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.