So I turned up late again, and it's cold and Northerly (onshore) and windy and raining. Not quite perfect conditions, but after the last 2 months of windlessness, I'll give it a bash. Rigged up the North sails which are currently on loan to the fleet and arranged some more mast bend as that's what they like apparently. Got the the start line with minutes to spare and made a decent start given that the watch was still in my sailing bag.
Plod up the first beat to 'P', get there quite near the front and yet also quite near the back - it seems the slower boats have got faster or the faster boats have got slower. Anyway, there was Helen in my way and Bob getting away up front, with Colin/Karen out there somewhere too and Badders about level pegging, and Paul/Nick and Peter/Mike somewhere a bit too close behind. So off to 'B' then, and this was supposed to be a broad reach, but with the wind swinging to the West it was kinda close now. Up with the kites anyway, bear away madly in the gusts, luff up in the lulls, mast at a jaunty angle to the vertical the whole way down. Woohooo yeah, this is the real deal, this is what we are here for. So the further down the reach we get, the windier it gets and we arrived at 'B' just behind Bob as a gust came over the wall. I tripped the kite halyard so I wouldn't get blown over in the no-bearing-away-now-we're-nearly at-the-mark zone, sadly Bob was just going past B and the crew was just coming in when the gust hit, and there was one of those splashy moments. But they had the decency to drift on past the mark, so we were able to dive through the gap, re-hoist the kite and then gybe, and off we go to 'M'.
Memory not being as good as it was, all I can tell you is that we spent the whole of the next lap chasing after Colin, whilst letting Peter & Mike and Badders & JR get past us and fending off Helen & Paul, but down at 'M' a lap later we we could still have decimated 70% of the fleet with one well aimed hand-grenade. So it was all to play for up that last beat, and we utterly failed to overtake any of them. The only saving grace was that Peter & Mike went the wrong side of 'Y' on the way to the finish, so had to retire. Colin/Karen 1st, Pete/JR 2nd, Me/Paul 3rd.
Being unable to blame myself for our lacklustre performance, we changed back to our old Speed sails for the afternoon. Although it's worth bearing in mind that Colin and Karen had won whilst sporting a dacron mainsail of dubious parentage which was made in Canada and given to Karen by some South Africans a few years earlier. I very much approve of people doing really well on a shoestring budget, so I can only grind my teeth very quietly when they beat me.
Anyway, on to the afternoon race, and the OD team had wised up to the windshift and set a course which looked to be just about all good. We had to start down between J and the wall, which had prompted some comments in the morning to the effect that all those mooring buoys in that corner were a bit of a hazard. I had previously gone on record as saying that it would be fine, surely nobody is going to run into them if they are looking where they are going. So it came to pass that while Paul was tying a bit of string onto the jib halyard in case the proper stuff frayed through, I was distracted and ran over one of those big yellow floating potty affairs and dented my boat .
Ah well, off we go, still no watch, pretty much last to the first mark ('D') and then something which looked on paper like a rather dull broad reach to 'Y'. But no, the wind had just picked up and from our vantage point at the back of the fleet we could see that it was a bit on the close side now, and the entire fleet was going all over the place as the gusts tore across the lake. So we threaded our way through the carnage, went for another aussie-drop round Y, a bit of wobbliness at the gybe, and then a very excellent reach to 'H'. Wooooo, that one was a real treat. Then a quick beat to 'S' and what should have been another 3-sail reach to 'K' but for some reason it was too close for the kite so we all chose to 2-sail it. Gybe at 'K', through OL to 'J' and start again. Somewhere along the way the feeling returned to my fingers and I got the hot-aches, so rather lost interest in the race for about 10 minutes. During this time Pete & JR capsized, but managed to come back and overtake us again. Peter & Mike had established a whopping lead by this time, so we contented ourselves with sailing over the top of the (somewhat overpowered) Colin & Karen and just failing to overtake Pete & JR on the final leg from 'K' to 'OL'.
So another 3rd place for yours truly, but a great day on the water. I don't know quite what has happened, but the racing (which has always been close in the middle of the fleet) has become really close at the front too recently. No, hang on, it was always close at the front, but the gap between front and the middle tended to get stretched out. What appears to be happening is that the middle of the fleet is catching up with the front. Anyway it's a good thing, personally I'd rather lose a close race than win a tedious procession any day. Although I wouldn't mind winning the close stuff a bit more often too .