The first thing you realise when you sign up for the nationals is the massive increment in effort between this and the requirements of sailing at your local pond. In the latter case, you turn up at roughly the right time on a Sunday morning and pull the sails up. For the Nationals, you have to first do a load of planning, upgrade your boat insurance, get the car serviced, get the caravan serviced, do the wheel bearings on the trailer, get a GPS tracker for the cat, do all those (many) little jobs on the boat, and generally empty your wallet in the cause of achieving all of this. You then find that the excellent weather is about to break, so your anticipated light-moderate breeze under clear blue skies translates into mournful staring out of the window at the trees bending double while the rain beats a tattoo on the roof.
Day zero - Saturday
After a mere 7 hours of driving very slowly on the M5, I finally arrived at the boat-park to find that Iain had done everything, and a good job too. Return to campsite with high hopes for tomorrow, and off to bed. Awoken at 3am by the sound of rain and the realisation that most of the air has leaked out of the inflatable mattress, leaving me lying on the ground. Eventually crawl out and find the foot pump, but the magic has gone.
Day 1 - Sunday
Wake to discover that the fridge no longer works on (free) mains electricity, so resort to running it on expensive gas. Arrive late to boat park, where Iain has once again done everything already, all we have to do is wheel the boat down to the sea and pull the sails up. Wheel boat onto beach with spinnaker pole sticking out from mast in spite of Iain's suggestion that we detach it, catch it on another boat, brand new mast-end fitting promptly shears off. Stare at crew in disbelief, crew stares back, tactfully refraining from saying anything. Then go and get old pole-end fitting out of toolbox and do a hasty replacement job.
Afloat in time to miss the practise race, we observe that it is pretty windy and onshore so the waves are huge. Whilst waiting for the start of the first proper race and the multiple general recalls that follow, the wind and waves both increase noticeably. By the time we finally get off, it's all gone a bit mental. Zoom off up the beat, boat climbs huge waves with aplomb, and we're doing pretty well at the top mark. Kite up, off down the first reach, gybe nicely and set kite, and it's looking good. Then disaster struck as I was washed out of the boat by a big wave half way down the reach, capsized, and loads of boats sailed past while we retrieved it. Sailed on, but the waves were getting a bit hideous now. Going down the run we were overtaking the waves, climbing up the back of real monsters, getting to the top, and looking down at the trough ahead with some trepidation (aka naked fear) before the boat took off surfing down the wave at stupid speeds. Still, we made a few places back over the next few laps and were only a bit behind Pete at the end. Iain had gone a funny colour during the race and was sick over the side when we finished, so we packed it in at that point. Pete & Steve stayed on for the next race, although Steve damaged his arm before they finished that one. Karen (who was refusing to fly the kite on self-preservation grounds) just did the one race.
Day 2 - Monday
Awoken at 3am by cat bouncing around on my bed and, when chastised, biting me. Possibly driven mad by sound of rain beating loudly on the roof, he eventually departed in the direction of the children, possibly to bite them too. By morning my wetsuit was nearly dry, so I put it outside to finish off in the thin morning sun, whereupon it promptly got rained on. A drysuit day then.
At the boatpark, Iain had rigged the top of the jib in a different manner to usual, so i pulled it down, re-tied it, and discovered that the tail of the halyard had gone up inside the mast. Stare at crew in disbelief again, then head for the toolbox and the rare-earth magnets to re-thread it. In process, discover that jib halyard sheave no longer goes round, but unable to fix that with WD40 so ignore it. Get halyard sorted laughably quickly and ho for the beach. Down here the wind is quite light and offshore, but out at the start it is possibly windier than yesterday and cross-shore. As a result the waves are smaller and lumpier, but as the day goes on, increasingly large. We had a couple of good races, but were slower than we thought we should be, possibly due to de-powering too much. Pete & Steve took the day off to let the arm recover a bit, Karen was still leaving the kite in the bag on the reaches, but chanced it on the runs. The sun came out and stayed out for most of the time, glinting seductively on those big ocean waves as they broke into spray and foam, so we felt we were getting our money's worth for a change. Really good fun!
Day 3 - Tuesday.
Now designated a lay day as wind forecast to be gusting 40mph, although BBC weather said 12mph, and in the event probably no more than about 8mph. Shame, as I would have liked a bit of light-airs racing. Still, it gave me a chance to lie in after being woken (and bitten) by the cat at 4am that morning.