Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Brass monkeys

Once again it was not as windy as Windguru had led us to believe it would be. Really, what is the point of a weather forecast if it's going to keep revising its opinion right up until the day you're interested in, at which point it might be accurate but it's not a 'forecast' any more, more a confirmation of what you can see out of the window.

And it was cold too, the coldest sailing day thus far this winter. Not a patch on other days in other winters I know, but still enough that Mo and Holly had to put off launching until they'd poured warm water over their centreboard to persuade it to come out and play nicely. Ours stuck a bit too, but I stood on it until it gave in.

With the benefit of hindsight I probably ought to have taken a watch with me. Start one was a classic case of turning up at the back of the queue for the line. There was a clear starboard bias, so there were a lot of boats between us and where we wanted to be. We rapidly re-planned and decided to go below them all and aim for clear air nearer to the pin end, but somebody came up below us and boxed us in. With boats ahead and below, we threw in a quick couple of tacks to get up to the committee boat, but it was all a bit too late and we started the race with no speed at all.

The race was great though. We were last round the windward mark but the course was really good, with beam reaches offering some 3-sail trapezing excitement, and a long dead run where a number of places were won and lost. In fact, that dead run was the highlight of the day. On the first lap it propelled Bob & Paul up onto Mo & Holly's transom and took us nicely past Paul & Nick. On the 2nd lap we were shaping up for attacking Mo & Holly when we were ambushed from behind by Helen & Paul and Paul & Nick, losing a place. Then on the 3rd lap we went low and Mo & Holly went high, and we popped out right behind them at D and very well placed to get them on the last beat (although we entirely failed to do this, ho hum). So we ended up 2nd in that one, and everyone agreed it was a cracking race and a very good course. 

Amusing sight of the day was provided by a Fred which ran aground on the spit protruding from the little island. When we caught the centreboard on that same thing earlier in the race, we stood on the leeward deck to get the (fixed) rudder blade clear of the shallow bit, and carried on as normal. When the Fred ran aground there the instinctive reaction appeared to be to order the crew into the water to manhandle the thing off. That's proper sailing, that is ;-)

For start two (still sans watch) I figured I'd get there a bit earlier this time, so tacked in front of the queue for the line and parked up. But we couldn't accurately time the moment to get going again, plus Helen and Paul had come up beneath us so we couldn't bear off to get the boat moving. So we were right on the line when the gun went, but swamped by other boats and not actually moving. So once again we started with no speed at all. Regrettably we pulled a bit of a blinder on the first beat though and came out second at the windward mark (X) anyway. We then chased Paul and Nick down the broad reach to 'D' and got past them on the gybe while they were discovering that you couldn't fly the kite to 'K'.

We then spent the entire race watching the boats behind us having a great time all luffing each other up, making mad attempts at getting water at the marks, infringing the rules and doing 720s and 360s as a result. Plus this course sucked quite badly, biassed beat, no dead run, and a hideous fetch from D to K where the only tactical options were to luff up like mad and stuff anyone behind you, or go really low and catch your centreboard on Musborough. So we won that one, John & Quentin claimed 2nd place, and Mo & Holly (still clawing their way back up the fleet after doing a 720 earlier) got 3rd, although they had to fight to keep it on the way to K on the last lap.

My fingers were cold by this time, and it was notable that the cover was still heavy with frost even after being left out in the sun all day.

And once again it was a great demonstration of how easily the OD can go from hero to zero with the course in these light conditions. It probably didn't help that the best beat from 'C' would have been to 'T', but 'T' is still lying outside the bosuns' hut. Plus they couldn't move the committee boat elsewhere because the engine didn't work - sometimes you just can't win. Still, the rule of thumb remains, long beats, short beam reaches and long dead runs in anything under 10mph is a recipe for success. Anything else, frankly, isn't.


  1. Ahem, I could have sworn that Paul and I were first at the windward mark and first at the next where due to not having anyone in front to show us what to do he thought it was a gybe to K whilst I thought it was a drop - turned out it was a drop and in the confusion you got past. Or was that the first race?

  2. You're right Nick, clearly my memory is almost as appalling as my starting technique. I will amend the blog forthwith.

    For anyone reading it from now on, I should explain that I had originally claimed we were first round the windward mark in race 2, but in fact it was Paul and Nick.