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.