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.