So after my fishing-boat problems last Monday, surely today could only be better.
Well, sort of.
Got there and it looked OK, F4-5, and onshore so it felt worse than it was. Various other Fireballers were wandering around thinking it might be too windy, so I reassured them that it was fine, no worries.
Then rig boat, apply a bit more duck tape to the trailing edge of the mainsail to bolster the temporary diy repair to the leech I did about 14 months ago, and hey for the start line.
Well we got there pretty easily - it was just off the beach so no big deal. The course was a bit pants on first sight, but in fact with so few boats out there it probably made good sense to keep them all up one end of the lake and well away from the rocky lee shore down by A, B and C.
Anyway, off went the gun and off went the Fireball fleet. Gordon and Richard disappeared pretty much immediately, but they were still alive later so I guess it turned out OK. Iain and Tom had a better start than us (natch, I didn't even start my watch) and were pointing higher than us up the first beat, but I figured that there was plenty of time left and that capsizes might play a bigger part in the final result than raw boat-speed. So we played it cool.
Round 'H', and an interesting 2-sail reach to 'E'. The reach was windy, but the gybe point was under the hill and very easy. Then back out into the blowy bit for a the broad-reach to 'K'. No kites here, it was a bit too close to the wind, but Iain and Tom obligingly capsized while rounding the mark, and we got past. Now a heavily biassed little beat to 'X' and another 2-sail reach to 'J'. Gybe round 'J' and down to OL to start the next lap.
By this time I had noticed that the outhaul wasn't really on much, and wound it on tight, also put a bit more effort into the cunningham. This, coupled with the special arrangements I had made for pre-bend made the boat really come alive upwind. Basically I sat there pretending to hang out and trying not to be washed off by the waves, and the boat just hurtled upwind all by itself. We took out most of the Lasers on that beat, and had a go with the kite on the 'E' to 'K' leg just for good measure, but it turned out to be too close still. Somewhere down near 'K' we caught the teeny-tiny boats, no idea what they were, which only left a couple of Lasers ahead of us.
Another blast up to 'X','J', 'OL' and start another lap. This one was much the same, except we went high on the 'E' - 'K' leg and then put the kite up, and that was pretty easy.
I lost count of the number of laps after a bit, just sailing the boat took up pretty much all of my attention, plus the occasional glance a the duck-tape to check that all was still well up there. In truth it didn't look too stressed though - the leech was wide open and that bit of the sail, ie the bit near the top, wasn't really doing much work at all. Better still, we seemed to have overtaken everything quite a long time ago and the Darts and remaining Fireball weren't really gaining on us at all.
And then, suddenly, they were gaining on us. My upwind tactic of banging the left hand corner of the beat clearly wasn't as good as going right a bit, and there were Iain and Tom a lot nearer than before. So we felt we needed to put a bit of speed on, and that will-we-won't-we spinnaker leg to 'K' looked like the place to do it. Round 'E' and up with the kite - a few moments of grace before the wind came in again from over the hill and we were off.
Now somewhere down here it all went horribly wrong. It seemed entirely under control, boat hooning along very nicely, and then something large and crew-shaped hit me quite hard and I fell onto the boom. Witnesses say that a wave knocked Paul backwards, but I have no recollection of this. Anyway, the boat was upside down, kite round the spreaders, Paul lounging about in the water looking like the victim of an industrial accident and moaning about his legs. Pretty much game over, I decided. At which point it became apparent that the race was about 5 minutes from finishing and we could have won it quite easily without the kite, (or even the mainsail if necessary)
I will draw a veil over the rest of the proceedings, apart from saying a big thank-you to Dunk and the other rescue boat guys, and Richard Botting and Stu (more rescue and stand-in crew), and Badders and Martyn (who de-rigged the boat for me). I don't generally need much help from anyone when I'm racing, but when I *do* need it, it's usually a bit of a catastrophe and it's very reassuring to find that it's there in spades.
Great sailing !