mad at myself for hitting the Finn – and eventually Luke extends to a 2 minute lead at the finish. I’m unhappy I sail over to Simon to apologise for the collision. His boat is unharmed; mine is slowly sinking. 

A sharp squall turns the sea white. I’m thinking about going home and missing the 2nd race but stay out with a half-hearted intention to grow a pair of kahunas and wave them in Luke’s face…I sail over to Luke and even throw in a gybe. That's better - I'm feeling a little braver now.

Race 2 begins and Luke, what are we doing? 
Flouncing around at the back of the pack and a long way from the line, we both miss the start by a good 20 seconds. Luke’s ahead of me but we’re following the race. I’ve never started so badly in my life. 

My head is not in the right place today.   

A couple of fruitless tacks to find some clear air and I decide to go find a lay-line just to have a quiet place where I can swear at myself in peace.  Way out to the left I throw in a tack onto port and suddenly I see the whole fleet parked to the right of me - I'm sailing over them.  

The wind has decided to throw me a lifeline and I’m coming in fast on port tack. Not quite in the lead but back in the race and – crucially – ahead of Luke. Down the first reach and I’m clear ahead with Luke 50 metres behind.

The beats are trickier and, of course,  Luke’s back with me. Separated by no more than 2 or 3 lengths  we track each other around the next lap with Simon and Alex in their Finns not far behind. 

After exchanging the lead a couple of times, I head onto the final run with Luke on my transom. Just a few hundred metres to the line and I have a chance to finish ahead. Luke’s going for it – he gybes and draws alongside. Ambitious but risky – he’s now on port. I’m on starboard.

50 metres from the line and he’s coming past. Gloves off – I luff up towards him “Starboard…..mate” I don’t shout – playing the rules in a tight situation feels awkward and unusual in the 300 - we usually stay clear and sail fast. Luke gybes away and I luff him up – parallel to the finish – then a sharp bear away and I’m back ahead and going for the line. I cross ahead and moments later a loud “thwack!” as an RS300 mast hits the water. 

Luke’s gone in just a couple of metres upwind of the line. Slowly he drifts over the finish – turtled.
I still finished first!

I’m tempted to grab my newly grown kahunas and wave them in Luke’s face. But it’s cold and he looks angry. I wait for him to get aboard and we sail back home together. It was a good race but I didn't really want him to fall in.

Back ashore and I check on Simon’s Finn following our collision – not a scratch. My 300 has a reasonably large dent in the bow and about 5 gallons of water inside. It could have been worse – Ray snapped a £4500 Finn mast in the sand after rolling in at the windward mark. We made it look difficult out there. 

I’ll never be a good RS300 sailor but it’s the best boat ever. Will keep trying.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Not an event report. The RS300 Inlands.

“You’re writing the report!”

OK – let’s be clear about this one. I am NOT writing a Yachts & Yachting report for an RS300 event where I was too far behind to see who won and too busy trying to stay upright to notice what the weather was like or whether the start line was good, bad or indifferent. The only thing I remember is there were never more than 6 boats behind me and even if I knew who they were I’d be accused of cyber-bullying if I mentioned them by name. Nobody needs a defeat by me mentioned in the yachting press.

Even though I didn’t get near him all weekend, poor Steve Bolland hasn’t won any events that I’ve been to and it was also mentioned that there is never any wind on Sundays when I turn up.  Rich Le Mare’s trailer collapsed on the motorway last time out simply because I was following him. I am bad news for this fleet on so many levels.

One other reason NOT to write a report is because I’d be obliged to mention the fact that we were sharing a course with Phantoms.  When a class of boat requires you to bring several rigs to an event just in case the wind changes it’s not really a one-design, is it? And the “I’m still racing, GET OUT OF MY WAY” shouts from their back markers confirmed my suspicion that the fleet is full of elderly, tubby, humourless jerks. I speak with some authority on this matter as I am elderly, tubby and often humourless and I also spend my weekends in the company of Finn sailors. I don’t suppose Yachts and Yachting would publish that.

While most of the fleet slept in cars and vans, I managed to find a nearby B&B.  Next year I’m going to sleep in the car. The landlady was well intentioned but fussy. We had to sign a disclaimer to be able to use her internet and she insisted on typing the Wi-Fi password personally on our behalf. Having a browsing history is a bad thing. “Please, Carolyn, I want to Google “Bukkake” and can’t remember the password” We also parked half a metre too far from the lawn and blocked her drive. It deserved a mention. And my hikers dripped onto the bathroom floor while they were drying. It deserved a mention. And for £95 I think a rasher of bacon, a fried egg and a chipolata would have made a nice accompaniment to the muesli.

The Saturday meal at the pub was very pleasant. Sitting with Alistair “Two Soups” McLaughlin, Mark Taylor and Steve Sallis made for decent company and the food was excellent. A fresh-faced young person called Oli arranged it. Perhaps I should invite him to be a Facebook friend.  There were about 10 of my Facebook friends in the pub and I didn’t recognise any of them.  Facebook friends aren’t like real friends. You don’t forget their birthdays because Facebook reminds you. You can say “Happy birthday” without buying them a gift and you remember the names of their kids because the little darlings get mentioned in posts every time they use the bathroom correctly or pass a test. 

Richard Le Mare invited me to be his Facebook friend just last week. I discovered this is because the warranty on the boat I bought from him last year has expired so he’s no longer worried that I’m going to complain about all the breakages.

Meanwhile – back to the sailing. The race winners were Tim, Steve, Sam, Sam, Sam and Sam.   

In the Yachts and Yachting race report I’d be obliged to mention that there was a northerly breeze although as far as I could tell it came from every direction except the one I wanted it to come from. 

Every report tells you the race officer set a start line and the boats that started in clear air, spotted the shifts and went fastest (i.e. the best sailors) enjoyed an unfair advantage over me; which is why more than 20 of them always reached the windward mark before I did.

At this point in the report you would be provided a long list of names, probably in the order they rounded some marks. The most common name in the fleet was actually "Chris" as there were 3 of us.  Just behind us, with two each, were the Steves, Alastairs, Daves, Marks, Richards and Ians. The poor guys who couldn't even muster a single namesake included Sam, Luke, Tim, Stuart & Mike. But if you sail as well as these folks it probably doesn't matter.
"In wide, out wider" Another outstanding mark rounding by 393
The report should include some comedy moments. There were some capsizes on Saturday when it was windier than Sunday. I capsized first by attempting a gybe but fortunately this was before racing. Steve Sallis, a very good sailor, capsized during a race when he was 4th which proves how difficult RS300’s are – even for the best guys. Storky “2 Soups” fell in on the run but still finished miles ahead of me. Some of the slower guys (by “slower” I mean less than one capsize ahead of me) also fell in and elevated me from 25th to 20th or 21st in a couple of races.  Some of the Phantoms capsized while tacking; their sailors rolling like lardy marbles from the high side to the low side of their boats. I think I’m probably more of a Phantom sailor than an RS300 sailor. It’s a depressing thought.
Lardy marble attempts to reach high side of boat
And finally, every report mentions the prize-giving. We had one, too. A young man from the sailing club, wearing a red jacket, said some kind words. Pete and Steve presented some RS300 prizes – mostly to each other. Sam won so he also said some nice things about the sailing, thanked his parents and his girlfriend, and observed wistfully that he’d like to drink beer when he’s old enough. The Phantom sailors presented themselves with some prizes and we all went home, listening to the Scotland – Australia rugby on our car radios. 

Here are the results, in case you've missed the official race report:


Monday, September 14, 2015

The Midlands Double Header

There’s been a bit of a gap between blogs. I should address this and move on.

The Pre-Nationals training was going well until family and life events overtook the sailing. I managed to spend a lot of time in the boat during the early summer and the highlight was definitely a sunny morning practising in Christchurch Bay surrounded by a friendly pod of dolphins.

The lowlight was my Nationals performance – or non-performance – on days 3 & 4 when the wind and waves picked up. Crash and burn sailing feels like an unnatural act which is unfortunately something I failed to adapt to in my 1st year with the RS300. I really do prefer to keep the mast out of the water. Licking my wounds, I went away to sail my cruiser and upset people using strongly worded facebook posts about bungs and stuff.

So after a break of 2 months, Kinectic and I are on our travels once again to the Midlands Double Header at Attenborough and Bartley. Never heard of these places? Nope, nor had I. Here’s why.

Day 1- Attenborough.  A Lagoon tucked away inside a nature reserve just behind Matalan and sheltered in the lee of a huge power-station in Nottingham. The lagoon is actually quite lovely for kayaking, which is why kayaking is forbidden. An archipelago of Islands and reefs greets the unwary sailor. Chris Nicholson and the Team Vestas Wind crew should have trained here before the last Volvo Ocean Race – that reef in the Indian Ocean would have come as no surprise after a weekend at Attenborough. 

A lovely guy called Jonathan greeted us on our arrival. Jonathan sails his RS300 on the lagoon along with a motley collection of Supernovas and a competitive weirdo in a Laser. He was hoping we wouldn’t be nasty competitive jerks. We aren’t. I’m a comedy throwback from the 1980’s and my buddies are mostly the same apart from a few youngsters from the 1990’s and a couple of blokes from Scotland who claim to remember the 1970’s. Jonathan moors his RS300 on its side using a tyre to anchor the mast to the bank. I was admiring this immensely until a gust of wind blew his boat upright and it sailed away with the tyre hooked around the top of the mast. Jonathan isn’t as smart as he looks.

The sailing was great fun and incredibly physical. We did boat-handling every couple of seconds with windshifts, wind-shadows, gusts, islands and sandbanks adding to the challenge of racing 12 other boats. I didn’t finish last, mostly because enough people capsized. 

We were treated to a freshly prepared packed lunch between races aboard Attenborough’s wobbly floating clubhouse, moored on the lagoon. Rich Le Mare stepped aboard and my coffee slid off the table and onto my lap. If you weigh more than 100 kilos they should make you ring a bell or something to warn the other passengers that you’re arriving.  Apparently they are building a clubhouse on the shore next year. I think it would be a shame to lose the floating boat.

Overall I think Attenborough was one of the nicest places I’ve sailed and I enjoyed the experience, but too soon it was time to pack and make the 60 mile journey down to Bartley sailing club in Birmingham. Richard Le Mare was our host and tour guide so foolishly I decided to take advantage of his local knowledge and follow him down the motorway.

45 minutes later a plume of blue smoke and the smell of burning rubber alerts me to the possibility that all is not well with Richard’s trailer. We pull onto the hard shoulder of the motorway just outside Birmingham and it becomes clear that Richard knows a lot of things but sod all about maintaining trailer bearings.  After a short while we both stopped crying and decided the best course of action would be to put a new wheel on the bearing-less axle and make our way slowly through Birmingham city-centre at nightfall on a Saturday evening. 

The next hour of my life is something I never will forget. Richard took a couple of attempts to find a speed at which the trailer wouldn’t seize up in a plume of blue smoke. Our top speed was 23 mph which is frustrating if you’re in a 2 mile queue of cars following us down the Aston Expressway.  We eventually reached the centre of Birmingham where everything slowed down and I had a chance to take in the view. 

Never have I seen so many size 16 women wearing size 10 dresses. Spilling out of taxis and bars, it was a sight my eyes will never unsee. If you have a 4 foot wide bottom, displaying that part where it meets a pair of two foot wide thighs… it just doesn’t work on so many levels. As I looked away, I glanced a woman carrying a bright pink inflatable penis. 

Sadly, Richard’s guided tour of his favourite nightspots came to an end as we slowly clanked and screeched our way down to Bartley. Our RS300 buddies were already waiting for us so we headed off for a late night curry and a few beers before crashing at Richard’s for the night.

Day 2 – Bartley.

Nestled in the outskirts of Birmingham it would be easy to miss Bartley reservoir. It’s actually a fairly large stretch of water. Less pretty than Attenborough but deeper and without the islands. In theory this makes it easier for sailing. In practice, it’s still a puddle and therefore impossible to sail on unless you’re from the midlands.

Catering at Bartley is worth a TripAdvisor review. I managed to order a coffee (“Coffee, ploise”) but struggled with the language and didn’t get to sample the more interesting items on the menu, such as Bike On Sandwich, Kipper Tie and Pot Noidle. It was a friendly club, though, and once they’d finally unlocked the place, allowing me to use the lavatory, I became happy and relaxed again.

The wind was lighter than Saturday with very little hiking. I was happy with this as the amount of boat-handling at Attenborough, combined with a late night and badly inflated airbed, had left me physically shattered.  I managed a reasonable 3 races, the highlight of which was a 6th place – pretty much exactly mid-fleet.

Mid-fleet is tantalisingly just out of reach for me at the moment. I’ve managed to hang onto the back of the group just behind the leaders but not quite able to convert this into top 5 places. Steve Bolland, who is my current sailing hero, doesn’t seem to enjoy puddle sailing either. On the two occasions where I actually overtook him he was heard to say “Fuck it, I’m going home” and promptly retired. This can mean one of only two things. 1/ I am the benchmark he uses to confirm that things have got so bad he should give up or 2/ He’s beginning to respect me as a competitor and….ok, it means only 1 thing.

On reflection it was nice to get back in the boat and meet up with some great people again. Today, everything aches which is a good reminder that to sail any boat well you must be fitter than me. The Inlands are coming up soon and I need to build up the hours, ready for the next event.