Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Evening Series August 19th 2014

Tuesday August 19th 2014
After a short break for the RS300 Nationals (I didn't take part but I did look at the photos online) it was time to return to competitive action.

I was fired up and feeling mean, fit and focused when I arrived at the Sailing Club. My spirits were briefly raised by the absence of Luke but the presence of the big ginger kid with the Finn (Jack - he's my nephew) reminded me I would be in for a battle.

Jack is very fond of his weird Uncle Chris and enjoys nothing more than match racing him to the back of the fleet. To escape his attentions I often have to employ boat handling skills such as spinning in circles and running away. I don't have these skills any more.

Joey has rigged her Splash. If the wind is light she'll be a threat. She's very fast and quite clever.There's also a Solo, a couple of Radials and a couple of keen looking youngsters in the RS Feva who could make life interesting. I think this race will be between the Finn, the Splash and the 300.

The wind looked menacing with reports of 20 knots plus gusts and some ominous black clouds lurking overhead (where else would a cloud lurk?)

10 minutes before the start I launch. The wind seems to be easing but a sharp gust capsizes a Radial. Need to stay awake today. Jack is throwing his Finn around as if it's a bath toy. He's a big lad. He could kick-start a Chieftan tank but he doesn't have a driving license yet.

Pre-start, I hang back behind the line. With 20 seconds to go I sneak forward but I'm distracted by the large black genniker the Feva boys have hoisted. My timing is slightly off and I'm behind the Splash and the Finn as we reach towards the first mark. I extricate myself from the bunch and follow the Finn downriver on a run. Not really where I wanted to be – Jack is going to make life difficult for me now.

The Feva boys have done a good job and start well. They're nattering away, doing teamwork. Every 3rd word is “Jonny” One of them is called Jonny.

A large bunch of boats drifts lazily down the river. I take my place in the procession and wait patiently.

Slowly I move past the Finn. I stay to leeward – if I go high he'll luff me all the way to France. Jack moves to cover my wind so we remain in tight formation down to number 3 mark. I'm on the inside as we approach the mark and Jack throws in an early gybe in an effort to come back over me. I was born 50 years ago, not yesterday – I gybe too and the RS300 accelerates away.

Finally into clear air and on a reach – the Finn isn't going to catch me on this leg and I stretch away. On a reaching leg the 300 is a delight and the gap opens to 30, then 50 metres. By the time I reach number 10 buoy at the bottom of the harbour my lead is out to a minute. We're close on handicap but I'm in clear air and sailing my own race.

The Splash is going well – ahead of the Solo and close to the Radials. Joey is still a threat and the Feva boys are making a decent effort, using the genniker at every opportunity and still chatting like a couple of old women in a supermarket who've just spotted Judith Chalmers.

The wind never really materialised. A black cloud threatened something but apart from a couple of depressing windshifts and a few spots of rain the weather was uneventful. I crossed the line 3 and a half minutes ahead of the Finn which was enough to win the race.

Joey finished 3rd in her Splash while the Feva boys (Jack and Jonny) managed a decent 6th place in the dying breeze. They head back down the harbour with the big black genniker. We see them paddling back to the club about 2 hours later just as darkness falls. I guess they don't have homework this week.

Lessons learned
Sailng gloves work – no bloodstains on the boat today.
Racing is more fun when there's someone you really want to beat (Jack, Luke, sneaky Laser sailors)
When you feel more relaxed in the boat you don't expend so much energy (for the 1st time I felt comfortable and didn't come home exhausted)
Upwind there's a groove and I'm struggling to find it. Need to work on this.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Passport ready - time to join the cruiser fleet!

Thursday August 7th 2014
No Luke today.
Do I take advantage of his absence to grab some sneaky points in the Evening Series or take the advice of my RS300 pals and do some training?

There's a cruiser race in the bay this evening. This provides an element of safety (my drowning will be filmed by Beasley and appear on You-tube accompanied by silly giggling (Beasley) and loud coughing (Jon). Yachts also give me something to pace myself against. I head for the open ocean.

Wind is lighter today – probably never more than 10 knots. It's just enough to gently hike upwind. Downwind....we'll come to that in a moment. 

Before the start I'm feeling pretty comfortable with life, but mixing it up in the pre-start with cruisers ("Starboard!" "Darling, what did he say?" "He said "Starboard, or something" "Tell him to bugger off, I was in the RAF, you know")  takes some getting used to. I dive away from the line and leave the big boys to plod slowly around while they pour their gin.
Blistering acceleration as our plucky RS300 powers off the line

The start! I'm near the committee boat and into clear air. A couple of minutes pass and I roll onto port tack. Ahead I see the Highcliffe Sailing club fleet rounding their windward mark. We're on a collision course but I'm not too worried – they're all on port and heading downwind so we have right of way.

When the gap narrows to 20 feet it becomes very clear that the RS400 sporting an assymetric kite has no intention of keeping clear. I'm going to lose really badly in this collision so I crash gybe away from him and curse silently. Even when I'm not actually racing I'm pretty competitive and this guy has got on my tits.

I tack around and carry on – having relinquished my lead in the cruiser fleet to Nigel Burt in his Evolution 26, Resolution, I'm feeling a little cheated. Our inflatable mark is identical to the 3 that Highcliffe just laid. We're lost. Thankfully one of the Highcliffe sailors in his Europe helps us by loudly declaring “Shit! I've sailed to the wrong ****ing mark!”

Encouraged and grateful we tack towards our mark. Tabby II – a very large and ponderous Sadler 32 is lurching towards the mark on port. Resolution rounds ahead and I slow, waiting for the Sadler to tack round. It tacks.
Seizing my opportunity I dive into the gap vacated by the tacking Tabby II – preparing to power through her lee.
Did I forget to mention that Tabby is a Sadler 32? Note to self – NOTHING powers through the lee of a 32 foot boat unless it has a 50 foot mast. I'm parked, no wind.

Tabby chunders along and the breeze returns. I bear away onto a broad reach and continue in pursuit of Resolution. The benefit of having only 1 incompetent crew member to supervise (me) and no spinnaker becomes clear. Resolution is attempting to do boat handling. Mine is already done, I'm fumbling for the water bottle instead.
While she hoists her kite I reach up across her stern and adopt a menacing position on her windward hip. Nigel tells me to bugger off or capsize or something. I pay no attention as I'm preoccupied with finding a safe, stable and comfortable position for myself as I lurch downwind.

20 minutes later and by now in considerable pain I'm concluding that downwind sailing in an RS300 is possibly the worst experience of my life. The Evolution 26 has remained stubbornly abeam all the way down this leg while her relaxed and tanned crew have sprawled themselves comfortably on the deck, drinking beer. I, meanwhile, have shifted awkwardly from standing to crouching to kneeling every 5 minutes while occasionally stifling sobs of pain and frustration.

Around Chewton Glen mark we turn (this mark of the course is in Hampshire – I've actually left the county during the race) and we begin to beat back towards the finish.

Still in pain I'm finally able to stretch out and hike. The beat, I hope, is my opportunity to catch and overtake the Evolution.
No such luck. I dived low to avoid her wind shadow and she's stubbornly lifting to windward  and staying pretty much abeam. To make matters worse, the J24 which had a pig of a start is now climbing through me.
We split tacks a number of times on the long beat home but by the finish mark I'm about a minute behind both boats. As they continue onto their second lap I decide I'm done for the evening.
The Class 3 boats, including Tabby and my brother and Beasley in the Sonata, also finish after the one lap – and I stayed ahead of them at least.
Coming back into the harbour I'm greeted by Ela in her Splash. We beat back to the club in a dying breeze and glorious sunset. By the time I reach the slipway I can barely move. Today I can barely move. Tomorrow I'll go sailing again.

Lessons learned
Downwind in waves and light winds introduces a whole new dimension of pain.
Upwind I'm faster than a Sonata but slower than a J24
The Cruisers won't include me in their results so next week I'm packing a set of flares, a liferaft and an anchor.
By not stealing some points in the Evening series I've taken the moral high ground, especially compared with the sneaky laser sailors.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Saturday August 2nd - Another beating as I'm tag-teamed by Luke and my own boat

Saturday August 2nd 2014
Yesterday I presented several pairs of VERY large ladies pants at the Juniors prize-giving as the “We need our Big Girl Pants” awards.
This morning it is gusting 24 knots and I am wondering whether I'm up for the challenge of RS300 sailing. I definitely need my Big Girl Pants today.
A short briefing and pep-talk at home then down to the club we go.

Rigged and changed. A few wry grins and shakes of the head from the assembled Scow sailors. They remember my first effort – today it is windier. Luke is ready. In case you've not met Luke he's a big bear of a man. My 6ft 2” frame – adorned with man boobs and bingo wings, is dwarfed by Luke. I fear that today I'm bringing a pencil sharpener to a knife fight.

Launched and waiting for Luke. We head down the harbour in tandem. It's gusty – very gusty. I remember how this went last time. Must not retire. Must beat the sneaky Laser sailor who didn't do the Interclub last week. 2 goals for the race.

Pre-start – no dramas – I even manage 2 gybes and a quick journey across to the wing mark and back (this is across the sandbank and I'd like to know whether my RS200 rudder blade will cope with the challenge). It's shallow but a slight dog-leg detour keeps me off the mud. I notice Luke doesn't sail over here, preferring instead to do the beat up to the first mark.

We huddle behind the start line. There's a nice but dim “I don't know the rules and don't care” monkey sailing a Buzz – this will make life interesting. 


3,2,1 and we're off! I manage a good start and cross the line first. Luke is just astern with the Buzz resting on his windward side deck. He untangles himself and sets off in pursuit. The Buzz tacks onto port and neatly harpoons Ela's Splash.

Luke tacks away into clear air – I carry on. Tacking is one of my least favourite manouvres, along with gybing, bearing away and rounding up. Eventually I tack onto port and into a header. Luke crosses ahead and rounds the first mark about 20 seconds before me. A fast reach follows to the gybe mark. I've done 2 gybes already today but decide to refine my technique for this one. Climbing from the mast over the side of the boat onto the daggerboard was the major change to my gybing technique on this occasion. By the time I'm sailing again Luke is halfway down the reach but he hits the sandbank and slows. Seizing my opportunity I sail the dog-leg course in the deeper water but he still rounds comfortably ahead.

The second beat is more depressing than the first – I'm all over the place in the gusts and shifts and Luke is sailing away. We bear away onto the dreaded run and I decide to gybe early in the calmer water near the windward mark. This time the boat stays upright and the run is uneventful apart from the near-fatal bear away to avoid the Scow and Topper heading back up on starboard.

Unless Luke capsizes (twice) I'm not going to get back into this race. The second triangle passes without incident but I'm almost a minute behind. At least I'm still racing and a good distance in front of the collision monkey and the sneaky Laser. The second run almost leads to disaster when a big gust hits and I spin up to windward. Somehow the boat stays upright and I quickly bear away and manage to get down to the bottom mark.

I'm exhausted, by the way. Skin missing from finger and feeling pretty battered. I'm not giving Luke anything to worry about in these conditions and it's almost a relief to hear the two sound signals indicating a shortened course. 42 minutes after the start I drag myself across the finish line, 55 seconds behind Luke.

Looking back now I'm not sure I actually enjoyed myself. It just felt gruelling and frustrating in equal measure. The gusty wind didn't help because the boat never felt balanced. Going to spend time practising in the upper wind range until I find some speed and feel more comfortable.

Well done Luke – score now back to 2:2 and we did take 1st & 2nd places in this race.

What did I learn today?
RS200 rudder works just fine – sand down the bottom corner to fix the humming noise.
Some sailing gloves and a long tiller extension will help
Look at adjusting the toestraps and finding a decent hiking position.
Find a way to hold the rear toestraps up – almost impossible to locate them.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Sea Interclub - 27th July - prepare for glory

Sunday 27th July.
My Club needs me.
If last week's encounter with Luke was “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, today Luke and I stand shoulder to shoulder like Leonidas and that other guy in leather pants from the “300” movie.
Yes, it's the Interclub event. Our reputation as the biggest, baddest most kickass dinghy fleet in Christchurch harbour rests on these 2 races.
“Spartans, what is your profession?” We reply” Nurse, IT Manager” We're ready for battle.
I leave first and head down the harbour. The wind is northerly and fitful. There's going to be a lot of kneeling action today (and I don't mean the good type of kneeling action)
Feeling wobbly and nervous I reach the bay. There are a couple of boats heading out but I'm one of the first to arrive. Time to throw in a few tacks and try an upwind leg towards the shore. Wind off the land is all over the place but not swinging wildly so no crash tacks.
Strategy for today will be to look for the puffs and try to stay in the pressure without hitting the corners.
Sure enough, that strategy will backfire later...

1st race:
I think there's a spot of pin end bias on the line but the fleet disagrees. Happy with that – I've lots of space to myself and I think the wind looks better on the left anyway. Luke is mid-line and front row. Soon enough we pop out ahead. There are Finns and an RS400 going fast but at the first cross I'm narrowly ahead. Round the 1st mark and a short reach across gives me a gap. The runs are wobbly – I'm staying forward in the light breeze but watching out for gusts that could upset me. Fortunately I make it round the 1st lap unscathed with a 50 metre lead over Luke. Apart from one very wobbly gybe the race is uneventful and I finish 25 seconds ahead of Luke. The Finns were never far behind and later I discover I finished 3rd on handicap – pretty good though.

Race 2 – another pin end start – no dramas.
Luke has gone right so we have a big separation early. Half way up the beat I think we're level but the wind shuts down and starts spinning around. There are 4 or 5 of us in a raft up near the top mark. Luke gets the breeze first and rounds ahead. I'm trapped behind a Finn and the RS400. While Luke stretches his legs along the top reach I'm trying to overtake slower boats. Finally I'm through and back into 2nd – Luke maybe 30 metres ahead.
2nd beat – Luke rounds up and stays on port tack. I think the wind will come from the left so I tack away. Big mistake. The wind goes right...and more right. Finally I tack back – Luke will cross nearly 100 metres ahead and the Finn and RS400 have got me again. It feels like race over as I round the top mark back in 4th with Luke halfway down the reach.
Once again I dive under the two boats and pop out ahead – still trailling Luke but in clear air and slowly catching as we start the 3rd lap. No splitting tacks this time – doing something just for the sake of it doesn't make sense so I'll sail fast and see if the gap closes. It does. 40 metres back at the top mark but a short plane across the top reach closes the gap to 20 metres as we go down the run. Running by the lee I almost draw level but Luke manages to stay clear ahead as we reach back to the Committee boat. There's no flag – will they give us another lap? I hope so – confident that I've got the speed to catch him. No passing opportunity on this leg and with just a few metres left before the bottom mark up goes the “S” flag. We finish about 5 seconds apart. Luke has held on to win the race and finishes 2nd overall in the Sea Interclub series – a great result for him. Later we find that CSC managed to retain the club trophy so I'm happy with my contribution (I didn't sail the previous 4 races but 3rd & 2nd counts towards our score)

What did I learn today?
Not to bugger up the Sailing programme by allowing those sneaky Laser gits to race in the harbour while the real men are fighting for the Club at sea.
Buy Luke a beer and don't gloat about being 2:1 ahead. When the wind comes up (it's raining and gusting 24 knots outside today) I'm going to get my ass kicked by the boat and lapped by Luke (also, not in a good way)