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