Monday, November 24, 2014

23rd November. Another windless day with no comedy capsizes to report :(

23rd November 2014

This blog is in danger of becoming a race report. Without comedy gems such as capsizes, tiller extensions snagged under buoyancy aids and fractured testicles there's very little entertainment happening aboard the RS300 at present. Spoiler alert - I didn't capsize today but you have read on to find the race results...

Pre-race preparation is essential for peak performance. On Friday night I prepared for Saturday's race by drinking several pints of lager with the newly knighted Sir Richard of Beasley. Needless to say, Saturday's result was a DNC.

On Sunday morning the alarm sounded at 7 and I leapt cat-like out of bed and bounded down the stairs. Actually I groaned, rolled over and at 7:35 fell out of bed and crawled downstairs. This pretty much sums up my performance for the rest of the day.

It's damp (raining steadily), cold (less than 10 degrees) and windless (less than 10 knots). The dinghy park is full of Finn sailors debating which of their 4 masts and 7 sails will give them the winning combination for today's races. I get the impression that it's not worth turning up if you have a Finn with just 1 mast and 1 sail.

Simon Fry is joining them today. He's a professional sailor – been to the Olympics and America's Cup and all sorts of big events. But not in a Finn. Jon and Sir Richard of Beasley are coaching from the RIB. Simon will shortly learn how coaching should be done. (Verbal abuse, laughter, inappropriate use of Go-Pro)

The Finns are sailing their own race so the rest of us (Luke, Wire-Haired Terrier, Gary, Glen, Mike, Ann, Julie and myself) will do a single race around the fixed harbour marks. Luke sets a simple course using just 3 marks. He got lost on the race course yesterday and is determined not to repeat the mistake.

The Finns start first. The wind is northerly, which is always tricky, so I look at how they fare on the 1st beat. Ray has the best start from the committee boat end and goes left while the rest of the fleet go middle to right. Ray looks to be leading as they approach the windward mark so I make a mental note to do the same and head towards the line.

Our fleet is hanging back so I head down to the middle of the line with plenty of space. Luke and Sue have a coming together (not the good sort) and I hear shouting from Luke as he closes the door between Sue and the Committee boat. He's a brave man. Size alone won't protect him from her fury but she's in an amiable mood today and does her penalty turns without complaint.

I think I've had a good start but Luke's is better and very soon he's sailing over me. I tack onto port and abandon my pre-race strategy, heading right. We cross again as we approach the windward mark, Luke is 3-4 lengths ahead but inexplicably stays on port and overstands the mark by several lengths, allowing me to round ahead.

The long reaches across to 3 and back down to 6 allow us to stretch away from the chasing pack. Mike Greenland has recovered from a poor start and comfortably heads the Lasers, with Sue not far behind.

As we start the 2nd beat I'm 30 metres ahead of Luke. The beats are tricky and the ebb tide is beginning to have an impact. Luke and I remain separated by about 30 seconds for most of the race. He tangles with a rowing boat on the 3rd beat and loses a few lengths, I park myself at the gybe mark – coming to a near standstill. We're both making a few mistakes today but steadily pulling away from the Lasers.

On the final beat Julie's Topper is a lap behind but just ahead as we approach the top mark. I duck her on port and tack to follow her round the mark. She's setting up for a reach but I need to bear away onto the final run and my only option is to slow for her to round first. This allows Luke to close up and we're only a couple of lengths apart going down the final run to the finish. Luke goes high, I stay low. For a while we're neck and neck but I manage to hang on to cross the line about 15 seconds ahead. A close one.

Mike leads the lasers with Sue not far behind. Further back, Gary leads Glen with Ann and Julie finishing a couple of minutes later.

In the overall results Mike claimed a well deserved 3rd place from the Wire Haired Terrier in 4th. Julie, in her Topper, finished 5th, ahead of Gary, Glen and, finally, Ann in the 4.7.

We head for home with the Finns staying out for their second race. They're squabbling amongst themselves over rule 42. Rule 42 is only understood by Finn sailors. We're not getting involved.

My RS300 and I take a leisurely cruise upriver to Tuckton and drift back down to the Club as the Lasers come ashore. It's a cold wet day, especially for the race team, but definitely worth the early start.

Incidentally, the Big Ginge (Jack) managed a first and a second in the Finn fleet so his dad should be pleased with the boy's performance today.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Winter Series Race 1. Sunday 9th November

November 9th is Remembrance Sunday.

It's two weeks since the last outing and my wetsuit is still damp. It remembers the last sail. 

The Scow fleet are moaning about the 11am start they chose for their race 10 months ago. Apparently it clashes with the minute's silence. I'm fond of our elderlies but I sometimes wonder how they managed to win 2 world wars.

Mind you, if the Germans had invaded the sheer volume of complaints from our Scow sailors would surely have persuaded them to pack their bags and head home to Berlin. Angela Merkel should try serving a year as our Sailing Secretary.

To make matters worse, last night my brother complained that I'd not reported the race results in my last blog.

Well, it's a blog not a race report but to keep the Big Ginge and his dad happy I'm happy to report that I didn't win either race and I got my backside well and truly kicked by my nephew.

On Saturday Jack won. I was 4th. On Sunday Luke won. Jack was 2nd. I was 6th .

Glad to have cleared that up.

Today is bright and sunny. 14 boats take to the water with virtually no wind but high hopes that a breeze will emerge.

Shortly after launching I cross paths with the wire-haired terrier in her Radial. “Not looking very good, is it?” “I don't know, I haven't seen it”. Weather-based banter isn't my forte so I treat poor Sue to a short lecture on positive thinking before pumping my way downriver (I mean pumping the sail – not the rude version of the verb)

Among the 14 plucky competitors we have 2 Toppers and Mirror.

One of the Topper sailors was very drunk last night so we elected him Class Captain. He's struggling to grasp the consequences this morning “Darren, meet Keith. Keith sails a Mirror Dinghy, he's your responsibility now”. If Darren was returning to the scene of the crime hoping Saturday evening was a bad dream – his hopes are dashed.

We have the Rusty Rudders girls today and shrill noises shatter the early morning calm. Jenny, Julie, Anne, Gail, Lisa and Sue are in fine voice. They have impressive lungs. I retreat to a quiet place in the harbour amongst the wading birds and we watch from a safe distance as they are towed past.

Tony, still blushing from the high praise we lavished on him at last night's Junior AGM, has turned out in his Finn. So has the sneaky Laser sailor along with Mike and Glen. Peter Howard has forgotten his drysuit and remains ashore.

Beasley is the race officer. We assemble in no wind at the start. I suggest a postponement. He has a flag for that – which is handy. We discover that this is also our class flag so removing the postponement 30 minutes later becomes tricky. He takes the flag down promptly hoists it again. Tony has fallen asleep. He wakes up and arrives nearly 2 minutes late for the start.
Drifting around before the start.

Mike Greenland decides enough is enough and heads for home shortly before the start sequence. Shame really – he did the hard work getting there and just as the breeze arrives he bails out.

The start is a reach. The Rusties are all on the line and pointing towards the 1st mark. I'm so shocked that, once again, I bugger my own start and arrive a few seconds late at the line.
Trademark (bad) start by your author. Jenny leads.

We creep towards number 3 mark.

Gary is whinging at Jenny who appears to be trying to whack him on the back of his head with her boom. Julie joins in the assault using her Topper boom. Much as I appreciate the ladies' efforts to tag-team Gary I grudgingly accept that the racing rules are in his favour on this occasion.

We'll hear more about this back at the Club later.

Staying to leeward of the bunch I eventually break through the pack and round ahead with Tony about 30 metres back in his Finn.
Tony approaches number 3 followed by the wire-haired terrier

We beat towards number 4 buoy. The tide is ebbing strongly and the wind is barely 5 knots and very fickle near the shore. Sue is close behind Tony and the lasers are staying close. Today's race will be interesting as the wind slowly builds. Can I get away?
Tony leads Sneaky rule 42 Monkey and wire-haired terrier to number 4

In short, the answer is “no”. I reach down to number 5 with Tony about a minute behind as the fleet spreads out. A beat across to number 7 and the gap doesn't grow. We stretch away from Gary and Sue and head onto a long reach back up the harbour towards number 3 against the tide.

Beasley has been filming the rule 42 monkey in the Laser but as I approach number 3 he departs in the direction of number 4 buoy – our next mark of the course. As I round 3 I look for a shortened course flag – nope. I head across the tide and beat towards the next mark. Tacking onto the starboard lay-line I notice the “S” flag has gone up. 36 minutes after our delayed start I cross the line. Tony is just under 2 minutes back – close enough to give him the win.

The fleet follows us home – Gary just ahead of Lisa with Sue about 30 seconds back. Last boat to finish is Darren in his Topper. He's made a promising start as Class 5 captain – they had 3 boats out today and he generously followed them round like a faithful sheepdog.

We arrive back at the Club for lunch. Beasley attempts a Rusties de-brief with turns ugly as Gary attempts to bluster it out with the Ladies. There's only ever going to be one outcome to this one. You don't mess with the wire-haired terrier. Gary retreats. Peace returns and Beasley orders a large baguette. Normal service is resumed.

I got my arse kicked again today, by the way. Just in case you're reading this, Jon.

Results (for Jon)   
     Owner                   Class    Place
1    Tony Lock            Finn         1
2    Chris Arnell          RS 300    2
3    Lisa Booth            Radial      3
4    Sue Haynes           Radial      4
5    Gary Mehson        Laser       5
6    Jenny Barnes         Radial     6
7    Gail Howard          Radial     7
8    Ann Hadley            4.7         8
9    Glen Tizzard           Laser     9
10    Mike Greenland    Laser    11 (DNS)

Monday, November 3, 2014

October 25th & 26th - Clinching the deal as the Autumn Series concludes

The end of October means craning out and the conclusion of the fabled Autumn series...

Saturday 25th October.
Everyone (including the estate agent who stores 6 Finn sails in the boatshed but sails 5 times a year – go figure) is racing. Luke, Ginge, Jez, Ela, Ray,'s like a “who's who” of Class 4.

The wind is light and the line is short.

People with boat handling skills and large kahunas will start well today. I start terribly. To say I was in the 2nd row would be insulting to the people in the 2nd row. I am following the race.
Trademark start by Chris :(

Luke is in lane-holding mode with the Finns. I tack away into the wilderness. I'm in duck-worrying mode as I head far right out of the tide into the nature reserve. Ela follows me (she's lost too) Jez, predictably, follows Ela.

Half way up the beat I'm out of the tide and gaining fast. I tack back onto starboard, ducking Luke who is on port. I'm ahead of the Finns and carry on into a stronger breeze before tacking back onto port to lay the windward mark. Luke tacks back but he's out of the breeze and now a good 30 metres back, amongst the Finns.

Poor Luke with a grumpy Finn fleet for company

A long broad reach down the harbour... I keep my head in the boat and wobble away from Steve who is being pursued by Ginge.

Later I learn that wobbling is considered borderline Rule 42 by the Finn fleet. Which is interesting since moving the end of the boom continuously in and out by about a foot is classed as "steering". Anyway, I'm too busy staying upright to pump, and wobbly sailing is a feature, not a technique..

Rather stupidly I've set a course consisting of beats and runs. RS300's don't enjoy beating and running and this is turning into a Finn benefit. I remain in front but Luke remains buried with the Finns. At the finish I'm a couple of minutes ahead which is a comfortable win over Luke but not enough to challenge the Finns.

Heading back upwind as the fleet approaches the leeward mark

All good though – Autumn Saturday series in the bag. No time for beer or bacon rolls – we have a road trip to Glastonbury to spend the afternoon hanging out with faeries, hippies and witches.

Late finish – tumble dry the gear, dine in hell – ready for Sunday.

Sunday 26th October

Sunday is windy. Scary windy – gusts above 20 knots. I hope the race officer won't turn up so I can do the decent thing and sit on the committee boat instead. He arrives. I'm screwed.

We launch. Lots of Finns, Luke, Ela, Solos, Lasers and, finally, me.

I have a good start and try lane-holding in the middle of the Finn fleet. Luke tacks away, taking the same route up the first beat I used yesterday. Today it works and he crosses ahead. I find myself buried in the chasing pack of Finns as we head downwind. Ginge is shouting Rule 42 based complaints at Simon in his Finn. Finally clearing the Finns and into second, I gamely try to hang onto Luke.

Not the most comfortable spot for a lonely RS300 sailor

I'm sailing OK but inexorably he pulls away. On my last reach down to number 8 I'm distracted by the upturned Jenny. No, that's rude - I mean Jenny's upturned Laser. She manages to wriggle back onboard and sets off just ahead of me. It's a worry – I'm about to lap her but she's nervously watching me. I know from bad experience that sailing with your head out of the boat means trouble – I'm willing her to not fall in ahead of me as I don't have the skills to change course quickly. We're OK – she rounds number 9 buoy ahead and I throw in an early tack to stay clear.
Doing my best but getting my butt kicked again...

Short beat back to the finish at number 5 and my race is done.Ela has sailed brilliantly today and stayed ahead of Luke's dad, John, in his Solo.

At the finish Luke is over 2 minutes ahead – probably the biggest defeat I've suffered against him so far. Our score is now 4:3 in his favour and I'm no closer to finding the heavy weather pace I need to challenge him. On the bright side I didn't capsize in winds exceeding 20 knots – so things are getting better. Luke congratulates me for finishing. I congratulate myself for being 50 and a bunch of other things I don't deserve credit for.

Luke's experience and power is going to take some overcoming. I'll have my work cut out in the months ahead.

The Autumn Sunday series is in the bag, the sailing gear is in the tumble dryer and I have a weekend off. Going to rest, relax and think about the Winter training.

See you soon, folks.