Sunday, 29 December 2013

Festive sailing fun

It was one of those days when you look out of the window and wonder if you really want to do this. Cold, distinctly windy, and with a forecast which said that it would all be fine whilst implying that it probably wouldn't.

Anyway, at the club, faced with a very decent turnout of other Fireballs all busily being rigged, I felt it my civic duty to give it a bash. Peter turned up, sans Jez (who apparently felt it was too windy). Poorly Paul arrived and made unhappy noises about how it was likely to break the boat, but hey, there were Mo and Holly rigging up, and if they (quite old and quite light respectively) were up for it, what kind of wimps would we be if we didn't go too ?

Race 1 - M, P, T, J, OL, S

Down at the start-line it was looking very reasonable, sort of F3 gusting F4, until suddenly it was more F4 gusting F5, whereupon Bob and Paul capsized. We made a kind of so-so attempt at a start, about 10 seconds late, nearly dismembering the pin end Santa as we went...

Photo and Santa courtesy of Dunc

It was well windy by now, and we zoomed around the course with the boat bouncing satisfyingly from wave to wave. But there were no excellent 3-sail reaches to be had, it was all too broad to be fun or too close to fly the kite, and we had to wait until the end of the race before anything interesting happened. In this case, it was Helen falling out of the boat as she and Paul approached the shore. Luckily Paul knows how to helm, and Helen knows how to do the backstroke.

Photos courtesy of Malcolm Lewin

Race 2 - A, K, E, H, OL, S

Another late start by yours truly, and this time the entire fleet were about 20 seconds ahead. Still we manfully clawed back the gap, and by the time we tacked onto the lay-line for 'A' we were in 2nd place to Helen & Paul, who had overstood the mark somewhat. So I was expecting that they would blast past above us, but just as they came level, I observed that their boat was leaning quite a lot and their boom was in the water, and the whole shooting match was generally heading in our direction. So I mentioned to Paul that I foresaw an immediate future in which their mast would land on one or both of us, and we bore away to leeward of the mark and watched until the mast hit the water and the crew fell in. The fun being over, we then gybed round and came back up to 'A' on port tack around the upturned hull and set off in pursuit of Bob & Paul and Mo & Holly, who were now high-tailing it off towards 'K'.

'A' to 'K' was a nice broad reach sheltered by the hillside, but followed by a gybe at 'K' for a more interesting closer reach right across the lake to 'E'. Bob & Paul were in the lead, but they went out wide to gybe early, allowing Mo & Holly to drop their kite and come in close by the mark for water. M&H then went high, as you would, and we did the gybe thing, set the kite, and were neatly placed a few boat lengths behind Bob & Paul as we set off down the reach. Almost immediately the wind came in and we watched B&P bear off like mad before it caught us too. So there we were, 3 Fireballs all close enough together that one well aimed hand-grenade would take out the whole lot of us, and all hurtling along in varying degrees of control.

We spent most of that reach with the mainsail out on the shrouds, bearing off in the gusts and coming back up in the lulls, and generally finding that Bob & Paul were in the way as we did so. They were just as much at the whim of the gusts as we were, but I found that we could always sail a little higher than they could, probably due to my Paul being fatter than Bob's. So we went the long way round, below them, and we both went a little faster than Mo & Holly, and by the time we arrived at 'E' we were in the lead, with Bob & Paul 2nd and Mo & Holly third. And you could still have taken us all out with that hand-grenade, even though M&H hadn't flown their kite.

Anyhoo, we took our kite down for the next reach to 'H', and Bob & Paul left theirs up, which might have worked if they'd gybed a bit quicker and if, as Paul later reported, he'd been able to pull the sheet in to make it fly. So that left us and Mo & Holly to 2-sail the leg to H and start the beat up to OL.

At this point it got even windier, and Mo & Holly chased us up the beat only as far as the club shore, before capsizing as a prelude to retirement. Bob & Paul had a decent fight with Nick & Karen, and Helen & Paul capsized again down at H, but carried on to the finish anyway. We enjoyed a couple more goes at the fab reach, Alton Towers had nothing to match that one, and finally came off the water in high spirits.

Another excellent day's racing!

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