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.

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