Monday, July 21, 2014

I live with Fear every day - but sometimes she lets me race...

First Race! 

Actually 2nd race - I was in a race the first time I sailed the boat. This is the first race I might even finish. Wind less than 5 knots - hardly a comfort zone but hopefully not a capsize-fest either.
It should be noted that sailing an RS300 isn't for the frail and elderly.
Which is unfortunate because I am frail and elderly.

Left shoulder, right elbow, left knee – all causing varying amounts of pain and discomfort.

There was also the hangover from Friday night.

The plan for Saturday afternoon was to sail out to the bay for some gentle practice. My replacement (shorter) rudder should arrive next week so I intend to train until I'm confident that the RS300 can navigate the shallow areas of the harbour.
There was so little wind in the harbour I figured that drifting into the bay was likely to be a one-way voyage with no prospect of sailing home.
With 3 minutes before the start of the fast handicap fleet I drift up to the committee boat and ask the PRO if I can join in.
Ela has my watch and I don't have the course.
Chanting “6,7,9,6,5,4,3,5,3” to myself I line up behind the fleet in the final minute.

Rudder 1/3 up, I reach in at the Committee boat end of the line just after the gun. Ducking under a Solo I manage to pop out of the fleet into clear air and I'm away. A minute later and I'm able to roll gently onto port tack and make my way up to the first mark. The wind is very patchy and shifting all over the place. Trying to squeeze myself into the gap forward of the mainsheet and concentrating on speed, I manage to keep the boat moving. A couple of wobbly tacks later I round the mark ahead of the fleet.

The wind remains very light and I'm starting to overheat in my black Rooster sailing top. No chance of removing it during the race, I take swigs of lemon squash as often as possible. I manage to pull the rudder fully down for a while, remembering not to cleat it. A drift down to number 9 buoy and back upwind for a while. Just enough breeze to squat on the side deck, I aim for the deepest water even if the best breeze is somewhere else.

The wind is all over the place – no chance to settle in the boat and a few duff tacks and missed shifts. That gap under the boom in front of the mainsheet looks inviting – dare I try to tack through that gap instead of the boat-stopping walk around the back of the cockpit? I decide not to try it on this occasion – will revisit that one later.

Rudder bouncing off the bottom of the harbour on the next downwind. Sweat in my eyes – it's uncomfortable out here but I've got a good gap behind me and haven't parked the boat too many times this afternoon. A long upwind against the tide in the main channel follows. The Committee boat is anchored close to the next mark – will he finish us there? I have no idea how long we've been racing – my knees feel like it's been hours already.

As I scrape my way across the mud towards number 4 buoy we encounter the Juniors in their Toppers. I am on starboard but hoping to keep clear of the kids. I hear some abuse being shouted in my direction – nothing to worry about – just a friendly greeting from Beasley and my brother, Jon.

Coming up to the next mark I see the “S” flag and hear two sound signals – this is the end of the race. Peeling off my hot-top (what a relief!), I finish the last of my drink and peer back down the course. I see the fleet starting the final leg. The wind has shifted – they're almost sailing straight to the finish – this could be a close one.

I finished in 41 minutes. Even in light winds it's exhausting. Really pleased with the result (I managed to win the race) but suspect that Luke would hand me a lesson in these conditions. Even more so when the wind comes up.

I've bought an RS200 rudder blade – smaller than the one I have – hope this works for the harbour.
Want to try tacking forward of the mainsheet in very light winds – just to see if it can be done.
Going to look at off the boom sheeting which seems popular in the fleet nowadays.
Have re-glued the deck bearing and mast foot in place.
Back out on Monday evening if the joints hold up.

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