Monday, 9 July 2012


As usual, I was still in my kitchen with an hour to go before the start of the race, but unusually we had more wind than was forecast when I finally arrived. We also had 10+ boats out, and one fewer than we would otherwise have managed due JT and Pat (Jane in the afternoon) doing impromptu OD duty due to failure of others to show up. Pah!

Ho for the start then, leaving the watch in the changing room again. Given that I was still in the changing room at 10:38 and the start is 10:45, I was surprised to find that the start sequence was not yet underway when I arrived. On enquiry it turned out that the team were looking at the winter start times (perhaps understandable, given the weather), so we corrected that misapprehension and the sequence commenced.  Pat & Bob used their B-fleet prerogative and went off 3 minutes early, we queued up with the rest of the boats at the pin end and made a decent start behind Pete/JR and just ahead of Helen/Paul.

There then followed a long drawn out chase sequence in which we caught up with  Pete & JR and they got away again, and Mo & Holly caught up with us and we got away again, and the rest of the fleet did their own thing but didn't trouble us at all.

So it was perhaps predictable that the first three boats would all be fairly close at the 2nd last mark 'Y', and by the time  Pete had luffed us up en-route to 'J', Mo had caught up too and we were all three pretty much together as we reached the end of the leg. Now we had more-or-less overtaken  Pete , and were furthest to windward and basically ahead. But 2nd boat  Pete was just maintaining a now-you-see-it-now-you-don't sort of overlap, so I spent the last bit of the leg peering across from my transom to his bow to see what he'd got at the critical 3-boat-lengths moment. So he called for water, and I was just telling him he hadn't got it when he surged forwards and clearly had, at which point I grudgingly gave him a bit of space at J.

Sadly, Mo in the most leeward and rearmost boat had by this time achieved what he later described as a glaringly obvious overlap on Pete, one so obvious he didn't bother calling for it. The net result of this was that I (who hadn't been looking at Mo and hadn't noticed) provided space for only one boat at the mark, and Mo ended up T-boning 'J' and sliding over Pete's transom. Pete then went on to win, I came second, Mo 3rd.

Back on shore it became apparent that the whole episode was basically my fault, so apologies were made and I retired from the race. This was still a bit tough on Mo, who probably would have won if the situation were replayed by the book.

In the afternoon the wind was lighter and distinctly fickle, and the first beat from J to P was very difficult to read. We were basically last around P, with Badders and Mo out in front. We went past Paul & Nick by virtue of bunging our kite up sooner, then rounded Y for the run to K. We overtook a couple of boats on the run, and Badders had got the course wrong, so by the time we got to K, I found I was giving him water at the mark (again!). Over the next couple of legs we gradually worked our way nearer to the front of the fleet, but down at J we were still roughly in the middle of the pack and had Badders sniffing around our transom.

Now at this point a lot of the fleet went hard left on the beat (starboard tack then), and we were doing the same sort of thing when I noticed a Tera way upwind which was on port tack and pointing about 45 degrees higher than he should have been. Taking this as a sign that a lift on port was available, we tacked off early, headed for the Tera, and were granted a 45 degree lift which took us straight to the mark. Meanwhile, still on starboard tack on the far left of the beat, Badders and a few others were being lifted so that they couldn't sensibly tack onto port, with the result that they ended up going much further than us and still couldn't hit the lay line. Net result, just Mo & Holly and us out front.

Over the next lap we managed to get our nose ahead of Mo & Holly, and then proceeded to sit on their wind until they were forced to go off in the wrong direction. A lucky lift later, we were around P in the lead and there was a little group of boats comprising Mo & Holly, Pete & JR, Colin & Karen and Helen & Paul all about 30 seconds behind us. We then sailed into a little patch of wind which they didn't get, and before we knew it we were about 3 minutes ahead of the rest of them, a position we held to the finish.

Back in the pack there was apparently a lot of place changing, and Pete & JR came out marginally ahead of Mo & Holly, with everyone else a short way behind them.

Not a bad day's sailing then, and home in time to build a bit more of the shed.

Monday, 2 July 2012


Apologies to all my loyal readers (all 3 of you), I have been neglecting you recently. I've certainly done a bit of sailing since my last report, but for the life of me I can't remember it so it can't have been that interesting.

Apart that is from last Sunday, the Inter-fleet championships, where the Fireball 'team' (for want of a better word) did a spiffy job and managed a very creditable 2nd place overall. We've won the thing a few times in years gone by, and for a nasty 15 minutes I did wonder if we'd managed to win it again, but fortunately no - 2nd place for us, and somebody else gets to organise the event next year.

Anyhoo, back to Sunday 1st July, and the bushes were saying 'ooooh, really quite windy Mike, are you sure about this?', but when I arrived at the club it wasn't all that bad, in fact no big deal at all. They lie to us, they do. They lie...

However, due to their nonsense, I had brought with me my old spinnaker and a mainsail that last saw action keeping building sand off the lawn and which bore some shovel wounds to prove it. I didn't notice these until we hoisted the sail, of course, by which time the 6-minute gun had already gone, so no time to effect repairs. Luckily the start line was a mere 50 feet away, and I already knew the course having had a hand in setting it, so we're good to go. Better still, some of the competition were late for the start, so it didn't matter so much that I had left my watch on the bench in the changing rooms.

So, first beat, a lopsided affair up to 'M', where we popped out in the lead but only by a bit, bunged up the kite, but the wind was a bit feeble and the bigger kite on the Peter/Mike boat soon hauled us in. We stayed ahead round 'D' and all the way to 'F', but once we were back on the beat, the boys soon got past and we spent the rest of the race trying to keep up with them, and failing. On the plus side though, the wind came up nicely on subsequent laps, and that 3-sail reach from 'M' to 'D' was really good, with flippin' great dollops of wind coming over the wall and smacking into the boat, requiring armfuls of tiller to get the crew back into proximity with the horizontal. And it turned out that if you went a bit high on the leg from 'D' to 'F', you could frighten yourself by catching your foils on the submerged island - we didn't bother with that but I know a couple of other boats that did.

Anyway, that race was really quite wet and the early sunshine had gone, and obviously I had been a bit optimistic in wearing a wetsuit in July because I was distinctly cold by the end of it. So I put on the drysuit at luchtime, only without the fluffy liner as I'd left that in the boiler room at home along with anything resembling trousers. So the eventual ensemble was drysuit over bare legs, with as many shirts as I could find on top (3).

And ho for the startline once more, this time rigging at the sound of the 6 minute gun, with a watch but discovering that my gloves were AWOL. So I attempted to don the 2 right-handed items that were loitering in the spinnaker bag, and compromised by wearing just one of them. Then afloat, and who is this upside down by OL, why it is our good friend Badders, he has been rammed by an International Canoe whilst putting his rudder on. Oh dear!

While he pulled his boat up, we hung about near the shore end of the line, no idea how long to go because I had failed to start the watch due to mucking about with gloves. But off it went, and off we went too, managing a near perfect port-tack flyer. Sadly Peter/Mike made it to 'M' before us this time, so we chased them down the fabulous reach to 'D' again. However the wind had gone more Westerly, meaning the reach was closer, and the big kite I had installed at lunchtime didn't like it very much. So the boys gradually pulled out a huge lead, but we kept chasing them around on the offchance they might fall over, and the course didn't fail to keep our interest up. The reach from 'D' to 'S' took us above the island, and was broad enough that the more cautious sailors could safely fly their kites, followed by a dead run to 'G' where at least one of the more cautious sailors capsized anyway. Then a beat up to 'N', followed by another broad reach to 'J', fetch to 'OL, and off again up to 'M'.

As the race wore on, it became apparent that nothing short of all-out nuclear war was going to stop Peter & Mike, but Badders was closing on us and the wind was rising. My sandy sail turned out to be quite flat, and if you ignored the brown marks and puncture wounds it actually looked quite good, with the top of the sail blading off nicely. The wind was getting up to that interesting level where lots of other things capsize but Fireballs just plane upwind even faster, and you don't have to exercise your mainsheet arm too much because the mainsail is just hovering in the backdraft from the jib, while the spray explodes off the bow providing a rollercoaster ride that Alton Towers has no answer to.

It was, not to put too fine a point on it, bloody fabulous.

Meanwhile my left hand was holding up remarkably well for something that really ought to have had a glove on it, and the Badders threat was fading in the teeth of the sandy-sail's upwind performance. The excellent reach from 'M' to 'D' just kept getting more excellent, with me doing my Top Gear presenter impression, yelling 'Pressure' at random intervals like a well known overweight mouth-on-a-stick, only with more hair and less money.

On the way down to 'G' the last time we narrowly avoided what appeared to be a tree branch that was ambling along in the same direction, and were later regaled with the story of how Colin & Karen had run over it. Bob & Paul had capsized and subsequently retired, which allowed Helen & Paul to capsize with impunity. Which they did. Mo & Holly had also retired after the capsize on the run, and Peter & Mike won by a country mile. Badders & JR and Helen & Paul turned up shortly afterwards, and presumably a few others too.

Gathered in the bar later on, we all agreed that it had been a cracking good day's sailing!