With hindsight, it was always going to be a struggle...
But lets focus on the positives.
The lamb shank at the Wheatsheaf
A comfy bed at Thorpe Lodge Farm
No traffic jams
Nothing broke or fell off
The only really annoying competitive jerk at Grafham was sailing an RS600
The RS300 sailors are a nice bunch and I achieved my goal of respectfully finishing behind most of them
I probably felt less ill than Steve Bolland on Sunday morning.
Now, the sailing...
Before the OK's were banned from Grafham I used to race there. Inland sailing isn't something I do very often and clearly it's something you get better at with practice. “Get your head out of the boat” is good advice, but you need the mental capacity to sail the boat with your head out of it. This is something I lack. I need to keep my head in the boat otherwise my head, along with the rest of me, gets tipped overboard.
The wind was very light and, with the exception of Mr Le Mare I was the biggest sailor in the fleet. No excuse there. I've been eating pies for more years than I remember and I've had plenty of opportunities to eat fewer pies. Also, boatspeed wasn't my problem. Being in the wrong place and sailing like a donkey was my problem.
Starting: For 3 out of 4 starts I fell into the 2nd row of boats within seconds and found myself tacking away into the wilderness just to find clear air. In the 4th race I went to the unfavoured left end of the line, managed a clean start and celebrated by sailing to the left as the rest of the fleet went right into stronger winds. I don't do “head out of the boat” sailing. I enjoy watching tell-tales too much. I've done about 10 starts in the RS300 in a handicap fleet. It's not good enough.100 practice starts needed before my next event.
Self assessment: 2/10
Boat-handling: My tacking and gybing was the worst it's been since my 2nd or 3rd trip. As soon as pressure was applied my technique fell apart. It improved as the races progressed but it took me half the event to start sailing with any composure. On the bright side as the wind came up in race 4 I didn't fall out and managed to avoid Tim whose rudder came off just as we were bearing away round the windward mark. 4/10
Tactics / Strategy: There's no such thing as bad luck. Just bad tactics. The top guys made sense of the conditions but I was generally on the wrong part of the course which, admittedly, was full of holes with pressure coming in from either side in a way that mystified me. Not having the presence of mind to look around and think ahead in difficult conditions guarantees bad luck. 3/10
Mark Roundings: Touching the mark is legal but slow in light winds! I didn't push for any overlaps despite being close on a number of occasions. As the races went on I improved my roundings and even managed to climb up inside some boats on leeward roundings. Need to practice more. 6/10
Boatspeed: Actually mostly OK with the boats around me. Learned to use more kicker upwind as the day progressed with improved my speed and pointing. I managed to sail away from other boats at the back of the fleet and generally finished within a minute of the top 5. No complaints apart from the dismal lack of lane-holding in the early races. 7/10
Overall: 11th place out of 14. I really enjoyed travelling and racing in a new fleet. The atmosphere was fantastic and these guys are at least as friendly and certainly as alcoholic and my old mates in the OK class. Am I disappointed with my result? Not really – just a bit frustrated that I didn't sail to the best of my ability.
Thank you everyone for making me welcome. Well done Matt Jenkins for winning the event. My acceptance speech is filed away somewhere for later ...