Monday, September 29, 2014

Preparations for Glory take a small backward step

This weekend I'm going to unleash my awesomeness on the fleet. There's nothing like 45 minutes of training to boost your confidence. I was feeling mean, focused and, most of all, ready.
Saturday 20th September – Ladies Cup Race
After a gap of nearly 30 years it's time to reclaim my trophy. I'm at the club early, rigged and ready. The big ginger kid doesn't do early starts. He's probably still making his way home and drunk-texting sleeping girls. Luke is at work so there are just 7 of us today.
The wind is light and I make a good start, just below and ahead of Tony Lock in his Finn. A short beat to number 3 buoy and I tack round with a decent gap after less than 2 minutes of racing. This race is in the bag! The leg to number 5 is a fetch – maybe – half way across I'm headed but it's too close to the lay-line for a tack so I carry on. Behind me, Tony lifts to the mark and I have to make a tack. The gap is halved and the race falls out of the bag
We reach across to number 7 buoy and I stretch away. Around the next couple of legs the lead looks comfortable again but another beat from 6 up to 5 goes tits up. I'm heading up on port, about a minute ahead of Tony who heads further right and tacks into a huge lift. By the time I tack back he's ahead. I carry on to the right into more breeze and manage to regain the lead by the next mark but on handicap I'm now in deep trouble. Next upwind leg I'm on starboard just laying the mark and another OAP in a Solo on a port reach aims straight at me. I have to throw in 2 tacks to avoid him and once again the Finn is on my transom.
Downwind and upwind one last time. Nothing good happens. I finish 30 seconds ahead on the water and 2 minutes behind on handicap. Tony has a 100% win rate on his comeback. Good for him. 
What did I learn today?
Ignore the elderly at your peril. Sometimes they never give up.
Sunday 21st September – Bart's Bash
Amazing day. Amazing race. 46 boats taking part. This will be good!
Somehow we fit everyone onto the start line – nobody is over – and we're off. The harbour is shallow up here so I take a long hitch on starboard towards the main channel. The Finn boys tack away and we make a long port tack to the first mark. Ray leads , I'm close for 2nd but have to slow to allow Simon's Finn to come in on starboard and tack ahead. 
Down the first reach we speed and there my race ends as the mainsheet block launches itself into the gap between deck and boom. I stop to gather all the spare parts now littering the cockpit floor as the fleet goes past. I should have grabbed the falls off the boom and pumped like a motherf**ker (just like the Finn boys are doing) but my bingo wings aren't up to the challenge. 
I blast around the harbour for an hour watching the action. An optimist wins the race on Handicap. Not sure if he's CSC or Royal Lymington today but I'm pleased for him. 
Back to the Club and the rest of the afternoon working out results and getting hopelessly drunk.
 What did I learn this weekend?
True Champions are humble and generous in defeat. Another box ticked :)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Gybe School and Tack Academy - intense training as I prepare for glory

According to Facebook I announced my intention to sail at the Inlands in October. Probably a rash or drunken decision – I've barely sailed an RS300 a dozen times and never managed to stay upright in more than 15 knots.
But a deadline looms so it's time to grow a huge pair of Kahunas and tuck them into my Big Girl Pants.
Wednesday 17th September. Gybe School.
A light North- Easterly and an hour of daylight. I launch and head out to be greeted by an unmanned Walker Bay dinghy drifting across the river. A fisherman on the far bank spots the drifting boat and moments later the owner emerges. My plan to sail past, pretending not to see the boat, is foiled. Taking a vessel under tow with an RS300 isn't simple, especially when it has no painter and a mast and the RS300 sailor has no skills.
I manage to come alongside and grab it, making my way slowly to the bank. Releasing it proved more difficult. Its mast hits mine whenever I try to push it forward towards the owner. His dog swims out to help and decides to climb aboard my RS300. We drift precariously towards the shore, me, the dog and the boat.
Eventually I manage to shove the dinghy across to the owner and the dog follows. I reverse back into the river and continue.
Today I'm mostly gybing. Coming in fast from a reach it's noticeable how little pressure there is on the sail as the boom comes across. Keeping the boat flat coming out of the gybe seems important. I heel to leeward as a gust arrives and almost capsize – it's less than 10 knots and I can still sail like a muppet. With darkness falling I head back to the club.
What did I learn today? I can rescue dogs and sail backwards. A true champion should be versatile, kind and generous. Box ticked.
Thursday 18th September. Tack Academy
Another light one with not much water. The wind is blowing straight up the harbour so today I'm tacking all the way out to sea (about 2 miles away).
Making my way down the harbour I notice Highcliffe Sailing Club's fleet launching and follow them out to sea. They are milling around at the end of the buoyed channel waiting to start. Tempted to ask if I can join in I decide there's not enough time to race and get back before dark so I carry on past them. Tacking is slowly improving in light winds – windy is another matter.
The wind is dying and the sun is going down – it's a beautiful evening – possibly the last one I'll sail this year. Time to head in.
Am overtaken by the chap in the Walker Bay on the way up the harbour who offers a tow. Expecting a grateful beer back at the Club I politely decline the tow but hurry back. There was no beer waiting for me.
What did I learn today? Sunsets are beautiful and gratitude lasts a very short time indeed. I'm not rescuing his sodding boat next time.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Autumn Series - September 7th 2014

Sunday September 7th 2014

Nursing sore balls and a hangover following a long bike ride and an encounter with a bottle of Polish vodka the previous evening, I drove through the early morning fog towards the Club. I don't know how you get vodka from a Bison but it tastes distinctive.

Highcliffe anemometer informs us there is a promising 4 knot breeze which ranks somewhere between “perilous” (2 knots) and “out of control planing” (8 knots) on my RS300 comfort scale.

The girls are out in force today. Mike and I appear to be the only chaps taking part in the race. No sign of the big ginger nephew, Luke, or the sneaky laser sailors (although one of them arrived just before the start, loudly announcing his intention to join a RIB flotilla to the Isle of Wight). 

Anticipating a friendly, relaxed race, I write a course on the blackboard, at which point the ladies transformed into an angry frenzied lynch mob. I bravely suggest a shortened course then hide in the toilet until they launch.

In a light northerly breeze we race from the Club down into the harbour. The wind is fitful and I manage to park myself at the “wrong” end of the line at the start. Mike chose the right end of the line and leads in his laser as the girls and I give chase.

Because Mike is a true gent I elect to pass to windward and manage to glide by without incident. Mike slips back into the pack and we drift slowly down towards the harbour.

On our way to the first mark a large flotilla of RIBS surges past. The Isle of Wight rally has begun with an experiment to discover how easy it is to wash an unwary sailor out of his RS300. Muttering rude words about overweight twonks with BMW driver mentalities I regain my composure and wobble downwind through their wash. Feeling sorry for the citizens of Yarmouth, I head down the harbour as the mist clears.

Ela has started well – ahead of the girls she chases down the Laser and follows around number 6 buoy about a minute behind. The beat is tricky, though – light northerlies are a tactical minefield and we all struggle with some big shifts and holes in the breeze on our way back up to number 5 buoy. I manage 2 tacks in quick succession without actually steering. By the time I get moving again the fleet is closing in – any notions of an easy win are quickly dispelled – I need to sail better than this.

To my delight I see our windward mark is not only capsized but also in the middle of Mudeford Sailing Club's line as they launch into their start sequence. I sneak through the fleet on port and wobble downwind to number 7. Finally able to stretch away, I notice that Sue is leading the pack in her Radial. I'm not sure she knows it's a Radial – she entered the race in a Laser. She's a wire-haired terrier of a woman and sailing fast today.

Marion is also going well in her Radial. Marion has great qualities for sailor – she nursed my brother following his arse transplant a couple of years ago – which means she's unshockable and resilient. She's also a nurse, which means she was probably the world's best first date back in the days when she was dating.

Ela and Anne are battling it out just behind the Radials. Anne's 4.7 is pretty much identical in speed to Ela's Splash and Ela just leads by a few lengths. In the light winds both boats are seriously underpowered and struggling to match the bigger rigs for straight line speed today.

Around 45 minutes into the race, Rollo the Race Officer shortens the course. The rest of the fleet cross the line over the next few minutes with Sue in 2nd place on the water and on corrected time.

Mike, Marion, Ela and Anne finish in that order, separated by just seconds on handicap.

As we sailed home the sun finally broke through and a September morning felt like Summer again. Far off in the distance we hear raucous laughter and the rattle of badly maintained 2 strokes as our RIB flotilla finally leaves the citizens of Yarmouth in peace.