Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Harbour Interclub - November 5th 2017

Sunday November 5th 2017
Today we have the rescheduled final two races in the “Harbour Interclub” series. It’s a funny, tribal sort of event which attracts huge numbers of sailors to a short, shallow course in Christchurch harbour and usually results in abuse, grumpiness and a general feeling of “I’m never doing this bloody event again”. Despite this, we turn out every year and pretend to have fun, then go back to our clubs and bitch about the other clubs for the rest of the winter.
Early start means arriving 8:45 at the sailing club and the queue to the slipway has started. There are a couple of Finns blocking the way. I go to investigate. There’s a boat swap taking place. This means rig tension gauges are needed to check mast rake as approximately 21 Finn sails emerge from the shed for evaluation.
I go find my mast. 45 seconds later I’m rigged and already becoming bored by the antics of the Finn squad. I get changed, foolishly assuming that the owners of the boats in front are getting ready too.
45 minutes later, sweating in my wetsuit, I’m still waiting in the same place. The shrill sounds from behind me alert me to the fact that Sue, the wire-haired terrier, is succumbing to road-rage at the back of the queue.
Eager to preserve my ears and my sanity, I help the boats in front to launch, not caring if their owners are nearby, and finally get afloat.
Forecast today is for entertaining amounts of wind. It seems lighter than this as we assemble for the first race.  The Race Officer, predictably, launches into the start sequence well before the Christchurch fleet has arrived, but I think we all make it in time.
Staying safely to windward of 2 Finns attempting to flap their way around the pin-end mark (you have to watch the onboard video for this) 

I’m able to tack quickly onto port and cross the fleet. A right-hand shift allows me to tack back onto starboard (I know this is very detailed but I’m proud of this bit so please indulge me) and I’m leading the fleet at the 1st mark.
The course is tiny. I’m away and in front but early on the 2nd lap I begin to overtake boats that haven’t even reached the windward mark for the first time. Trying to stay in clear air and overtake some rather unpredictable competitors is hard work and also means I’m struggling to pull away from the chasing fleet.
Luke had a lousy start in his RS300 but by the end of lap 2 he’s within sight and closing the gap. This could turn into a tight finish. The breeze begins to build and it’s getting lively here in the RS300. On the final lap I bear away onto the run, narrowly avoiding a wipe-out and capsize, much to the amusement of my brother and the assembled CSC RIB fleet. Behind me, Luke isn’t so lucky. A tsunami threatens to wash the Hengistbury Head dog-walkers into the harbour as Luke face-plants the water.
I hang on to cross the line in 1st place. The Big Ginger Offshoot (my nephew, Jack) comes across the line about a minute later, followed by a group of Finns, Lasers and Luke.
With the wind still building and a Wilson Dixon gig in London later this afternoon, I decide to call it a day and sail back. Most of the fleet stayed out for the 2nd race where Luke managed to finish despite 4 capsizes. It was tough enough just sailing home.
When the results were published I was, unsurprisingly, well beaten on handicap, finishing in 7th place. I don’t mind not winning. I’m sailing an RS300 in a handicap fleet around a tiny course trying to overtake boats that go half the speed. The RS300 is the one of the most difficult but most exciting boats to sail. It’s nice to be back in the boat and I’d like to get better. But mostly it’s just nice to be back. 

Someone from Highcliffe is grumbling about Christchurch boats and rule observance. I’m pretty sure he’s not complaining about me. I’m also fairly sure I know who he is complaining about. I know how he feels but I have to sail with them for 52 weeks of the year so no sympathy, really.

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.