It really was awesome Pete, as you say. Although I probably should have included a little tick against the text "Unrivalled opportunities to run aground"...
It all started a bit light and fluffy, and I was feeling a bit short changed in windspeed terms. The wind had shifted, so the beat was a bit one-sided even before we started. We did OK and rounded 'N' 3rd behind Colin/Karen and Peter/Mike. Broad reach to 'OL', where we all took our kites down except for Peter/Mike, who opted to find out the hard way that you couldn't fly the kite to 'D'. So they went low, Colin went high, we did a little wiggly course that took us up in the light bits and down in the windier stuff, and so popped out in the lead at 'D'. Yay!
Broady reach to 'S', followed by another heavily biassed beat to 'X'. Short close reach to 'T' followed by a decent reach to 'F', and we still had a decent lead when we got there, although you had to suspect that Colin/Karen and Peter/Mike were slowing each other down a bit behind us. So, a quick trip to the far bank from 'F', and then tack for the long leg across to 'N' again. And then the centreboard started coming up, and I noticed some white buoys all around, and I thought 'hmmm, this might be the shallow bit maybe'. So we leaned the boat over on its ear, as you can't afford to p*ss about in shallow water for too long with a fixed rudder, and sailed over the island, which appears to be no more than about 18" deep in places. Colin also came a bit of a cropper there, but Peter and Mike had tacked at 'F' and come out straight away, which put us on parallel paths with them a bit behind... no, level.... no, ahead of us. Their boat speed was making us look a bit silly. So we followed them round N, OL, and were almost at 'D' when I realised that the island had bequeathed the rudder a nice lump of weed right at the bottom. So we stopped up at 'D' to remove the rudder and the weed, but promptly went into irons and started sailing backwards. While we were doing this, another 3 boats sauntered past, leaving us in 5th place and slightly grumpy.
But the good news was that normal service had been resumed on the boat-speed front, so we were able to fight our way past Helen/Paul and Colin/Karen, which set us up for a very nice 3-sail reach from 'T' to 'F' on the transom of Pete/David. This reach had turned a bit closer and windier than before, and it was a very exciting dogfight all the way down the leg, with both boats bearing off in the gusts and then cranking it back upwind in the lulls, with us just marginally overlapped to windward and a bit wary of planing over Pete's boat from my vantage point about 2ft off his transom.
We were fortunate that we acquired an overlap at 'F', but went a bit too far inshore (again) and after tacking we were looking at those white buoys again. So we bore off around them this time, which meant that Pete/David could wiggle up and lee-bow us on the long close-hauled leg to 'N'. So we had to do the luffy-bear-away dance again, and eventually we got them nailed below us and then zoomed away in a big gust for a bit of a lead round 'N' and across the finish line in 2nd place.
Then back to the shore for a chance to watch the next 3 boats all coming round 'N' together, fighting it out on the reach and all crossing the finish line together in the space of about 3 seconds. We reckon that Colin/Karen had it in the bag right up until the final 10 yards, when Richard/Kris had a bit of a surge and got their nose ahead. But I could be wrong...
So at lunch time I rather stupidly told Peter (winner of the AM race) that he had been totally lucky what with us getting the weed and that he wouldn't be winning this PM cos I wouldn't be making that mistake again. In fact I believe the exact phrase I used was 'we will crush you utterly', which probably wasn't a very sensible prediction to make.
Out at the startline, the wind was still a bit lighter than I was expecting, and I was starting to wonder if WindGuru knew its meteorological arse from its elbow. So we sidled up to the line, starboard (favoured) end, right by the committee boat, gun goes, perfect start. And you have to give the OD team a lot of credit for this, because the moment the gun went, a massive hoolie hit the fleet, followed moments later by torrential rain that made your head hurt. And of course we like it like that, except that for some reason I couldn't make the boat point anything like as high as anyone else, and rapidly went from being above the fleet and marginally behind to below the fleet and marginally behind, which isn't nearly so good. So we tacked off rather than fall further into the dirty air of everything (including an RS800 which was also there but probably shouldn't have been). And the fleet carried on with more wind and they got a nice lift on port tack when they all tacked, and we didn't, so we were last at the windward mark (B) and the fleet had all gone and the wind had all gone too.
So that's not good then.
Pony off down to 'M', nice reach, gained a bit there, gybe at 'M' and go very low with a view to having some close reaching later. Well that worked OK, and we were within sniffing distance of the back few boats by the time we got to 'S'. Beat up to 'C' next, and we're not even too far behind Badders, game on! So we overtook the Helen/Paul and Richard/Kris. And then the latter pair overtook us again, and we just squeaked around 'C' ahead of Helen, Badders has gone and I'm wondering if the rudder's got the green lurgi again. Kite up, not much wind, aim at 'J' and keep Helen to leeward while waiting for something useful to turn up by way of wind.
And then a lump of wind *did* turn up, and it caught me by surprise, boom in the water, crew falls into the boat, arrgh, capsize!
So I went over the top and got on the centreboard, observing as I did so that there was a heap of weed on the rudder again. I then pulled the boat into a horizontal position and invited Paul to get into it to be scooped up. He declined to do this because it turned out that he had managed to remove the rudder from the boat while idling away the dull moments in the water at the transom, and was now holding the rudder in one hand and the boat, via the rudder tie-down string (all 6" of it) in the other. So I tripped the kite halyard, pulled the boat up, bagged the kite, put the pole away, turned round to assist crew and found he was about half a mile away, floating about in the water like a bathing hippo, still hanging on to the rudder and exchanging pleasantries with the rescue boat crew.
So I spent the next couple of minutes sailing back to him, by myself in a boat that was full of water and had no rudder, and I can tell you that it's not easy to hit the crew from that sort of distance and avoid taking his head off. But I got him in the end, retrieved the rudder, welcomed him back aboard and off we went again.
Now by this time the fleet had about 5 minutes head start on us, but that's just tough, somebody has to come last and it might as well be us. So off we went again, down to 'J', up to 'OL' narrowly missing a few Solos and Freds at the mark (sorry boys), across to 'X', back up the poxy beat to 'B', a very fast reach to 'M', and when we got there we were still last by a country mile and there still wasn't enough wind to get us planing on that broad reach. So I formulated a plan to go high, get the boat planing, and if that meant gybing at the end, well ok. So we went high, causing some brief concern to Graeme in the Dart 15 who was up there too, and the boat took off like a scalded cat when the next gust came through. So we bore off, and it got windier,, and we bore off some more, and it got windier still. And by now we were heading straight for the mark in full back tank mode, simply hammering along, and a load of Solos below us were absolutely flying too - I have never seen a Solo go that fast - they were probably only 10% off whatever speed we were doing, albeit pointing higher as they were doing a straight line compared to our arc-of-optimum-planing course.
So we arrived at 'S' very shortly afterwards, got the kite down (too slowly, too late), pulled the sails in, headed up towards 'C' and promptly ran over the damn island again.
Centreboard came up, boat went sideways, crew went in the water again, so I towed him along for a bit cos it helped to cant the boat over and keep the rudder safe, then reeled him in again when the depth improved and off we go again.
Up the beat, round 'C', hoon down the reach to 'J', up to OL and finish utterly and comprehensively last.
But, and this is the important bit, still grinning like a cheshire cat. We don't often get sunshine and warm air and water and torrential rain and enormous lumps of wind all in one day, and I have to say that regardless of my lamentable performance, that was an excellent sail. Well done to everyone who didn't capsize and who beat me, ie all the other Fireballs.
I'll just have to crush you all next time