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.

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