Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sea Interclub April 24 - the Return of the 300!

My arch-rival and nemesis, Luke, has been away for a while.I had a hand in his prolonged absence.

Luke, as you may know, is a big bear of a man. His small parts are wider than my large parts are long, and eventually his RS300 began to buckle under the strain of his huge prowess. 

So, when the boat began to disintegrate I suggested he took it to my evil apprentice, Rover. “Rover will fix it” I claimed. Luke was grateful and took his RS300 to Rover’s workshop. 

What I omitted to tell Luke was that Rover will fix it in about 9 month’s time – or whenever he needs the cash or workshop space for another project. So I knew all along that Luke would be out of my hair for a long time.

Instead of using his enforced downtime to practice sailing and go faster. I used the time to eat, drink and compose strongly worded  emails to colleagues  at work. I blew my opportunity to get fit and become a better sailor. 

And suddenly Rover needed the money and the workshop to build himself an OK dinghy. Basically because I beat him once and I won't lend him my boat anymore.

So Luke has returned with a repaired boat and he's a man on a mission.

Here we are on a brisk Sunday morning. On our way to do battle with Highcliffe Sailing Club in the annual collision-fest that we call the Sea Interclub. 

Not so many Christchurch boats today. The Big Ginge fractured something important during skipping practice. Sneaky Laser sailor has taken up a new hobby which thankfully doesn't require him to be at the Sailing Club every weekend. The Wire Haired Terrier sailed yesterday and she probably has family things to take care of and it's too cold for the estate agent who is probably busy selling a Mudeford beach-hut to a  millionaire.

I sailed the day before. Thinking the practice would be good, I managed to break the clew strap, capsize, soil my hikers in the process and reduce my confidence level to zero. So basically I’ve rediscovered my old form.

There should be 3 clubs racing. Mudeford won’t leave the harbour for some reason.  They prefer the smell of mud on their dagger-boards and watching coots mating. In total there are about 15 of us out there today.

Luke looks mean, fit and focused. I know this will end badly for one of us and I expect I’m the one.

We survive the long sail out to the race area. It’s sunny but cold and the northerly breeze is shifty and gusty coming off the land. The only benefit is flat water. But flat water is just as cold and wet as lumpy water if you fall in.

In race 1 I clatter a Finn’s transom on the start line which unsettles me. Luke is in clear air and going well – at the top mark we’re both surrounded by Finns and bogged down in the pack – but he’s ahead and stretches away. I sail like a twat – still mad at myself for hitting the Finn – and eventually Luke extends to a 2 minute lead at the finish. I’m unhappy I sail over to Simon to apologise for the collision. His boat is unharmed; mine is slowly sinking. 

A sharp squall turns the sea white. I’m thinking about going home and missing the 2nd race but stay out with a half-hearted intention to grow a pair of kahunas and wave them in Luke’s face…I sail over to Luke and even throw in a gybe. That's better - I'm feeling a little braver now.

Race 2 begins and Luke, what are we doing? 
Flouncing around at the back of the pack and a long way from the line, we both miss the start by a good 20 seconds. Luke’s ahead of me but we’re following the race. I’ve never started so badly in my life. 

My head is not in the right place today.   

A couple of fruitless tacks to find some clear air and I decide to go find a lay-line just to have a quiet place where I can swear at myself in peace.  Way out to the left I throw in a tack onto port and suddenly I see the whole fleet parked to the right of me - I'm sailing over them.  

The wind has decided to throw me a lifeline and I’m coming in fast on port tack. Not quite in the lead but back in the race and – crucially – ahead of Luke. Down the first reach and I’m clear ahead with Luke 50 metres behind.

The beats are trickier and, of course,  Luke’s back with me. Separated by no more than 2 or 3 lengths  we track each other around the next lap with Simon and Alex in their Finns not far behind. 

After exchanging the lead a couple of times, I head onto the final run with Luke on my transom. Just a few hundred metres to the line and I have a chance to finish ahead. Luke’s going for it – he gybes and draws alongside. Ambitious but risky – he’s now on port. I’m on starboard.

50 metres from the line and he’s coming past. Gloves off – I luff up towards him “Starboard…..mate” I don’t shout – playing the rules in a tight situation feels awkward and unusual in the 300 - we usually stay clear and sail fast. Luke gybes away and I luff him up – parallel to the finish – then a sharp bear away and I’m back ahead and going for the line. I cross ahead and moments later a loud “thwack!” as an RS300 mast hits the water. 

Luke’s gone in just a couple of metres upwind of the line. Slowly he drifts over the finish – turtled.
I still finished first!

I’m tempted to grab my newly grown kahunas and wave them in Luke’s face. But it’s cold and he looks angry. I wait for him to get aboard and we sail back home together. It was a good race but I didn't really want him to fall in.

Back ashore and I check on Simon’s Finn following our collision – not a scratch. My 300 has a reasonably large dent in the bow and about 5 gallons of water inside. It could have been worse – Ray snapped a £4500 Finn mast in the sand after rolling in at the windward mark. We made it look difficult out there. 

I’ll never be a good RS300 sailor but it’s the best boat ever. Will keep trying.