Thursday, 30 June 2011

30 June 2011

Well that one broke up the week rather nicely. Being a bit short of crews, the assembled furballers played musical chairs with the available boats and I ended up at the front of Richard Glen's, which is not a bad place to be.

Off to the start then, where I observed that the shrouds on Richard's boat didn't make the melodious 'boing' sound that fireball shrouds should make when twanged by the restless crew. More rig tension required, more than that....bit more...(boinggg) that sounds about right. And then get the strut forward a bit too to get the curve looking right, and we're good to go.

A practice start revealed that the red buoy was trailing cable about 2ft below the surface, so if you went upwind of it you'd get hooked. OK, we won't do that then. And remarkably we were able to start on port tack in the middle of the line with no trouble at all, and sailed off cheerfully watching Pete & Serena trying (unsuccessfully) to tow the red buoy away.

The course as set was mostly alright, with a beat from T to N, 3-sail reach to K, 3-sail reach to X, run to S, broad reach to H, close reach back to T. We chased Badders round for a bit, with me demonstrating why I don't usually crew every time I got the kite up, and the wind then went NW, which removed all the beats and left us with a drag race. Pete and Serena got past us when we were held up by a slow-gybing MPS at H, and they went off to harass Badders, while JT & Paul gained on us. Then the wind went Northerly, and dropped off a lot too. OK, kicker completely off, check, outhaul very tight, check, strut forward another inch, checkety-check. Whereupon we cruised up to Pete's transom on the new beat from K to X to S and then slipped inside at 'H'. Pete & Serena were a bit too far in the lead to catch, so we spent the last leg to T keeping an eye on the other two boats just behind, finally finishing 2nd.

Ashore then to check the rig tension, which was now apparently 560lbs on the forestay and 780lbs on the shrouds if you can believe the gauge, personally I don't, but that's pretty impressive on a 20 year old boat if it's true. Don't try this at home kids, your boat might explode.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

19 Jun 2011

So that was pretty good then, perhaps slightly spoiled (for me) by the discovery that I'd contracted some kind of super-bug variant of the cold virus during the day. Some kind of deranged Father's Day present from my son as it turns out, most people just give me socks 

But prior to all that, the actual sailing was pretty good. Big thanks to the Commodore, Rear Commodore Sail and the Club President, plus anyone else who stepped up to help, for giving up their sailing so we could race. This was well beyond the call of duty.

And a pretty good turnout for a Father's Day too. Richard and Kris were back, and Badders and JR and '505' Jezzer, along with a good chunk of the usual posse. Dunno where the rest of the club had got to though, hardly any other fleets to be seen, probably all at home with their socks.

The first race was great as long as you didn't mind not winning. There was a running battle between about 6 boats which went on for most of the race, and by the time we'd worked out who ought to be in front of Mo and Holly, and where Colin and Karen should finish after capsizing from being in the lead and whether or not K was in the course (it wasn't), well, Badders and JR had done a horizon job. We pulled a lot back, but we'd have needed another lap to allow their various disabilities to overwhelm them.

So lunch, and a chance to swap jibs, as the heavy-weather item had mysteriously gained about 3 little rips during the first race. Normally I'd have just taped it up, but Shed-jib #1 was on hand, so why not use that. Then off again for the 2nd race.

I'm not going to criticise the course, particularly as I had a big hand in setting it, but I think it might have been a bit too reachy and too similar to the AM race. This is what you get if you park the committee boat in one place and lay a startline and then leave it there, coupled with the port rounding top mark. All of sudden your initial huge choice has whittled itself down to about 3. Anyway, apologies to those who had light crews and couldn't match the fat fellows on the shy reaches - we'll do more broad stuff next time to make up for it.

Anyhoo, this race was notable for the rate at which the fleet got up the first beat, and included a spot of Gordon and Richard charging around yelling Starboard at people, which caused a bit of consternation. Then we settled out to a running order dependent on how fast you could get down the reaches, but it was still a great sail with good wind and sunshine.

Then a chance to watch the 3rd race, in which Bob and Paul manfully flew the kite from Y to K and then went for the double with the leg to 'X'. Sadly, the wind got a bit fresh on the approach to X, and more sadly their Ozzie Drop technique appears to be somewhat deficient - more of a crew-drop than a kite-drop in fact. So they ended up with the crew in the water, still on the trapeze, boat cheerfully sailing off until it was pulled in to windward by the trapeze wire. Pete and Jamie trotted round with no kite at all and a conservative attitude to gybes, and I suspect ended the race miles ahead, although I'd gone home by then for a lie down.

More good news, we've apparently picked up another couple of new members and a boat to go with them, so if you see anyone you don't know in a Fireball, be sure to say hello and offer any assistance that you can.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

FireBowl 2011 - day 2

Hang on, status review...

Aching muscles - check
Unexplained bruises - check
Mild sunburn - check
Vague feeling of euphoria - check

Yep, got all those, so it must be the Monday morning after a good day on the water. And what a day - good tactical beats, long edgy do-we-don't-we 3 sail reaches, big lumps of wind arriving at regular intervals and some very close racing. Copious thanks to Jan and the rest of the OD team for getting everything absolutely spot-on yesterday, no mean feat and much appreciated.

And well done to Gordon and Richard for winning the Firebowl - whilst their handicap might have been a bit on the lenient side, there's no doubt that they worked hard and sailed well to win the event. Speaking as one who very nearly capsized, just keeping the boat upright was distinctly tricky in some of those gusts. And whilst I don't know who got second place overall, I'm guessing that Colin and Karen or Pete and Serena must be in line for it, and well done to them too. There was some distinctly good sailing going on out there yesterday.

Highlight of the day for me was the end of race 2, when four Fireballs crossed the finish line in the space of about 10 seconds. This close quarters boat-on-boat racing gets the adrenaline pumping like no other form of racing that I know, and is conducted in a delightfully gentlemanly manner too.

An excellent day's racing. This is definitely what we are here for.

12 June

So, as flaming June gets into its stride, the Fireball fleet turned out once again to do battle, and if they were put off by the persistent rain then they didn't show it.

All my hats have now been blown off and sunk, so I was wearing a fetching rubber balaclava which works well with the baggy drysuit look, and has the added benefit of keeping the rain off my head.

Pre-race fettling
I found five jibs in my shed the other day, and I reckon that four of them are better than my current heavy-weather jib. So I used shed-jib no.1 today. It turned out to be a flat-cut Alverbanks which didn't do anything particularly well, but didn't do anything particularly badly either. The black logo matches the duck tape on the mainsail quite nicely.


Only half the lake due to a load of Fevas doing summat up the other end. There must have been around 10 Fireballs aiming for the pin end of the startline, so we got ourselves in pole position, ducked beneath Pete/Serena who had parked up in front of us, powered up and then just failed to lay the pin. Gybe round, start on port behind everything, 7th round the windward mark as a result. Up front, Pete & Serena are showing everyone the way round, which went fine for 'J', 'OL','K' (where we overtook a few boats) and 'T', but not so good when Serena read her 'F' as a 'P'. By this time we were in 3rd place, no, make that 2nd as the lead boat heads off to 'P'. So we chased Peter & Mike round for a bit, then got ahead of them somewhere or other, can't remember where but they were definitely behind us when we got to 'F' a lap later. There was a Miracle there too, and in the confusion Peter drove his boat into the back of mine on the bearaway round the mark. Cue 720 penalty turns, and we were able to cruise round for a win, with Peter & Mike 2nd and Cap'n Bob & Paul 3rd.

On later inspection, the damage to my boat was a tiny scrape on the transom, and Pete had a bit of a gouge under the bow where it got friendly with my rudder. Considering the speed we were going, that's remarkably light damage - I was expecting gaping holes. Cheers for Winders and their big pot of kevlar.

All the lake this time, and a bit more wind too. The Fireball fleet had turned up as usual, but for some reason there were only about 3 other boats on the water. This time we started a bit better and after a blustery beat were 1st round the windward mark at 'J'. Kite up, zoom down to 'S' and gybe for the 3-sail reach to 'C'. Digressing briefly, 3-sail reaches from one end of the lake to the other when it's windy are a big item on my sailing agenda, so I was particularly looking forward to this one. And it didn't disappoint either. Big lumps of raw unpasteurised pressure turned up at regular intervals, and the boat hurtled across the lake with the crew only vaguely in control and catastrophe waiting on its next victim. Which, oddly, wasn't us this time. Peter and Mike bottled it first after a brief spell in hyperspace where they gained a load of ground on us. We got a good way past 'D' before the shoreline started looking a bit imminent and we bagged the kite. Then smartly round 'C' and another hard beat up to 'K'.

Peter & Mike arrived there and tacked for the mark before us, then promptly capsized for reasons which never became entirely clear. We sailed at the wreckage, tacked smartly before hitting it and were on the lay line for 'K'. Now for some reason there was a Sea Cadets rowing boat up by the mark, and it is a well documented fact that my boat is a strange attractor for all things with the row-boat gene. So the rowers duly started rowing the thing into the space between us and the mark, and we had a bit of a shout (cos we knew what would happen next, after last time). So they stopped rowing but that old momentum thing carried them onwards, and I luffed up a bit more and shouted 'row backwards' at them. And we'd just got close enough to the bow of their boat that I could read the small print below the boat name when they stuck the oars into reverse and backed out of the way. Woohoo, disaster averted, round 'K' and off for another lap.

By this time the tape which held the super D12 kite halyard taper-point together had succumbed to the water, so the kite was definitely on it's last few hoists before the fluffy end came loose and jammed it. So we flew it down the runs, but bottled out of the long 3-sail leg to 'C' - and I have to say it was harder work without the kite than it was with it, albeit we arrived at 'C' rather than the nondescript shoreline between 'C' and 'D' this time. Peter and Mike positively had us for breakfast up the last beat, following our route while pointing higher and going faster (I blame my jib for that. And my mainsail. And the crew, hell, anything). So up at 'K' we were only a few boat lengths ahead and a bit low of the mark, but managed to squeak round it, nearly capsizing to windward as we went. Then a short but very hard leg in the gusty stuff under the clubhouse shore to cross the line, whereupon we looked back to see that Peter & Mike had capsized again. Pete and Serena came in third, which is pretty awesome considering that Serena weighs less than my sailbag.

Anyway, that was enough for us, so we and the rest of the posse headed for the bar via the changing rooms, and a well deserved rest 

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

8 June 2011

And another excellent evening's sailing there. Windguru promised 15-20knots of wind, the bushes agreed, and both were right (for a change). But it came in interesting lumps, which keeps you on your toes. And such is the popularity of Wednesday evenings at present that the water was pretty busy, and you had to be constantly on the look-out for other boats too.

So, start at H, zoom up the beat to 'Y', almost first boat there (nice), off to 'K' with kite up (lovely), gybe at 'K' and broad reach to 'S', gybe at 'S' and close 3-sail reach to 'H'. We'd got quite a decent lead by this stage, but we had a bit of trouble getting the kite down due to the pole flying off round the forestay, so spent a bit of time sailing past 'H' on a broad reach towards the wall at high speed while Paul rescued all the stuff again. This allowed Pete & Serena to get past - quite a long way past in fact - and we had a bit of catching up to do.

We spent the next 4 or so laps catching up and then doing battle with the other Fireball, the B14 and our own inimitable tendency to screw up. An amusing fast gybe at 'K' nearly threw Paul out to windward with the unexpected G-forces, and the rapid abort resulted in us running by the lee, with me trying to steer and not fall out on the leeward side, boom dragging in the water, as far from 'textbook' as it gets.

Paul went on to experiment with the spinnaker pole in a bid to find out how many things he could inadvertently clip it to. Later, down at 'H' (and I agree, it's too close to the wall), a Laser capsized on top of another Laser right in front of us, which made for an interesting mark rounding. And just when we thought that flag 'S' was up and we were going to finish, suddenly it wasn't and we didn't, and had to sail round again. That's not a complaint though, it was a short lap and good fun, so why not.

All in all then, a very good evening's sail. We'd have had a reasonable turn-out too, but JT bailed out to go and help run the race (thanks John, and well done), and Martyn's boat is all wrapped up for the Worlds. Mike S was around too, and Iain might have been better off in a Fireball as it turned out.

And it's due to be windy again at the weekend too. Fantastic 

Monday, 6 June 2011

And another Pursuit Race

So after my fishing-boat problems last Monday, surely today could only be better.

Well, sort of.

Got there and it looked OK, F4-5, and onshore so it felt worse than it was. Various other Fireballers were wandering around thinking it might be too windy, so I reassured them that it was fine, no worries.

Then rig boat, apply a bit more duck tape to the trailing edge of the mainsail to bolster the temporary diy repair to the leech I did about 14 months ago, and hey for the start line.

Well we got there pretty easily - it was just off the beach so no big deal. The course was a bit pants on first sight, but in fact with so few boats out there it probably made good sense to keep them all up one end of the lake and well away from the rocky lee shore down by A, B and C.

Anyway, off went the gun and off went the Fireball fleet. Gordon and Richard disappeared pretty much immediately, but they were still alive later so I guess it turned out OK. Iain and Tom had a better start than us (natch, I didn't even start my watch) and were pointing higher than us up the first beat, but I figured that there was plenty of time left and that capsizes might play a bigger part in the final result than raw boat-speed. So we played it cool.

Round 'H', and an interesting 2-sail reach to 'E'. The reach was windy, but the gybe point was under the hill and very easy. Then back out into the blowy bit for a the broad-reach to 'K'. No kites here, it was a bit too close to the wind, but Iain and Tom obligingly capsized while rounding the mark, and we got past. Now a heavily biassed little beat to 'X' and another 2-sail reach to 'J'. Gybe round 'J' and down to OL to start the next lap.

By this time I had noticed that the outhaul wasn't really on much, and wound it on tight, also put a bit more effort into the cunningham. This, coupled with the special arrangements I had made for pre-bend made the boat really come alive upwind. Basically I sat there pretending to hang out and trying not to be washed off by the waves, and the boat just hurtled upwind all by itself. We took out most of the Lasers on that beat, and had a go with the kite on the 'E' to 'K' leg just for good measure, but it turned out to be too close still. Somewhere down near 'K' we caught the teeny-tiny boats, no idea what they were, which only left a couple of Lasers ahead of us.

Another blast up to 'X','J', 'OL' and start another lap. This one was much the same, except we went high on the 'E' - 'K' leg and then put the kite up, and that was pretty easy.

I lost count of the number of laps after a bit, just sailing the boat took up pretty much all of my attention, plus the occasional glance a the duck-tape to check that all was still well up there. In truth it didn't look too stressed though - the leech was wide open and that bit of the sail, ie the bit near the top, wasn't really doing much work at all. Better still, we seemed to have overtaken everything quite a long time ago and the Darts and remaining Fireball weren't really gaining on us at all.

And then, suddenly, they were gaining on us. My upwind tactic of banging the left hand corner of the beat clearly wasn't as good as going right a bit, and there were Iain and Tom a lot nearer than before. So we felt we needed to put a bit of speed on, and that will-we-won't-we spinnaker leg to 'K' looked like the place to do it. Round 'E' and up with the kite - a few moments of grace before the wind came in again from over the hill and we were off.

Now somewhere down here it all went horribly wrong. It seemed entirely under control, boat hooning along very nicely, and then something large and crew-shaped hit me quite hard and I fell onto the boom. Witnesses say that a wave knocked Paul backwards, but I have no recollection of this. Anyway, the boat was upside down, kite round the spreaders, Paul lounging about in the water looking like the victim of an industrial accident and moaning about his legs. Pretty much game over, I decided. At which point it became apparent that the race was about 5 minutes from finishing and we could have won it quite easily without the kite, (or even the mainsail if necessary) 

I will draw a veil over the rest of the proceedings, apart from saying a big thank-you to Dunk and the other rescue boat guys, and Richard Botting and Stu (more rescue and stand-in crew), and Badders and Martyn (who de-rigged the boat for me). I don't generally need much help from anyone when I'm racing, but when I *do* need it, it's usually a bit of a catastrophe and it's very reassuring to find that it's there in spades.

Great sailing !