Monday 21st July.
When I arrive, Luke is at the Club. The other RS300 is ready to launch.
Tense moments – rather like Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef facing each other down in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. No sign of Eli Wallach (Beasley)
Formal greetings are exchanged... “Evening Big Fella”...”Hello Grandad”
There isn't much water – Luke, being fleet captain, decides on a deep water course keeping to the main channel. I hope there won't be much boat handling involved, but he includes some mark roundings. We may have to tack or gybe, or both. I'm seething at the unfairness of it all – the odds are stacked in his favour.
Overwhelmed by the urge to practice, 30 minutes before the start, I launch. This was silly. 20 minutes before the start I'm exhausted.
There's a good fleet today – Splashes, Solos, Radials and us – about 10 boats. The start line is short and we begin on a reach to the first mark. A Radial flirts with the shallows near the far bank and leads, but I'm just behind. Luke tangles with his Dad's Solo and is just to windward and behind.
I pass the Radial and float down the river – hardly a breath of wind up here. Luke is a few lengths back but as we reach the harbour the wind picks up from behind and he closes up. Almost overlapped we run down into the harbour, gybing onto port and accelerating away from the pack.
We stay like this all the way to the bottom of the harbour – I've pulled out maybe a few yards but the short upwind stretch to number 10 buoy sees me overstand the mark slightly, allowing him to close to within a couple of lengths. We remain separated by seconds for the next two legs but I'm dragging my rudder on the bottom at number 5 mark so bear away into deeper water. Seizing the opportunity, Luke stays high on the next leg and manages to power over me – taking a narrow lead around number 3 buoy. A slow bear-away, however, allows me to get back over the top on the reach down and a short plane gets me 30 metres in front – the biggest gap of our race so far.
For the next 40 minutes or so we remain in this order – separated by no more than a few lengths. I'm working hard, half expecting to make a mistake that allows him to pass. The lighter conditions are helping me – I'm pointing slightly higher upwind and occasionally sneaking out a couple of lengths offwind in the puffs. Luke isn't getting too many opportunities in this race.
It turns out to be a long race – we loop up and down the harbour a few times before the finish – the gap doesn't change too much. All the way down the fleet there are tussles taking place – we have good racing out here today and the weather is ideal.
Coming back to the finish we're met by Rover and two Finns who have come in from the bay. Rover comes over in his RIB to take a closer look and I ask if he wants to try the 300 after the race. The last leg turns into a fetch. I'm worried about Luke climbing above me or running into the shallows but the wind stays kind and I can just fetch the line. After an hour of racing I cross the line maybe 15 seconds ahead of Luke. He won't be pleased with the result but having two boats so close made for great racing.
Rover climbs aboard and I can spend a few minutes relaxing in the RIB while he sails the boat back to the Club. No time for socialising, unfortunately, as Luke and I are now late for the dreaded Committee meeting. All good things must come to an end.
The pressure of having a boat nearby is great for learning. Every tack, gybe and mark rounding counts.
Making lots of adjustments to the kicker to alter the power of the rig upwind. I'm a bit lighter than Luke and generally sailing with a much flatter rig.
Getting the most out of gusts offwind can gain a lot of distance – the RS300 accelerates so quickly compared to most dinghies.