OK, time was I wouldn't have thought twice about us having 12 Fireballs on the water, but times are hard, so it gets a mention. Also worth mentioning that none of the Peters turned up, so that's another 4 boats we could potentially have fielded, plus a few others. Still, 12 boats isn't bad.
Having been lamentably late for the start last week, I made sure I was at the club by 10am this time. However, I may have squandered some of that time talking to the OD, as I tend to do to ensure we get a decent course. As it happened, the OD team didn't need any help from me at all and set a couple of very nice courses, so many thanks to Will, Marcellus, Harry and Dennis.
Then I wasted some more time arranging for the couple of rookie boats to go 3 minutes before the rest of the fleet. This isn't something we make a habit of doing, but I figured that in the gusty conditions they'd probably need all the help they could get, and it can't be any fun for them watching the rest of the fleet disappear over the horizon on the first beat.
Then a big rush to get to the start line, only to find that we'd missed the start again!
We started about 1 minute before the Freds, which I had thought was 2 minutes after our start, but on further consideration is actually 5 minutes late. Various other Firebals were also a bit later than they should have been (but still ahead of us), JT for example was apparently re-tying his outhaul when the gun went. Bob/Paul went on the gun however, and had a serious lead over everyone. And the rookie boats were still on the shore, doh!
So we charged over the start line, where Jeremy kindly told us the first mark, and set off up the beat to 'Y'. Then a short kite leg to 'K', followed by a beat to 'M'. The beats were really good, windy enough to get you planing to windward and with some interesting wind-bends which could gain or lose you a big lump very easily. Then round 'M' and bung the kite up for 'D' - a leg which Will had intended to be a 2-sail reach but which was just about kite-able if you didn't mind the occasional massive bear-away in the gusts. Great fun.
Then gybe at 'D' and off to 'J', designed as a 3-sail reach but which was really only good for two. We tried the kite, but the bear-aways threatened to put us across the small island , so we got it down and were plenty powered-up without it anyway. Then round 'J', 'OL' and off on a broad leg to 'H' to start the next lap.
A lap later we had overtaken the rest of the fleet except for Bob/Paul, and were reeling them in. Up at 'M' for the last time we chased them across the lake, both boats careering off in the gusts and coming back up in the lulls, and I wished (not for the first time) that I'd got a camera on the bow of the boat to record some of this stuff for posterity. Then a gybe at 'D', we got our kite down, Bob left his up, and they took off in the gust and sailed straight across the little island. I spent some time waiting for them to come to an abrupt halt, but they zoomed on regardless, so it looks as though we've had a lot of water over the past week. We went high and then put our kite up at about the halfway mark, and when both boats eventually rejoined the lay-line, we were marginally ahead. Kites down, nip round 'J' and then across the line to win. Woohoo, very good!
So we had a bit of a chat with Bob and the rest of the crowd as they arrived on the shore, and then went to examine Helen's Fireball, which was apparently feeling a bit poorly and having a little lie down on the shore...
It turned out that Paul had been forced to lie on the centreboard once too often, and the centreboard had delaminated, resulting in an asymmetric load-response curve and a Paul-goes-headfirst-into-the-water-again scenario. In case you're interested, it's the leading edge of the board that fails - there's a lot of shear pressure on it when it's loaded and of course it takes all the knocks when you run over things, so it's an obvious (if rather unusual) fail point.
Lunch then, and much laughter about the need to get to the start on time.
And so it came to pass that we arrived at the startline for the PM race with an entire 40 seconds to spare, and would have made a decent start. Except that Colin/Karen hadn't turned up yet, and they had generously waited for ages for us last week, so we were honour-bound to return the favour. So we hung about until they arrived and then zoomed off once again to chase down the rest of the pack.
The beat was to 'M' this time, and it was notable that Colin/Karen were able to stay ahead of us for most of it, although I think we pipped them around the mark. And then, spread out ahead of us was the entire fleet, all on their way to 'D' and not one of them flying their spinnakers. Well this was something of a red rag to a Paul, we knew we could kite this leg as we'd done it in the morning. It was a bit windier now admittedly, but also slightly broader, so what the hell. So we stuck it up and absolutely marmalised the entire fleet, most of whom weren't even trapezing, ending up alongside Mo/Holly. Gybe at 'D', and predictably the next reach (to 'T') was too close for comfort if you were flying the kite, so we got ours down and chased Mo/Holly all the way. There was then a quick beat up to OL followed by another 3-sail reach across the lake to 'E'. But this one was a bit closer, so we ended up doing the fabulous Aussie-drop to lay 'E'. And then, since 'E' is in a bay, we had to employ 100% of Paul's lard on the wire to get out of the bay before we could sort the pole out for the run down to 'F' and the start of the next lap.
By this time we'd got a bit of a lead over the fleet, so we messed about a bit up the beat and then waited for Colin/Karen and Mo/Holly at 'T'. Then we 2-sailed the next reach to 'E' and left the kite in the bag for the leg to 'F' too, which allowed Bob/Paul to catch up. So we were all set for a fabulous 4 boat battle on the last lap. We spent the entire beat chasing Colin/Karen and not catching them, whilst swapping places with Bob/Paul. Then the excellent reach to 'D', and we were still all together at the end of that. Then, ah the shame of it, I allowed the kite to get seriously wineglassed after the gybe (note to self, pull the kite sheet in immediately after the gybe every time), so we had to take it down and 2-sail the next reach. Colin/Karen and Bob/Paul managed to fly their kites, so were ahead at 'T', so we only had the titchy beat to OL to catch them up. Predictably we failed to do this, Colin/Karen crossed the line first, and we ducked Bob's transom on the line but he managed to tack and cross just ahead of us, so we ended up losing out to them about 1 second again. Mo/Holly turned up a few seconds later, followed by the rest of the fleet over the next few minutes.
Last home were Richard and Oliver, who arrived just as I finished putting the cover on my boat. But in spite of getting the 'Full Richard Experience', Oliver is now a convert to the madness which is Fireball sailing, and will be available to crew for you from the beginning of June, plus possibly the odd Wednesday evening before that. He's young and keen, so don't let him get away guys.
Next week is the Fireball fleet AGM, so I'm hoping to see y'all there.
Party on dudes.
Colin & Karen worshipping their new boat, Mutley's Revenge.
Mark Twain once said that a lie will go twice round the world while the truth is tying up its shoe laces. He knew a thing or two and he didn't even have broadband. I mention this because the good old public DWSC forum is about to be locked, presumably to encourage us to use the new private members-only forum. Personally I've always preferred to make a fool of myself to as large an audience as possible, so I'll be staying on the outside. Anyone who thinks that opinions can be hidden away behind closed doors when we have so much choice of media is deluding themselves - the words just move from somewhere that the club can observe and respond to, to elsewhere where the club doesn't know what's being said and no response is possible. A bad idea IMHO.
On the positive side the water level is rising pretty quickly now, probably summat to do with all the rain we've been having (duh!). It should continue to rise if the forecast for the coming week holds true.
Back at the sailing, the weather was cold, F3, onshore, some sunshine. Poorly Paul was elsewhere, so I inherited Quentin from JT who was feeling a bit under the weather. As I was still in my kitchen 1 hour before the start of the race, and then had to wait for Quentin to turn up when I arrived at the club, starting on time was always going to be a bit of a challenge. And so it came to pass that we arrived at the start line some time after the Freds had started, to find Colin/Karen waiting for us. I figured we'd have to wait some more to pick up Bob/Richard, so we pootled around until Colin pointed out that Bob had already gone and was now at the top of the beat. So we set off in hot pursuit, had a good old ding-dong battle with Colin/Karen all the way round, and ended up just behind them at the finish. Bob was already on the shore by now, well, fair play, he is sailing 25 year old boat, probably needs the points.
A spot of lunch, and then off to the start-line again, this time arriving before the start of the race. We made a decent enough start for a boat with no functioning timepiece, and made our way up the beat in close competition with Bob/Richard and Colin/Karen. Jane/Pat were out there somewhere too, but we didn't see much of them. At the top of the beat, it was Bob/Richard in the lead, with us and Colin/Karen pretty much neck and neck. And so it remained for the next two and a half laps, with various changes of 2nd and 3rd place while Bob built up a huge lead - at one point it was huge - we were at 'T' while they were getting their kite down at 'M'.
We had a lot of trouble getting past Colin/Karen. Usually I just pull a bit of a blinder up the favoured side of the beat and emerge far enough ahead at the windward mark that we can break free with the huge kite on the reach. This didn't work at all - my fabulous windshift picking skills were going flat out but Colin just kept on reappearing from under the jib, still slightly ahead of us in spite of going the other way. And on the offwind legs it appeared that they'd got their own huge kite which was more effective than mine, what with mine being on top of the wardrobe at home - the one in the boat being a more standard cut.
Coming round 'K' for the last time we were right up on Colin's transom, so he luffed up hard after rounding the mark (as you do) and we carried a bit more speed and punched through beneath them. Unusually, we kept the speed and managed to come out ahead as we both sailed up the wall before tacking off for 'P'. After tacking, Bob/Richard were a lot closer, maybe only 30 secs ahead. So we rode the wind-bend up to 'P' and rounded just behind them. Then a bit of a wineglass problem with the kite lost us a bit of ground, so they were clear ahead again when we gybed at 'T' for the final leg to OL.
A nice big lump of wind filling in from behind got us planing and converted the leg into one of those momentarily perfect items where you can just about carry the kite at the expense of the occasional leeward-gunwale-under-water moment while the boat is picking up speed This ended up with us haring towards Bob's transom at about Mach 5 while Bob had to contend with the conflicting requirements of sailing towards OL while stopping us going past and responding to the gust as it landed on his boat. It was all very exciting, but we were a little too close to OL to mount a serious challenge. We managed to get alongside, but Bob ended up crossing the line with his bow about 2 ft ahead of ours, big smiles all round and an excellent finish to a great race. More points for Bob/Richard in the 25 year old boat, and thoroughly well deserved.
After the Gybe. A pic not remotely relevant to the racing just described, but kinda good so I thought I'd include it. Thanks to Sue Ann for sharing it with us.