Sunday, 18 December 2011

Fireball Fleet Reloaded ?

Well, no sailing for me today, it turns out that Poorly Paul managed to hurt his back when he picked up his sailing bag last week, and he's still a bit hors de combat this weekend. Plus it was freezing cold and a bit snowy, so I wasn't hugely tempted anyway.

Still, there were enough of us at the club to put about 5 Fireballs on the water, and 4 of them managed to get out for the 2nd race which made us the biggest fleet out there. We were also on OD duty for the 3rd week in a row, so lost a boat to that.

A turnout of 4 boats is a bit rubbish if I'm honest, but there are plenty of reasons for it, not least the cold, the water level and the Xmas, and those reasons have affected all the other fleets too:

2 Solos
2 Lasers
0 W/L
And nothing else managed more than 1 boat.

Whilst sitting around in the wet bar and chewing the fat, a few of the fleet guys and I figured it might be good to build the fleet up a bit next year. We gained 3 boats last year without trying too hard, but you can't have too many, and you just know that the economy and the water level will have a negative effect come renewal time in April, so we need to get our retaliation in early.

There are a few tactics we can employ to get the fleet numbers up, and the first one we're hoping to use is to acquire a fleet boat. This will allow people who don't have a fireball to get to know the boat before having to buy one, and it's a tactic we've employed with some success in the past with our previous fleet boat, 'Firestarter'. Whether or not we'll get the funding to buy ourselves a new one is another matter...

Fireball Fleet Reloaded - watch this space.

Monday, 12 December 2011

The OD Duty

(To understand some of the references you have to know that there was a lot of fuss last week when a Fred ran over the sail of a capsized Moth while trying to round mark 'K', prompting some people to overreact...)

Picture courtesy of Malcolm Lewin (

Always one to strike fear into the hearts of men, the dreaded OD duty.

We rocked up nice and early at 9:45am, got settled in, and then spent at least half an hour waiting for the committee boat to be made ready - the bosuns were busy moving the pontoon out due to a further receding waterline, and that's not a quick job.

I started off by requesting that buoy K be dragged offshore by about 30ft, as it was almost on the beach. Followers of the recent Moth-Fred incident might like to consider that if the Fred had tacked to avoid the Moth up by K last week (as suggested by various people who weren't there), he would probably have run aground. That's not an excuse, but it gives you an idea how deceptive a few pics can be.

Boarding the boat, Paul, who is a magnet for pain, hurt his foot on a metal thing on the jetty and by the time we went afloat we were already quite late. Fortunately we'd got a great course all planned out for the SW wind, but unfortunately it turned out to have gone Southerly, so a rapid re-think was called for. We opted to go over to the vicinity of 'D' and set a course of A, M, B, X, K, OL, J, D.

That turned out to be pretty much OK, but the red buoy we'd dropped for the far end of the start-line had wandered off downwind a bit, and we ran out of anchor line to drop back to meet it. So when the wind went a tad Westerly, we were looking at a hideous starboard bias on the start-line. OK, we'll radio a bosun to drag the buoy forward a, nope, no radio. So Mike B valiantly pulled the anchor up, and we dropped back got it all a bit better, and got on with starting the race. It was kinda windy by now, and great to watch the larger fleets taking off en-mass towards Musborough

Obviously we'd set a port rounding for the top mark, although it turned out that there were no takers for the windward-leeward course. At least this meant we could all return to the committee box instead of leaving some poor sod to sit on the boat all morning. So we did just that and settled down to watch the race.

The Fireball fleet were clearly enjoying themselves, with the possible exception of Helen and Paul whose kite wouldn't go up. Paul and Nick managed to run aground on Musborough on the approach to K, so they came ashore too, leaving a short and intense tussle for the lead between the other 4 boats which Cap'n Bob eventually won.

We didn't have long to idly spectate though, as the fast bit of the handicap fleet was turning up and the slow bit (a Feva I think) was about a hundred miles behind. So we started the finish sequence for the imminent handicap boats, brought them all in a bit earlier than would have been ideal, and the Feva eventually turned up and retired. Triffic!

The Freds were last off the water at about 12:45, so a 1:15 start was never going to happen. Still we went out early anyway to be a bit better prepared for the next race.

This time we got the line just about spot-on, a nice little bit of port bias, and settled on a course of A, M, Y, S, K, OL, X, D - which offered a couple of runs to make up for the absence of any in the morning, Apologies to the singlehanders, I just couldn't find a way through the islands that included a beam reach, but it wasn't for want of trying.

So we waited for the Fireballs and Freds to show up, and went into the start sequence. In the run up to the Fireball start a Fred got into irons in front of the committee boat, crashed into us, tore his sail on the flag gantry, and was eventually fended off with no further harm done. So that got today's Fred crash out of the way anyway  

Then ho for start 3, Lasers and assorted stuff, whereupon a certain Moth hooned across the wrong side of the start line just as the gun went and capsized in front of the entire fleet. It was a short start-line, so he managed to get in the way of just about THE LOT - you really had to laugh. He later went on to start properly and sail the entire race, so mucho respect for that bit at least.

Back to the warmth of the OD box, where we observed an epic battle between just about the entire Fireball fleet for just about the entire race, the only delinquents being Helen and Paul (again), who had done something a bit weird down by S and spent about 3 minutes putting it right.

Once again we had to finish the bulk of the handicap fleet a lap early due to the presence of the Feva a million miles behind, and once again it retired shortly afterwards. I can't help thinking we'd be better off if we had slow and fast handicap fleets, and wouldn't have quite such a big problem. Trying to race an RS700 or a 49er against a Feva is pretty pointless anyway.

A lap later, we had ringside seats for the finish of the Fireball race, which featured Cap'n Bob & Paul, Mo & Holly, and Colin & Karen all fancying their chances for a win, all coming round K together. Mo & Holly had their nose ahead and did some serious luffing of Colin and Karen, while Bob & Paul bunged the kite up and went for speed. With Colin presumably entitled to water to get past the jetty, and a big windshadow under the lee of the clubhouse, it was looking like anybody's race, but a little gust of wind turned up just in time to propel Mo & Holly across the line, closely followed by Colin & Karen and Bob & Paul (who spent too long piddling about getting the kite to set). Then came Helen & Paul and JT & Quentin in another little last-minute tussle for honours on the line.

Back in the bar, and pretty much the entire Flying Fifteen and Fireball fleets said how much they enjoyed themselves, which was very nice of them. I'm guessing the singlehanders were less impressed, maybe it's time we had different courses for different types of boat. We put a lot of effort into W-L courses for the benefit of almost nobody (at this time of year anyway), so different RTC courses for different types of boat who actually do turn up in decent numbers would seem to make sense.

Anyway, many thanks to Mike and Liz Ball and Poorly Paul for all doing a great job today, your hard work was appreciated by a lot of people.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Sunday 4th Dec

Yes, another one of those days where you wonder if it's worth the effort. Cold, grey, low water, mud, moan moan. Although at least there was a sensible amount of wind for a change, and a bunch of Fireball sailors on OD.

So "ho!" for race 1, where the start line was adjacent to Croft island (the big one), and we had to queue up to get between the committee boat and Croft so we could read the course. But it was worth the effort, woohoo, a decent course for a change, using all the lake. Hmmmm, except some of the bits of the lake it was sending us to were apparently too shallow to get to if you were to believe the big map on the clubhouse. Still, we already knew that some of the map 'shallows' are pretty deep, and feeling that it's best to keep an open mind on these things we figured we'd have a bash at it and if the centreboard started coming up we could always adopt a nice 45 degree angle to get the fixed rudder clear of the bottom.

Sooo, off goes the gun and off goes the fleet. Nice long beat up to 'A', where most of the fleet goes right around Musborough and Mo & Holly go left. The latter pair emerge in the lead, so we chase them up to 'A', just squeeze in front, and then lead the fleet from 'A'  to 'M'. There were 5 boats all abreast down there, which was quite cosy. Then a gybe, and off to 'D' on a nice long 3-sail reach where we leave everyone behind except for Mo & Holly. Then spinnaker gybe at 'D', and I try to sail a close reach while Paul sorts the kite out, but he's left the twinners set as per the previous leg, so the kite fills with wind and the boat leans over a lot and then the boat fills with water. So we have a bit of a 'domestic' which allows Mo & Holly through and puts everyone else right up with us. Nice reach to 'J', although too close for the kite as it turns out. Now chase M&H through OL to 'K' and then bung up the kite for another decent reach across the lake to 'E'. Everyone else was still pretty close behind us, although Paul & Nick chose that leg to have a bit of a swim.
Paul & Nick pre-swim (photo by Malcolm Lewin

We closed the gap a bit on that one, not to mention enjoying ourselves immensely, and were just behind at 'E'. Now this is where it gets interesting. You have to gybe at 'E and reset the kite before you get blown on to the little spur of land that sticks out, then sail between Croft island and the shore (map says you can't), then on down to 'G' which was declared to be too shallow for everything about 3 weeks ago and therefore should be dry land by now. Well we sorted the first bit and then watched Mo & Holly for signs of running aground, but it didn't happen, and it carried on not happening, and we caught up with them by the time we got to 'G'.

The wind was picking up by now and we had the entire length of the lake for the beat up to 'A', so we were able to pick off Mo & Holly pretty easily. We had another bash at using the kite from 'D' to 'J' on the 2nd lap, but it was still too close and we finished at OL just ahead of Mo & Holly, who had left theirs in the bag. Big applause to the OD team for setting a proper course with proper reaches and (a nice touch) finishing us in the proper place by the clubhouse instead of back down by the poxy island where the race started.


A bit more wind in the afternoon, and a different course. Still the beat to 'A', where we found that going hard left to start with pays dividends (by virtue of watching Bob & Richard doing it). Then there's the little squeeze between the now quite visible Musborough shoal and the shore, and we arrived at 'A' at the same moment as Bob & Richard and had to sail around the outside of them at the mark. Up with the kites, and again the entire fleet is all together on the broad leg to 'M'. Next mark is 'C', so we had a go with the kite and Bob didn't, and when we'd finished charging towards 'D' and taken ours down, we were just ahead of Mo & Holly and just behind Bob & Richard.

Now the next leg was to 'J', which involved a dogleg around Musborough, and we nipped smartly past Bob on the broad bit by virtue of going on the dangerous side of the 'shallows' warning buoy. Mo & Holly had also made a bit of a move on that leg, but any gains were wiped out when they realised that you couldnt sail straight to 'J' and they had to come back downwind to miss the shallows. Then a very nice reach to 'J' after we'd cleared Musborough, through OL, and a potential 3-sail reach to 'X'. We left the kite down for that one, and Bob & Richard hooned past us. However they went so wide round the mark with all that excess speed that by the time we'd both gybed we were neck and neck again.

Trot down to 'H' and off up the beat again to 'A'. And again the whole fleet was there or thereabouts at 'A' and 'M', we tried the kite from 'M' to 'C' but it was still too close and we ended up just ahead of Bob & Richard as we rounded it. Then they sailed over the top of us on the broad leg due to crew failure in my boat (Paul was so busy watching them that he'd got the kite well over-sheeted). So we sat about 3 feet off their transom all the way from the corner of Musborough to 'J', which was a fabulous 3-sail reach. Then they bore off to get their kite down, and we didn't cos Paul had got the old red mist in his eyes and figured we could go a bit further...

Now I'm not entirely sure we had water at 'J', with the old 2-boat-length rule then yeah, fine, but coming in from astern at speed, I'm not at all convinced we managed it by 3-boat-lengths. And we were still bagging the kite as we rounded the mark too, which let Bob through to leeward. We tacked a bit early for the shore to allow them plenty of space to tack below and ahead of us, and then hooned off towards OL on port tack with no hope of laying it. Bob & Richard would have laid it - just - but we tacked onto starboard and came barrelling in at OL, which rather upset that plan. So they crash-tacked under our bow, causing us to luff like mad, but they didn't get the hammer down fast enough and we just carried enough momentum to get our nose ahead on the finish line.

Some highly dubious tactics then, but a great race. Was it worth getting out of bed for? - oh yes!

It apparently it made for good spectating too, as we found out later when we were introduced to some friends of Mo & Holly who were checking the club out with a view to finding a good place to fleet race their Fireball. They will be looking at the thick end of a 2 hour drive to get here, but are seriously thinking of signing up for the winter to take part in the sort of fleet racing that we offer. It's pretty much handicap racing or nothing at their current club, so you sort of get the idea that they won't be coming here for the chance to do handicap racing, and that clubs which lose their fleet racing also lose members as a consequence.

Any other thoughts - well only that the map outside the bosun's hut is a work of complete fiction, and that we still have a hell of a lot of water to play with, in and on.

And thanks to Andy Tyerman for this excellent pic which proves it quite nicely. I spy the horse-shoe shaped Musborough shoal, and it's not all that big either.