Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Training to become more glamorous

On Sunday I sailed. It wasn’t really training and there wasn’t a race either. The harbour was missing some water. The Scows have written an angry letter to complain. Apparently someone is stealing the water twice a day and we’ve not installed CCTV to catch the culprits which makes it my fault.

Anyway, back to the sailing. There’s a gusty northerly breeze which basically means a reach up and down the main channel with possibly a couple of tacks and gybes as you go round the corners. Perfect for me – no boat handling gives me an opportunity to avoid embarrassing mistakes.

Andy is out in his new Finn. Last week he asked Jack to tune it up. You may recall that it was 20mm too far aft. Jack tried to make the mast 20mm shorter by scraping it on the seabed so it’s probably perfectly balanced. Unfortunately he didn’t scrape 20mm off the centre-board so Andy promptly returns ashore complaining the harbour is 20mm too shallow. I suggest he adds his signature to the Scow’s letter and continue down the river.

New boots today. It took me 20 minutes to lace them and I almost dislocated my shoulder putting the left boot on. My left foot is harder to reach than my right foot. There’s probably a reason for that which I’ll investigate later. Anyway, I’m afloat and sliding around in a comedy fashion.
Going this fast should be fun

Joey and Ela follow in the RIB.  Richard launches his Laser and comes out for some practice. There are also a couple of youngsters in a Topper – we have more boats sailing on our “non- racing” days that the Scows assemble for their races.
Smile, Fatty!
The sailing is pretty uneventful with a few nice gusts.

What concerns me, however, is the range of facial expressions I make when sailing.
Ela took photos and I’m permanently scowling or looking terrified.
I’ve posted some examples here. I mean – it’s dreadful.
If you're going to look this concentrated at least sail fast
Experts look happy and relaxed.
I don’t look expert.
I look like an elderly driver heading the wrong way up a motorway or an old lady at a supermarket checkout suddenly confronted with a request from the cashier to pay for the shopping.
I also lick windows

Worried face :(

The training programme is now being re-designed.
I need to smile and look glamorous. There could be a photographer at the Nationals.
I know I won’t be on the podium.
Any chimp can grin on a podium (Bolland and co. take note)  I need to smile serenely while clinging to my daggerboard – this is where I’m most likely to be photographed.
It's blowing 8 knots and I'm out of control
What went well?
I didn’t capsize
Aliens didn’t sabotage my boat

What to work on:
Don’t look suicidal – you’re supposed to look like you’re enjoying this
Aliens made my new boots slippery – I will write to complain.
Apply more sex wax to the boat – or the boots.
True champions look serene. I don’t.
Is there a spider in the boat?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sunday 19th April and a return to winning ways

Sunday 19th April 2015

Sunday Series – New Finns need a slower handicap

On Saturday I decided it was too windy to sail and didn’t rig the RS300.
There were some plucky sailors preparing to battle with the 30 knot gusts, however, so we gleefully watched as they prepared to launch.

Linda was the Race Officer and clearly not happy with the conditions. Jack Acton had stolen some of Gary’s testosterone pills and was raring to go. A few others looked on nervously in the hope Linda would cancel.
Drew launched his Oppie first. We prefer to send an Oppie or an elderly out first in marginal conditions to see if it’s safe. He survives.
Gary then launched his Laser. 15 seconds later, because of his performance, Linda abandons the race. We amuse ourselves for the next 20 minutes watching Gary’s Laser trying to punch holes in Westerly Centaurs as he flounders helplessly in the moorings.

On Sunday there is less wind so reluctantly I decide to sail. It’s cold, I have just my Summer wetsuit and I’d rather paint my cruiser. I haven't bothered to work on my positive attitude training tip from last week.

Gary has written a strange looking course but because everyone else is launching I just scribble it down and prepare to join them.

Andy is sporting a brand new Finn. Rory is in his Laser and he’ll be a threat. Luke, my arch rival and nemesis, is nowhere to be seen. It’s a good turnout with more than 10 boats in our fleet. The big Ginge gets a splinter before he launches and is late for the start after receiving sarcastic first aid from his Dad.

We start at the dreaded number 4 buoy with a short beat to number 3. For once, we have enough water and I decide to take the un-favoured leeward end of the line to avoid the melee at the pin end. I also hate lane-holding with Finns.

1st tack onto port and I’m behind Andy’s Finn but manage to cross ahead of everyone else. I sail on then tack back onto starboard just below the lay line. Andy comes back on port but he can’t cross and tacks to leeward. We hold formation to the 1st mark and I round ahead.

The next leg is a close reach which suits the RS300. I stretch away with Andy struggling to keep Rory’s Laser at bay. The pattern is set for the rest of the race. Unlike Tuesday, the wind is being kind to me today with most of the shifts and gusts working to my advantage. Gary’s weird little course with lots of pirouettes around marks and very few beats also helps. Basically it removes most of the tactical decisions (which I’m bad at) and grunty upwind sailing (which Andy claims to be good at).

42 minutes later and I’m finished. Andy and Rory are at least 5 minutes behind so the result turns out in favour of the 300. Rory finished a close second, having chased the Finn all the way, with Andy back in 3rd.

Back ashore we are entertained by a 2 hour discussion amongst the Finn fleet about the technical issues that prevented Andy from thrashing us all in his new boat. The unfair course takes some of the blame but it appears the builder has somehow managed to move the whole boat aft by 20mm, which has buggered everything. I expect the Finn team to be working well into the evening with tape measures and tension gauges, but normal service is restored when they discover there is food and beer available.

Andy, apparently, is going to get the Big Ginge to tune up his boat this week. I may ask Stevie Wonder test drive my car. The outcome will probably be the same.
All puffed up and sharing words of wisdom :)
What went well:
I overtook a Finn on a beat.
There was no Luke to remind me that I’m a crap RS300 sailor. On my own I’m blisteringly fast.
The Finn’s mast cost £2000 more than my entire boat
Ela beat Gary
Nobody sabotaged my boat. Where have the aliens gone?

Things to work on:
Deal with the grumpy email from the Finn fleet that says:
  1. New Finns should be given a better handicap because they’re not tuned properly and they may also be 20mm further aft than old Finns
  2. Finns should be given the same handicap as a Scow for reaching legs because this is how fast they go compared to Lasers and RS300’s on reaches.
  3. Any leg of the course than isn’t a beat or a run is unfair and the race must be abandoned.

Remind the club that crap courses and missed time limits are a consequence of people not turning up for our Race Management Seminars.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Evening Series - Tuesday 14th April

Our first Evening Series race of the year.

We have a good turnout with 13 boats. The girls are in the majority with Marion, Vicky, Sue, Jenny, Ela, Lisa and Ann, Sneaky Laser Sailor has made an appearance. Tony is the solitary Finn and Simon has brought his two little girls out for a race in the Wanderer.

It’s a bright sunny evening with not much water and a light southerly breeze. Tony sets a course down the harbour, through the channel, followed by a short detour around a handful of marks on the way back to the finish.

What could possibly go wrong?

About a minute after the start it becomes apparent that we won’t have enough wind to get around this course. 10 minutes later, still within sight of the start line, I begin to lose the will to live. Every tack is into a header. The wind shuts down completely, swings 30 degrees, and slowly builds to 3 knots. This is the pattern for the rest of our race.

I started well enough and led down the river, but Tony’s Finn closes up. I ruin my race by parking in the mud and spent almost 2 minutes trying to get moving. Tony is long gone. He reclines in the Finn, I squat in the 300 looking like someone trying to use a communal shit-pit in a 3rd world village.

Sailing an RS300 in light winds / Sailing a Finn in light winds...

After 30 minutes of short tacking down the channel my legs and lungs are burning. There’s no way to get comfortable and the wind refuses to give me a break. I’m ashamed to admit that today I’m hating the race and feeling no love for the boat.

The Rowing Club is out in force with a constant stream of crews and coaches splashing past and upsetting what little balance and speed I can find. Some poor lads are charging up and down the harbour with a coach constantly yelling “pull harder, you’re lazy”. The same guy used to coach me once. If I was in that boat I’d stop rowing and punch him in the testicles.

Eventually I drift past Tony and, 4 minutes inside the 90 minute time limit, I cross the line. It’s getting dark and just 4 boats manage to finish before Mike, the race officer abandons.

I float slowly back to the club and spend the next 2 days wishing my legs and back would stop hurting. Possibly the worst sail I’ve ever had which is a shame because the sunset was lovely.
I finished last of the 4 finishers. Tomorrow promises too much breeze :(

Finally, my 2014 blog didn’t win the Club competition for the best cruising log.

The guy who won included sketches of windmills and stuff.

So here’s a picture I’ve drawn of me sailing last Tuesday. 

There was food available in the bar afterwards
My Tacktick compass arrived this week. I now know the windowsill in my office is facing north.
Aliens hadn’t sabotaged my boat which means I'm luckier than the Scow fleet.
There isn’t a Club AGM for at least another 51 weeks

Things to improve.
Legs and lungs. Either fix them so they work properly or leave them ashore.
Positive thinking – try some for a change
Find other things to do on evenings where there’s no wind - such as fit the Tacktick compass so I know which way the boat is pointing.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter Series 2015. Small signs of progress...

Friday 3rd April.
Christchurch Sailing Club Easter series brings to an end the miseries of winter and the promise of warm days and sunny evenings.
It also brings throngs of elderly holidaymakers, jerks in RIBS, discarded cradles in the dinghy park and the usual suspects from the cruiser fleet who use our dinghy park as an overflow car-park (including the same bloke who complained at the Sailing Committee that a flapping laser sail swatted his car a couple of weeks ago)
Plodding around the harbour 40 seconds astern of Luke I can only conclude that my winter’s training achieved nothing. I was closer to him in these conditions a week after I bought the boat. I had managed to lead for a while but a big left shift for me combined with a big right shift for Luke, 30 metres behind, changed the outcome of the race at halfway and I never managed to recover. I limped home tired and depressed in 7th place. Not a glorious start to the season.

Saturday 4th April.
More wind and chilly in the northerly breeze makes today a bad day to discard the 5mm steamer in favour of the thin summer wetsuit. Luke had a re-think about the course overnight and today he includes some reaches. The Finns are livid. None of their 5 masts and 7 sails make them as fast on a reach as our 300s.
Luke gets away; I’m just behind and manage to break free of the Finns. We cross tacks a couple of times but when the wind pipes up he seems a bit faster. Eventually I settle back, 50 metres behind Luke, no longer expecting to get past.
While leading comfortably, the big fella hits the mud and ejects himself into the shallows with the power and grace of an electrocuted walrus. Passing 30 metres to leeward I narrowly avoid the resulting tsunami and am treated to an outburst of profanity from poor Luke who is clearly distraught.
On reflection, he wrote the course. It serves him right. I go home and cut another two inches off the rudder. From now on my strategy will be to tempt him into shallow water and hope he capsizes. I need to stay less than 1 capsize behind.

Sunday 5th April – The Race Officer clearly doesn’t want to be here so rather than wait for the wind  he instructs us to go home and eat chocolate eggs. Rover and I decide to search for the mythical obstruction lurking beneath the surface near number two mark. Much later we return, triumphantly declaring the waters safe, for the Wednesday Scow fleet. I’m fairly sure the stick we pulled out of the mud was too small to be the offending object. We'll search again at low water unless the Scows find it first.

Monday 6th April – “Will you let me go?” asks Merrick. “I ducked you on Friday and you didn’t apologise – STARBOARD!!!” I reply. Today I have no friends. Luke has abandoned me to the company of the Finn fleet and it’s a lonely slog around the harbour. At least today the sun is shining and the breeze is just enough for comfortable perching on the side. A series of beats and runs in the tide means I’m spending the first part of the race in the middle of the Finn fleet but eventually I slip past to leeward and begin to stretch away. Ray is leading the series from Rover. I’m back in 3rd or 4th place with a 7th and a 1st, and no real chance of winning overall, so I keep clear and sail my own race. Rover swaps the lead with Ray but doesn’t have the boat speed to hold him at bay. Ray takes the lead and a bad shift drops Rover back to 4th in the Finn fleet. I manage to sneak 2nd place on handicap, relegating Rover to 5th in the race and 3rd overall in the series. Back ashore I congratulate Ray and spend the afternoon becoming very drunk in the afternoon sunshine. Some cretin, apparently, is suggesting we enclose the balcony and make a larger clubroom. I’m a sailor. I enjoy weather and the sights and sounds of the river. I suggest to my assembled buddies that we shoot him. I’m treated to a warm round of applause and another pint of lager.