Monday, 8 May 2017

Firebowl 2017

This was pretty good, considering there was not much wind for quite a lot of it. I think it helped that it was also the Firebowl personal handicap event, so we had a great turnout (11 boats, oh yes!) and a good reason to get on with it rather than just sit around to see if the weather would improve.
Nevertheless, my morning was rubbish. Having started a mere minute behind Mo & Paul and Pete & Steve and Martyn & Daniel, some twist of fate meant they all did a horizon job and ended up in the top 5, whereas Paul & I bobbed around at the back with no wind and nobody to keep us company. Worse, we kept meeting Eleanor & Richard at the same crossover point every lap, rubbing in the fact that they were half a lap ahead of us and not getting any closer. We eventually overtook only Helen & rookie crew Nathalie, and then only when the latter fell out of the boat for the 2nd time. However, everyone else apparently had a great race, with reports of multiple overtaking manoeuvres and last minute disasters aplenty. Pete & Steve, for example, suffered a particularly interesting kite-won't-come-down episode about 20 yards from the finish line, losing them 3 places. Ellie and Richard won that one, but not by much.
Gordon & Bryan couldn't take the pressure and packed up at lunch time, which was a shame as it only got better from there.
The afternoon was windier, and this time nobody did a horizon job on me although it did take us the entire race to catch anyone. Apart, that is, from Paul & Ian who capsized while trying a port tack approach to the windward mark. Quel surprise, who would have thought that the other 2 adjacent boats might have been approaching on starboard at the same time? Incidentally Paul, the bottom of your boat is filthy, please clean it up if you're going to show it off like that. Anyway, we spent ages looking at Mo's transom, and finally got past only on the very last run from X down to OL. We also got Jane & Pat there, then Ellie & Richard on the next leg, a tiny but exciting 3-sail beam reach across to J, all of us somewhat overpowered. About 20 secs ahead, Pete & Steve had pulled a fast one on both Peter & Ellen and Helen & Nathalie in the bit between J and the gate, winning the race by a whisker. Bob & Paul then came in 4th just ahead of me and the rest of the posse. So the whole lot finished in the space of about a minute, which is pretty impressive for 9 boats over an hour's race, not to mention damn good fun too.
I'd have done the 3rd race too if I'd realised that 6 other Fireballs would be staying on for it (surely a sign that the end of days is drawing nigh). Anyway, I watched a bit of it, and it was sunny with a decent F3, which facts combined managed to make even the windward-leeward course look like a worthwhile way to spend half an hour.
At the end of it all, Bob did some number-crunching on the finish times of the third race (which is run as a conventional handicap rather than a pursuit) and it turned out that Peter & Ellie had won the overall event, with Ellie & Richard 2nd, and Pete & Steve taking 3rd on count-back from Mo & Paul. Well done everyone, and I trust y'all enjoyed it as much as I did.
Round 2 is the Marriott Bucket in September. 

Monday, 10 April 2017


Sometimes, rarely, you get a decent amount of wind on a really warm, sunny day. Sadly it's equally unusual these days to get a big course that allows a Fireball to really stretch itself. But occasionally the stars align and you get both at the same time, and yesterday was one of those days.

We started off with a southerly wind, trekked over to the start (near D), and were greeted with a course of M, N, C, B, X, E, D. That's a long beat, a broad reach/run, fast reach, beat, fast reach, dead run and a beam reach to finish. The sun shone, the wind varied from F2 to F3, and a great time was had by all. A particularly great time was had by Peter & Paul, who cocked up the start, recovered, and took an early lead which they were never to lose (although we did make them work for it.) Colin & Karen fought it out with Pete & Richard a bit further back, and Mo & Ellen and Jane & Pat were somewhere behind them. The wind went a bit westerly, making the last leg into a fetch, but that was a small thing really, and we finished within about 10 secs of the leaders.

The wind picked up for the afternoon, and those of us who had launched with 22'8 mast rake were forced to pull many bits of string to compensate. Peter & Paul cocked up the start again (with only a little help from yours truly), and had to re-round, leaving the rest of us to blast off at great speed when the gun went. Well, not quite all of us. Mo & Ellen had capsized a little while previously, and Colin & Karen spotted this, rescued Ellie and put Karen on the upturned hull to help get the boat upright. Crews were swapped back when normal orientation was resumed, and C&K were able to start the race just a little late. It says a lot for them that they pitched in to help, and I'd like to think that this spirit of camaraderie pretty much defines us as a fleet. I certainly hope so anyway.

The race itself was fantastic, a beat to B, broad reach to Y, beat to A, run to N, broad reach to P and another to S, one-legged beat to J and a 2-sail reach back to D. As the race wore on it became a little windier, and we were just behind a trapezing Dart on the 2-sail reach to D when a gust simply flattened him, which is not something you see all that often. But it was the 3-sail reaches that made my day; in particular the one from N to P which was pitched just perfectly for a flat out reach. And if you've never experienced a Fireball going flat out with the kite up on a sunny day, you're missing out big time; the boat goes like it's on rails, no wobbles, no nosediving, just the sunshine flashing off the spray, the black patches racing in and you're locked in to the elements and that sense of speed...

So we won that one, although I'd happily have come last for the pleasure of just sailing that race in those conditions. Peter & Paul came in 2nd, Pete & Richard were 3rd, Colin & Karen ran out of time and retired, and Jane & Pat finished 4th and last - Mo & Ellie having hit the showers long since. Many thanks to JR and the OD team for laying on such a great course - a veritable banquet compared to the usual sandwich. Well I enjoyed it anyway, as perhaps you can tell?

Sunday, 2 April 2017


Not a bad little race this morning. The wind started out at a healthy 2-3 and died away over the course of the morning until there was virtually sod all by the end. But with random lumps in it, to keep us on our toes. At the start, I thought the beat was going to evaporate, but it stayed true-ish, albeit with plenty of shifts to keep us amused.

The rule of thumb seemed to be dont-go-right, even though the first beat initially looked like a one-leg port tack affair. Paul & Ian were a bit previous on the start line, and there's another rule of thumb that says you can't sail straight along the line and expect it to end well. We sidled up to it and got a great start by the pin, went left, and had a decent lead over the entire fleet by the windward mark.

There followed a 3-sail reach to Y, another to X, and a dead run to J, where the entire fleet closed up on us. Then a fetch to OL and start again. If the beats worked well for us, the off wind legs were decidedly trickier, and a variety of boats caught us on these. Colin & Karen steamed past us on the leg from Y to X when the 3-sail reach with crew out on the wire became a head to wind affair. But that next run was a killer for them, and it was Pete & Richard who took up the chase, nearly getting us on a windless fetch to OL. Peter & Paul had been looking dangerous too (as usual), but sailed into a massive hole on the 2nd (?) beat which must have cost them 5 minutes. Bob & Ellie were also out there somewhere, but never really recovered from going right on the 1st beat.

Eventually we lapped both the Contenders, which were apparently not quite as fast as Malcolm would have us believe, and sailed across the finish line to a stony silence. Had we been over at the start perhaps, or am I just going deaf? Anyhow, one race in the failing wind was quite enough for me, so I went home to cut the grass.

(Footnote - we were apparently over the line at the start. Aagh!)

Sunday, 26 March 2017


British summertime arrived with a bang yesterday, with sunshine and a very sensible amount of wind. Another thing that arrived with a bang was Pete Badham and Steve, only in their case it was just the sound of the forestay parting company with the deck. So that's what the little split-ring is for.... With another fireball still ashore sans crew and Peter & Ellen upside down, we were down to four boats when the start gun went.

The line being a bit biased, ie you crossed it a 90 degrees, everyone wanted to be by the committee boat, which led to a bit of congestion at that point. I had spotted Jane & Pat coming in from a jaunty angle upwind, and Bob & Paul sidling up from below, so we held back and watched as Peter & Paul wandered into the filling in the sandwich, and the whole lot then charged across the line a good 5 seconds early. The OD delivered his verdict - "You're all over except Mike" as we sauntered past and made a decent getaway.

Up to the orange thing parked by OL, although for a true beat you'd have had to have parked it on the patio of the clubhouse. Then a can-we-can't-we 3-sail reach to D. We 2-sailed out to X every time before hoisting the kite, whereas others did variously well just 2-sailing the whole thing - depending on how windy it was at the time. Gybe at D and 2-sail reach to Y, then a decent dead run to B and a hideous fetch back to M to start the next lap. Peter & Paul had some good reaches and were close enough at M that they overtook us on the next beat, but we rolled them on the next leg to D by virtue of going higher (for X) while they went straight there again. I think our detour worked, as we ended the leg with a bigger lead than we started it. After that, we just kept doing all the same things - go inshore on the beat and go via X on the reach, and we kept a decent lead. Bob & Paul were keeping up well in 3rd place, and Pete & Steve came through the rest of the fleet to claim 4th after a late start.

Sadly I was too broken to do the afternoon, so somebody else will have to explain that one. I did gather that Peter & Ellen, with boat freshly back from the menders, were in a collision with a Dart and will be taking the boat straight back there again. Doh!

Then later we did the AGM and prize-giving thing. Upshot, new fleet captain is Paul Anthony (cheers cheers), new fleet champions and deserved winners of most of the tinware are Peter Wood and David Merritt . Bob & Paul hoovered up most of the Silver fleet prizes. Many thanks to outgoing FC Pat Collison and the entire rest of the committee, all of whom are staying on for another year. Well done everyone!

Sunday, 5 March 2017


So that was quite funny. Paul rang me up to say it would be monster windy, so we shouldn't sail. I told him it would be OK, and we went up the club, and it was about a F2-3, so we rigged up. Iain & Tom turned up but didn't rig because it wasn't windy enough, so there were only 8 of us out there at the start line when the wind started to shift and build. Karen (on OD) set a triangle with a beat which matched the current wind and some reaches which were clearly going to be too broad and too close respectively, and off we went.

Having started near D, the course took us up to A, then M (a leg so short that the kite wasn't flying by the time we got there). Then the long leg down to H, which was always going to be too broad to be any fun, and was basically a run by the time we did it. We lost one boat up at M and Mo and Richard to a gybe halfway to H. Back off towards D, observing that the close reach was now a beat (Karen said she planned that way). We passed Jane & Pat on that leg - coping well with the rising wind. Peter & Paul overtook us at D, but then capsized on the short fetch to the gate, so we started the next lap in the lead.

The beat was now very one-sided as the wind had gone further West, and we weren't pointing too well, and this gave Peter & Paul a bit less work to do. Round A, on past M to get further inshore, then gybe and enjoy a broad reach to H, which was way better than last lap's dead run. But the cLew of the kite got caught round the base of the forestay when bagging it, so we went on past the mark and were promptly overtaken by P&P again. Somewhere behind us, Gordon & Bryan decided to call it a day, as the wind was becoming really full on. We had already lost Colin & Ellie and JT & Quentin to verticality issues. Paul & Ian were still going strong though, and not too far back either.

Back up to A again, hoist the kite, past M, gybe, and the wind was getting a bit biblical by this stage (I hope Iain & Tom were still watching). The wind had gone fully Westerly and we were able to trapeze down this reach fully powered up and only just able to lay H. Peter & Paul had about 40 secs lead, but that dissolved when we found ourselves pointing 30 degrees higher than them coming off the mark. They tacked back, and we found we had to tack to avoid them, and suddenly we were match-racing in a F6. Oh joy! Well we tacked and they covered, but their tack was slow due to a big wave arriving, and we took a bit of a lead. Up round D for the last time, and we managed to hold it together on the perilous fetch to the gate. Yay! P&P didn't, and capsized about 20ft from the finish line. They later said they'd let go,of everything in the teeth of a big gust, and still been blown over. So we did the only thing possible, we put the kite up and hooned back to the shore. By general consent, one race was deemed to be enough.

Sunday, 26 February 2017


Well the weather forecasting bushes in my garden were right, 22'4 and well zipped in was the order of the day. We dialled that in, and added mucho insulating tape to strings that looked iffy, and off we jolly well went. The committee boat was over by E, which gave us a very decent idea of what the weather was up to by the time we got there. Some hanging about ensued, during which time the wind dropped a bit, and then we were off.

Most of us went left initially, and mostly pointing higher than me. Peter & Paul messed up the start, but still managed to be only a few feet behind us when we tacked, whereas we had to duck Colin & Karen and Eleanor & Richard. Mo and Ian had gone right, which didn't look so good. We went right a bit, staying out from the club shore, and next time we crossed we were in the lead. The wind was pretty full-on and the whole fleet was charging upwind at an impressive speed. So, round the orange triangle thing and back down to OL on a leg that was nearly, but not quite, a run. This may not have been very exciting, but it did at least allow everyone to put their kites up. Round OL, inshore, water to tack please, and then up the shore towards M. Somewhere en-route we lost Ellie and Richard - one minute they were keeping up nicely, the next the boom was out and the crew was in the boat furtling about. Our lead extended when everyone else over-stood the mark, so round M and off towards X. Well this one turned out to be a dead run and was the first place where the kite refused to go up, requiring the rig tension to be released before it would comply. Only the fact that it was very windy kept the thing from going under the boat while we mucked about with it. Anyhoo, gybe halfway down and set the kite for the approach to X, then carry on down to H on exactly the same angle. Somewhere around this point we lost Mo & Ian... nothing bad happened, they just decided it was too windy for all this gybing on 'slow' runs.

Down with the kite at H and another gybe before hooning off to E on a beam reach - which was fast but bloody hard work. Then through the gate and do it all again. Well the wind was a bit up and down, but when it was up it was distinctly challenging. I'd got the jib bars out and up (as usual, they're bent and won't go down), plenty cunno and outhaul, so we were driving on the lower third of both sails. When the gusts came in there would be a bit of a wobble, followed by more speed, and it was clear that it was only the initial wobble that was likely to get us, as the boat was very comfortable after that. We stayed out from the windward shore where possible, where the wind was cleaner and the gusts a little fewer.

We pulled out a bit of a lead on P&P when their kite bagging was slow at OL, then a bit more by staying out on the next beat. The kite wouldn't go up again (lose a bit), but we were still ahead at H. Kite down and harden up for a quick reach to put on speed before gybing, then a fast and wet reach back to E. Now I had put my woolly hat away on the run, reasoning that it was too wet and floppy to be any good, but the amount of icy water that went over my head on the way to E convinced me to get it back and put it on again. P&P had capsized at H, so we had plenty of time to get hatted up, and it also gave Marcellus a chance to stick the shortened course flag up (for which much thanks). We then came ashore and put the boat away, reasoning that the forecast was for the PM to be windier still.

After getting changed we came out to find that it had dropped off and looked very nice. Doh!

Sunday, 19 February 2017


A great day's sailing today. Warmer, with lighter winds and better courses it was a lot more fun than last Sunday.

Race 1, orange thing near B, M, K, X, T. Helen & Paul managed to capsize on the first tack of the first beat. Richard & Steve were excellent, arriving at the windward mark in 2nd place and hanging on down the nice 3-sail reach to M before being rolled by Peter & Paul on the dead run to K. There followed a decent 3-sail reach to X and another one to T. We battled it out with Peter & Paul for the rest of the race and emerged victorious. Further back, JT & Quentin were engaged in a running battle with Paul & Clive, with Jane & Pat bringing up the rear after Helen retired.

In the afternoon the course was M, J, S, Y, OL, T. We had just got our nose ahead of Peter & Paul on the approach to M when a header arrived and denied us the chance to get around it without tacking. P&R were upwind of us and stopped us tacking, so I decided to go head to wind, so they'd have to tack off and then I could too. In a particularly brilliant bit of tactical thinking, they went head to wind and then sat there while we drifted onto the mark and started going backwards. Meanwhile the entire fleet sailed past both of us, one of them yelling 'starboard' on the way, thanks for that. We then took ages to get going forwards again and do our turn, by which time we were virtually last - ahead of only Helen & Paul who had tried to go to the orange mark instead of M.

Well, the beauty of a dead run is that you can at least get a different route downwind, and we gained a bit before we got to J, and then a bit more on the fine 3-sail reach to S when Richard & Steve took Peter & Paul high. I think we overtook R&S and JT & Quentin on the next beat to Y, and closed up on the lead boats on the excellent 3-sail reach to OL. P&R got past Paul & Clive on that leg after a brief luffing battle, and we all sailed up through the gate in a big lump to start the next lap. After that, Peter & Paul got away a bit, and Paul & Clive tried to sail to M instead of Y (after S), so went from 3rd to last in one easy move. JT & Quentin arrived at T the last time ahead of Richard & Steve, but a 49er claimed water and gave Richard & Steve the vital few boat lengths they needed to get across the line ahead.

The longer course was sooooo much more interesting than the short stuff we've had to put up with recently, and the combination of dead runs and beam reaches worked really well in the marginal conditions. Thanks to Colin and his team on the committee boat, and we'll be back next week for more good racing.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Snow joke

Well I suspected the weather might decide to rain on our parade, although in the event it also snowed on it. However, we still achieved a turnout of 8 boats, which is pretty good for a cold and windy day in Feb. If you were wearing the right stuff, the cold didn't really matter - in my case the right stuff was a new drysuit from David Rowe and 3 thermal layers underneath, plus 2 woolly hats. It worked well.

Out at the start, Gordon and Bryan capsized 3 times before the gun went, and packed up, whereas Pete and Ellie only capsized the once and carried on. The course was dull - a beat, 2 runs and a close reach, and Peter and Paul demonstrated their massive superiority in the face of this while Paul and I stayed just ahead of everyone else. Paul & Ian were overtaken for 3rd place by Colin & Karen on the last run.

In the afternoon, Eleanor & Richard took up the essential duty of hassling Peter & Paul, leaving the rest of us to fight it out for 3rd place. The course was more interesting, even if it still had no decent 3-sail reaches, and places were lost by people who tried to fly the kite on the too-close bits. Colin & Karen fell prey to the leg from K to N, and we lost a bit attempting the kite from P to K. We had to do some further catching up after Paul dropped both his woolly hats in the water and we went back to rescue them. In the end, we deprived Paul & Ian of 3rd place on the last run and gained the subject of a decent rules discussion for the bar afterwards while we did so. Next week promises to be warmer, maybe 12 degrees or so, and maybe there will be some excellent 3-sail reaches too.