Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Series 2014 – The prat in the hat goes racing again

Festive Fun or Freaking Freezing?

There has been a gap between blogs. In fact I missed a whole weekend of racing. We did manage to  race a couple of weeks ago. There was a light wind race that Luke won. Then there was a windy race that Luke won.

After a hectic Christmas we finally managed a weekend of racing on 27th & 28th December.

Saturday 27th was bright and sunny with a gusty northerly breeze. Gales had been forecast which, I think, affected the turnout. I arrived to be greeted by the ever-over-eager Jack Acton at an otherwise deserted club. Across the river a catamaran's shredded sails flapped forlornly; victims of the previous night's gale.They resembled Jon Arnell's underpants after a curry.

Over the next few minutes people started to arrive.

Jez, Ela's lost puppy, looking a little lost (Ela stayed home today). I gave him a friendly bear hug and helped him rig.
Mike Greenland turned up shortly after, followed by Keith “Michael Jackson” Barkway with his Mirror.
Rom and Richard are our race team and we agree to keep things simple with a Club line start, followed by a tour of the harbour marks and a finish back at Number 2 buoy.

Keith almost wins the start but is marginally over the line and returns. I wobble away in the lead for a long run down to number 3.
A fast reach across to number 4 is followed by a shambolic gybe that almost ends in a capsize. 
I cling to the windward deck in my silly yellow hat for a number of seconds. The boat forgives my clumsiness and we set off down to number 7 mark. I'm comfortably ahead and manage to avoid any  further stupid mistakes. Our final leg is a beat against the tide from number 7 up to number 2. The tide is ebbing strongly so I hug the shore, avoiding it for as long as possible apart from the final couple of tacks into the line. My race buddies aren't so lucky and it takes a while for them to finish.
It's a short race for the 300 – around 32 minutes. The beat back up the river in the gusty and shifty conditions takes more energy than the race. On several occasions I find myself head to wind and leaping cat-like across the boat to avoid the windward capsize. Exhausted I drag myself ashore – feeling the pain of having taken nearly a month away from the boat but pleased to have made the effort. Tomorrow will be another matter.
So pleased to be off the mud for a moment

Sunday – another bright sunny, cold day with the wind a touch east of North.
There are a few new faces today.
Jez is driving his mother's car up a Welsh mountain but Vicky, Beasley, Jack and Ray are with us.
Where is the water? It seems like someone pulled the plug out of the harbour today. Anticipating a rising tide we set a course. Beasley launches but this only raises the depth by a few centimetres.
Beasley doing his best to raise the water level
Sailing down to the start I realise that even with the RS200 rudder I can't get across the course without hitting the bottom. In the 300 this is more than bad news. I sail slowly around in the channel hoping the water will rise, and considering whether to skip the race altogether.

I finally grow a small pair of kahunas and decide to attempt the 1st race.
Vicky leads Mike and Beez around the gybe mark

By the time I reach the start, the fleet has already departed. I tack away into the channel, taking the only route available to the 1st mark (which means stopping to pull the rudder down in the channel then reaching down to the mark). I round in 2nd place behind Vicky but manage to sneak ahead on the 1st reach along the channel. The gybe around number 3 is uneventful but the 2nd reach back to number 6 is a predictably tedious affair with grinding noises from the half-raised rudder and bulging veins on my forearm from holding the tiller.

Trademark approach to the windward mark - reaching in on starboard.
 I eventually reach the bottom mark; stopping again to lower the rudder, and gingerly make my way back upwind with the fleet close astern. A gybe around the top mark followed by a scrape downwind across the mud to the finish. 
“Do you want another triangle?” shouts Jon (our Race Officer). “No ****ing way!” I reply, before sobbing quietly in the bottom of the boat.
As performances go this has to be one of the most frustrating, knowing that I've lost a minute or more in the race by being unable to navigate the shallows.
I take a swig of squash and tell myself to man up and get it together for the 2nd race. There's still a series to be completed and I have to keep trying.
  
Race 2.
Trademark start by your author. parked on the mud behind the line.
I'm determined to do better and hover in the deeper water near the pin end of the line before the start. The favoured end, however, is the Committee boat and with 40 seconds to go I head across to tack behind it. And here I run aground.
"Follow the twat in the hat"
The fleet starts as I attempt to get off the beach and out of irons, 30 feet behind the line. Almost sobbing with frustration I set off after the fleet, pausing briefly to lower the rudder for the umpteenth time. Taking my trademark route up the beat (sail on port to the main channel, reach back down on starboard to the windward mark) I actually manage to round narrowly ahead of the lasers. 
 
Finally leading around a mark!
The reach to number 3 is a blessing and I stretch away. The 2nd reach is another clunky one with the rudder half up but I concentrate on holding the boat flat and try to sail fast without pulling my shoulder out of its socket holding the tiller. With a reasonable gap at the bottom mark I stop to lower the rudder before setting off on the final beat. I scrape back down to the finish with the fleet slightly further astern than in the first race.

Back ashore we work out the results.

Jack sailed a great series - 2,1,2
Jack Acton had the most consistent results with a 2,1,2 over the 3 races. We were tied on points but my 1,3,1 scraped me home with the two 1st places. I can't say I'm relieved to have beaten our Topper sailor but glad I stuck with it and ground out (literally) a couple of results in difficult conditions. Shame really, because the sun and breeze were excellent. Do I cut another couple of inches off the short rudder? One to think about.

Happy New Year, folks. See you in 2015 :)

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