Sunday, 21 August 2011

21 Aug 2011

So, back at the back of the boat this Sunday for some more close racing with the bits of the fleet that aren't on holiday, mending the dents or at the Nationals. That's a mere 7 boats then, not a lot but certainly enough to provide some good racing.

AM race, and there was some dispute regarding how many of the fleet were over the line when the gun went. Bob definitely was, and came back. Pete was later judged by a jury of his peers (or 'kangaroo court') to have been over, but pleaded extenuating circumstances involving a flag being lowered to show all-clear. I can't comment as I was gybing round behind the lot of 'em at the time, having arrived at the pin a good 10 secs too early. Really must remember to bring a watch with me to the start-line next time.

Anyhoo, up the first beat, and Pete/Serena were doing the quickest job of escaping the crime scene, but we were hard on their heels with Mo/Holly not too far behind us. Round windward mark 'B' to starboard rather than the usual port affair (and the sky failed to fall in) and then down to 'D' on a nice reach which delivered some planing and trapezing action, and some fishing boat avoidance. The next leg to 'K' would clearly be closer, and we expected that our huge weight advantage would allow us to blow the lightweights into the long grass. But a big tangle up with the kite at the gybe left us further behind, and we didn't even go very fast, so that was a total bust.

OK, run from 'K' to OL and 'J', 3-sail reach to 'T', and start the next lap.

Well we played a couple of blinders up the next beat and popped out just ahead at 'B', but Pete/Serena were on the inside at the mark, and our boom touched their foredeck, and even I know that I'm in the wrong there, so we did a smart 720 and worried Ashley by getting in his way (sorry Ashley), and then zoomed off and had remarkably caught up by the time we got to 'D'. So now we get to blow them away on the tight leg to 'K' This time it transpired that I had cleated the insulating tape on the fluffy bit of the halyard rather than the halyard itself, and then the kite came halfway down, and by the time I got it up again, they were away. Chase them ound 'K', OL, 'J', 'T', and off we go again.

Some more frankly brilliant sailing got us to the top mark first again, and this time we managed an entire lap and a bit without any disasters. So we had a bit of breathing space when, on the last lap, the bobble on the guy-rope exploded under the strain, and we had to sort that out (it's what your cheek blocks are there for, apparently). Still, even with that and some weed, we claimed a first place in that one.

Lunch, and much discussion regarding start lines and positioning of boats on them.

PM, we tacked off the line and went right, fleet went left, big lift then occurred on starboard, so by the time they tacked onto port we were already in the pound seats. We then stayed on starboard all the way past 'M' and were nicely placed to the left of 'A' when the wind did a 90 degree shift and allowed us to carry on in basically the same direction but now on port tack. We now had a mahoosive lead, so spent the rest of the race watching JT/Quentin, Pete/Serena and Mo/Holly slugging it out for 2nd place. JT won that one, and if we missed out on the action then at least we enjoyed the sunshine and the 3-sail reaches.

Great fun!

PS, BIG BIG weed bed somewhere in the triangle formed by K, M and Y - we sailed across it once on the way from M to Y and it wasn't a good idea at all. Plus I got water in my ear while trying to remove it from the rudder. You have been warned 

Sunday, 14 August 2011

14 Aug 2011

I talked Poorly Paul out of sailing yesterday as I thought the 7-8knts forecast would be too light-n-fluffy for him, and although the bushes in my garden lied to us (again), this turned out to be the case when I arrived at the club. Serena had signed up to crew, perfect weight for the F1-2, occasional F3 we were looking at at 10:00am. So, gun goes, zoom off the line, Serena doing crewy things like mad, get luffed up by John & Jim and borne down on by Helen & Paul, finally spat out the back door. Tack and head for RHS of the beat, tack back when we get there to find we're lifted onto the lay line and everyone else is so far down the toilet that it's pretty much game over by the time we get to the first mark, 'B'. Sail down to 'M', across to 'Y', get on long run towards 'T' and start looking wistfully back at the chasing pack, who appear to be having a fine old time back there.

So I talked Serena into taking her kit off - well the harness bit of it anyway, I crawled into it (good fit, slightly painful getting it over my head though), and then we sailed around slowly, crashed into buoys, did turns, looked for weed on the rudder, and generally waited for the rest of the fleet to turn up.

And they did, although Mo & Holly seemed to be taking an odd route, but anyway we had a fine old battle with Helen & Paul, Serena didn't put a foot wrong at the back of the boat which kinda made up for some of the catastrophes at the front, and we finally just pipped them all across the line at the end. Cheers cheers for multi-talented helm and crew.

Lunch, yum! Learnt that Mo & Holly had written down v1.0 of the course, everyone else had got v2.1, with the correct colours for rounding of the buoys. Hence the confusion in their boat, not helped by watching Serena and me doing little loops next to some of the marks after hitting them.

So we went for it again in the afternoon, me up the front, Serena steering. Some less than excellent tactics and some weed up the first beat put us near last at the top mark, Bob & Paul were doing a horizon job, Helen & Paul and Mo & Holly somewhere in between, John & Jim and Richard & Karen languishing behind, also suffering from weed I suspect. So we chased everyone round for a couple of laps, with some catching up and some dire crewing leading to some falling further behind again, and some amusing conversations on the shy 3-sail reach to 'M' when the wind picked up:

Serena: "We'll need to do an aussie drop"
Me: "OK, go on then"
Serena: "I don't know how, I've never done one as a helm..."
Me: "Ah, well, errrm"

Still, we were still vaguely in contention when we had a leg to 'M' a lap later which was both windier and broader than usual. Short way past, en-route to 'K' on the run, we bunged in a gybe in the teeth of something even windier still, and wooohooo, we're now charging down a broad reach towards 'K' going a lot faster than we had any right to expect. I sniffed the air, read the clouds, parted the mists of time and divined the very future, and declared that we could probably carry the kite around 'K' and all the way to 'X' from here. Then I looked at what the lead 3 boats were up to and changed my mind - they were hurtling off towards 'H' rather than 'X' with the kites up and a distinctly out-of-control appearance. So we bagged the kite, took 'K' to 'X' as a high speed 2-sail reach, and it was one of those defining moments that stay with you....

The wind on the water coming at us in big lumps, me well back and well down on the wire, playing the jib while Serena gives it full welly with the main and the steering stick, the boat absolutely flying along. The sun glinting off the water as the lead boat stops, bears off, spirals in to windward way below us and the others park up to bag their kites. And now more wind, more speed, and a smart gybe at 'X', and then looking back at the buoy as Mo & Holly and Helen & Paul gybe around it just behind us, and Mo and Holly bin it...

(And sorry guys, I really felt for you there)

And then on down to 'T', 'J', 'OL' for a final lap before the finish.

In theory it's not the winning, it's the taking part. But in fact it's the overtaking part that is most satisfying, that and the hooning along at high speed while you're doing it. An unexpectedly excellent day's sailing then, and I suggest that it would be worth buying yourself a Fireball purely to install Serena at the back of it and watch and learn while you enjoy the ride.

Monday, 1 August 2011

1 Aug 2011

Well the weather didn't promise much, but it was still excellent anyway, F2-3, sunny, warm/hot with a distinctly shifty S - SW wind. Race 1, and the beat was well biassed but very hard to get right once you got up by the shore. Peter and Mike were round first and started building their trademark huge lead, but the rest of the fleet was all together as we pootled past OL and down the short run to 'T'. Then a dull broad-reach to 'X', followed by a nice tactical run to 'F'. Then follow-my-leader sort of fetch affair to 'E', and start again. I can't remember where we were placed at this point, but there were boats all around and I have a feeling JT and maybe Badders were ahead of us, and there's nothing you can do on the fetch except pull the jib in a bit harder and hope the boat in front doesn't.

But the next beat was fascinating - there was at least one substantial wind bend in play, possibly two, not to mention the tendency for the right-hand-side to have more wind. So it came to pass that at the top of the beat, Peter/Mike put in a little tack at 'K' and rounded the mark, promptly sailing into a patch of nothing at all under the lee of the clubhouse. Everyone else (with us in about 5th place) came down the right hand side of the beat, lifting like mad, easing the jib and in the teeth of a surprisingly big lump of wind, and carried that momentum round the mark and straight into the dead-air, where all 6 or so boats ghosted past OL together, with us closest to OL and thus technically in the lead. Wooohooo!

But you don't get very far by being the leeward boat on a broad-reach in no wind, so we gybed out as we passed the mark, hoping for the wind patch a little further out whilst strongly suspecting that it would fill in nearer the shore anyway. Well practically everyone else followed us out, and we gybed back for the inshore stuff. And guess what, the boats that carried on out got nothing, whilst Badders (who hadn't even gybed) got the good stuff. He was followed by the two Pauls (both crews) in 14016 (24 year old boat, that one) hot on his heels and we were somewhere alongside and just claimed water at the mark. Meanwhile Peter/Mike had gone from a good first to a fairly appalling last place. Game on, now to hunt down Badders and JR...

So we followed them to 'X' and then parked ourselves on their transom for the run (port tack), resulting in the pair of us going a bit further left than would be ideal. We pounced on them about halfway down and got ourselves alongside, but they gybed away onto starboard, leaving us hung out on the left. We decided that the pressure out there was good though, so we went on further, picked up more wind and pulled off a gybe where the kite didn't collapse at all - not bad for a single-ended pole boat. Now we were able to steam down on starboard in the good pressure, claim water at 'F', kite down, gybe and take the lead for the fetch to 'E' (which had morphed into a close reach and was considerably more interesting this time round).

So all we've got to do now is cover Badders/JR up the last beat and we're laughing. So we did this, not too close, just enough to stop him doing a 'Badham special', but then we got up near 'K' and he starts going the wrong way, I'm tacking to cover from a clear lift onto something nasty, that's not clever at all. And right on cue, here comes Colin/Karen, zooming up the lifty bit like a train, and it's proof if any were needed that we're going the WRONG WAY. So we tack off, leaving Pete to plod over to the left side of the beat, and follow Colin/Karen over to the right. And although we've lost the lead, here come a shed load of other Fireballs and at least we're still in front of them, whereas poor old Badders is now coming back to find another 3 boats have got past him. My heart rate currently doing about 120 bpm at this point....

Nip round the mark, up with the kite and claim a decent 2nd place across OL. The entire fleet then finished within about 60 seconds of the leader, which is pretty good going.

And the PM race was looking good too, halfway round, 4 or 5 boats duking it out for the lead on the run, and a cracking leg from 'T' to 'C' which worked well as a 2-sail reach on the first lap and equally well as a 3-sail reach on the 2nd. Brilliant! Right up to the moment when we picked up a huge load of weed on the rudder. And then some more, and then a bit more. And what with going really slowly while it was there and stopping altogether to get rid of it, we ended up about 5th. Pity, cos we were vying for the lead when it first struck, but by the time we finished you'd have needed a calendar to time the gap between us and first couple of boats Peter/Mike and Badders/JR.

Still, a great day on the water, just got to make myself a thing for clearing weed off rudders now