My hopes of a podium finish at the RS300 Inlands were cruelly dashed when a 4th boat entered. Now there are 10 of us – so a top 10 result is now in serious doubt. Time for last gasp preparation as I cling to the dream of not finishing dead last.
Saturday October 4th.
The alarm quacks at 7 (Ela has a duck alarm which always wakes me up in a good mood). There's only one reason to get up at 7 on a weekend – dedication. Actually, dedication and tides – that's 2 reasons. We race at 9am and today its wet and windy. The heavy weather training I need to prepare for the Inlands will happen today. I'm nervous and need to pee. A lot.
We arrive at the club. Four of us – Ela, 2 Lasers and me. The race officer and his team have turned up and seem disappointed to see us. Don't blame them – it looks like a day for staying in bed. We wait for the arrival of an ominous black cloud. It doesn't bring 40 knots – just rain. Lots of rain. The wind is easing – time to launch.
At the start there's less than 10 knots. This isn't what we expected but the rain eases and we start. The sneaky Laser sailor is to windward – I've misjudged the start again – I have an opportunity to ping him but today Jesus is smiling on me so I bear away then throw in a clearing tack onto port. No need to be nasty – let your sailing do the talking. A short hitch on port then a tack back as the wind shifts to the right and I'm clear ahead (you may want to draw that on a sheet of paper – it sort of makes sense). My sailing, for once, is doing the talking. It wants to shout “I'm in front, kiss my transom, suckers!” But I tell it to shut up and just sail.
Beasley and Gary are having a close battle today and Ela's very close in her Splash. I wobble and watch the other 3 as they race amongst themselves. Beasley briefly threatens Gary but the pies are taking their toll on his light wind speed and Gary eases away to a half minute lead at the finish. Ela's done well and we think she could be close on handicap. In the end she misses a top 3 finish by about a minute but a good effort. As the race draws to a close the wind and rain returns. We manage a few planing reaches then head for home.
Sunday October 5th
Cold but bright – the car says it's 4 degrees. Which is a good reason to stay inside the car with the heating on. Arriving at the Club there's no wind and a layer of mist drifting across the river. Tony arrives and so do a couple of elderlies in the Scow fleet. I need points in this series – any result will do – so time to rig.
A shrill noise alerts us to the late arrival of Sue. Diminutive but scary, she rigs her Radial as we prepare to launch. The safety boats do a good job of towing the fleet down to the start. I'm wearing a woolly yellow minion hat and all my layers and start to overheat. The wind is barely registering but we go into a start sequence nevertheless.
My starts are rubbish this weekend!
Sue is ahead so I bear away slighly and power through her lee at a stately 2 knots.
Tony's Finn is on my hip and the 1st beat becomes a long fetch against the tide to number 3 mark. I can't shake Tony off but at least I get to try a few rig settings on the leg to see what makes a difference.
I lead around the first mark by 3 or 4 lengths as we bear away onto a run. Worried that the Finn will roll past I'm pleasantly surprised to find myself just easing away. The wind seems to be dropping but finally I can roll in a gybe around number 4 buoy and come up onto a reach back down the harbour. Slowly I stretch away and round number 7 about 100 metres ahead – which translates into several minutes lead in these conditions.
The Scows are still working their way up the first beat and we exchange greetings “Painful isn't it” “Yeah I think I fractured a testicle on the daggerboard back there”
Another fetch back to number 3. Please shorten the course before the wind dies completely. The Race Officer agrees – I reach the line in 44 minutes – just ahead of the Scows who are coming up for the first time. I can't remember a race that finished at the first mark but that's how they've finished.
Looking back I see Tony making his way up from number 7 while Sue is still heading downwind. Unless the wind fills in quickly I've probably done enough.
I head for home – slowly. There is no sound from the Committee boat. Tony and Sue didn't get back to the line and were eventually towed back to the Club. A difficult race but worth getting up early for.
What did I learn?
The mainsheet block without the cleat is much better
Sitting forward alongside the mast in very light winds seems to work well.
Sail the boat flat or heeled slightly to windward as soon as there's enough wind to fill the sail. Use knee to push the boom to leeward.
Not luffing Sneaky Laser Sailors over the line just because you can is surprisingly rewarding. Champions should occupy the moral high ground. Another box ticked.