Sunday, 11 March 2012

It must be spring

Unlike last week, the weather was clement. Springlike even, cloudless blue skies and more wind than the forecast had led us to believe was possible. Well, F3 anyway, certainly worth the effort. And it appears that few others agreed, as we had 10 boats out for the first time in ages, and very good it was too.

We spent the first half hour or so re-threading the mainsail halyard down the mast using my matched pair of rare-earth magnets that I had acquired for just such an occasion. Thread the tiny magnet down from the top with some whipping twine in tow, attach halyard string when it pops out at the bottom, pull halyard string back up mast, and bum! the twine broke. Rescue tiny magnet from halyard string, re-tie to the twine, re-thread from the top of the mast, tie string to twine, pull it all back up again. String emerges warily into the sunshine, tiny magnet too frightened to come back out, twine breaks, tiny magnet now taken up residence inside my mast.

But still, after all this, the mainsail went up and so did the spinnaker, so a job well done if slightly expensive in magnets.

Out at the start line, the course was distinctly iffy, but the line was perfect. We opted for the port end on port tack without a stopwatch, and were predictably mullered by Badders/JR and Colin/Karen who also started on port tack (but with watches) and then by the rest of the fleet who turned up shortly afterwards yelling 'starboard'.

Half way up the beat we were comprehensively down the toilet, but we banged the left hand side and were gifted a tasty lift on port tack which turned the tables on, well, everyone. So we rounded E in first place with Colin/Karen close behind and set off along the next leg to C. This was a long beam reach, perfect for a Fireball with a kite in marginal conditions, but with the wind coming off the land it was also bloody tricky. I would personally not have set that leg in a million years, but it did prove to be decidedly involving if a gust came over the headland while you were there with the kite up. Non-spinnaker boats must have hated it though, and later in the race the wind went more Westerly, meaning you couldn't fly the kite at all and had a choice of going low for the extra breeze further offshore, and having to tack back to the mark, or staying high and suffocating from lack of oxygen.

Anyhoo, we stretched our lead down that leg, went round C and bore off for the run to B. The wind dropped, so we were able to watch Badders/JR dicing it out with Colin/Karen and Helen/Paul as they all chased us, and not too far behind them were Bob/Paul, Gordon/Richard, Paul/Nick, with JT/Quentin and Pat/Jane bringing up the rear. The 10th boat was still on the shore, but hey, not a bad turnout all the same.

Gybe at B and trek off towards K, with Badders emerging as the main risk behind us. Round K, OL, nasty fetch to T and start the lap again.

Not much memorable occurred on that lap, except that the fleet all bunched up on the beat and various people overtook various other people. To be honest there was so much place-changing going on that I lost track of who did what to whom. I recall a fabulous 4-boat luffing battle broke out on the reach from B to K, which allowed 6th place Paul/Nick to get through into 2nd place. Boat 10, Pete/Jez joined in behind us near K, but we left them behind on the next beat and they then somehow managed to capsize. Then we were treated to the sight of another 4 Fireballs trying to get around E at the same time, Badders apparently got the tiller stuck and nearly took out Helen, somebody (possibly Helen) hit the mark, and turns were done accordingly. Then Helen/Paul capsized to windward on the reach of doom, we went hideously low with the kite up and by the end of the leg were tacking for C into a due Westerly. The same fate befell 2nd place Paul/Nick, which allowed Colin/Karen to catch them up, and Bob/Paul were not far behind.

The dead run from C to B had become a beam reach under the wall, which again doesn't sound ideal but with the kite up it was a real blast when the wind kicked in. We tore past B fully powered up, and it was with some regret that we bore off for what was now a run down to K. Behind us Paul/Nick had similar misgivings about abandoning such a fabulous leg just because the course dictated it, so they went on a short distance past it too. Colin/Karen gybed smartly behind them, and it was the latter pair who took line honours as a result. Shortly after them came Bob/Paul and the the rest of the crowd, and I reckon a good time was had by all.

We didn't stay for the PM race, I was due some time to share my cold with the family and Paul had to mend his toilet, plus the wind was dropping as the forecast had suggested it would. I took the opportunity of helping the OD with the course (hope that turned out OK), and when I left there were a lot of Fireballs drifting up the first beat in a manner which suggested that things could only get better, if only because the wind couldn't possibly drop any further. The morning was definitely the best bit of the day, and demonstrates very nicely that if you've got enough boats to sail round with, you can enjoy yourself hugely even when the wind and course aren't really ideal.

Back at course setting, what we had today was about 10 knots of wind and a forecast which suggested that it would drop by midday to about 5 knots. The temptation then is to set a large course to suit the prevailing conditions and the only immediate comment about today's course would be that a beam reach right up under the lee of the hills on the far side of the lake is not a good idea. It was also too long for the slower boats given that the wind was going to drop.

As a rule of thumb, when you are expecting anything less than about 8 knots, try to keep the reaches quite short and quite 'beamy', avoid broad reaches like the plague, and try to get a decent length beat and at least one matching decent length dead run into the course. Reaches are fabulous when you can get planing, but when you can't they're a bit of a dead loss so need keeping to a minimum in the light and fluffy stuff. Runs however are good because they're tactical, but they've got to be genuinely dead or you're wasting your time.

Thus endeth the sermon, and here's hoping for more sun, more wind and another excellent turnout next week.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Wet and windy

So today was the first Sunday in months that there's been any significant wind, and it also happened to be the first day in months that it has rained. Copiously. Plus it wasn't exactly warm, so I think Paul was a bit surprised when I suggested that we go for a sail.

With a gusty onshore wind and the rain, rigging the boat was no fun at all, and to make it worse we managed to break the main halyard while hoisting the sail. In consequence we ended up rolling the boat over and tying it up with string, only not really quite as high as it should have been. Piddling about in the wind and the rain was making me feel cold, and there were a few moments when I wondered what the hell I was doing out here.

Then ho for the start line, where it occurred to me that we probably shouldn't have the rig at 22'8", but too late now. We joined a surprisingly large number of boats at the start line - the other 2 Fireballs (poor turnout as Helen, Paul and Pete were all on OD duty), maybe 5 Solos, 2 Freds, 5 Lasers, an RS300 and a Supernova if memory serves. And off we went, with the wind picking up nicely and the driving rain camouflaged by the spray from the bow-wave. A the top of the beat (P) we had a bit of a lead and the next leg looked vaguely kite-able, so we went high and chucked it up and had a very nice reach across to A. Then a bit of a biassed beat to B, followed by a reach to OL and J, and the end of the lap.

We seemed to have a bit of a lead by this time so we hung about for Colin/Karen and JT/Nick, and then set off up the beat again. Sadly the potential for competition faded a little as Nick promptly did a swallow dive into JT's best mainsail, so they retired.

Up at P we were a little behind Colin/Karen and with a slighly broader reach this time both of us flew the kites and had a very exciting leg to A which left us still pretty much neck and neck at the end of it. A lap later we had changed places a couple of times and were just behind, so again flew the kite on the leg to A, but it was closer now than before and by the time we'd got it set we were in danger of sailing over the side-deck of Colin's boat. No particular gains there either, and we rounded A and B just behind them. Fearing that this might be the last leg we went aggressive, pushing up above the lay line, trying to sit on their wind and coming in to OL sailing by the lee. Had this been the last lap it would all have been for nought, as they beat us across the line. But it wasn't, and we had forced enough confusion in the other boat that we were able to take the lead. Back at B we were still leading by a decent margin, so only needed to get the kite up and hoon across to OL to win the race. Whereupon the kite promptly jammed halfway up, went under the boat and rapidly became a hopeless case. We collected it up and did our best to get to OL as quickly as possible, but Colin and Karen zoomed past and crossed the line ahead of us.

There's no particular reason why there should be a moral to this story, but if there is one then I guess it is that you should hang on in there, cos the other boat might just self-destruct for long enough that you can overtake 'em.

Then ashore, lay the boat over, untie knots, dismantle stuff, and at the end of it it was still raining and I was still toasty warm from all the exercise of the previous hour or so.

Yeah, pretty good!