When you've not set foot in a boat for nearly 4 months and you know that you're still not 100% mended, it is with some trepidation that you eventually commit to a race. In my case, I had been putting it off for some weeks waiting for some sensible weather, but the Boxing Day pursuit was in my diary as a must-do thing so I was relieved to see that the forecast was looking good. I had also managed a 10 minute outing the Sunday before which suggested that I wouldn't be a total liability in the boat.
So off to the start-line then, with me a bit nervous and Poorly Paul having been out of Fireballs for even longer than me, but it's like riding a bike - you never really forget how to do it. We were without a watch though, as Paul doesn't believe in them and I had forgotten to bring mine.
The start-line was at about 45 degrees to the wind, as was the entire course, there having been a wind-shift of that magnitude some time since the course was set. Which was a shame, since it had been a nice reachy course and was now a nasty fetchy and runny one.
I rapidly decided that we needed to start on port tack at the pin end, which was always going to be a bit tricky what with us not having a watch and the other Fireballs being of the good-to-very-good persuasion - meaning they wouldn't be dobbering around near the committee boat and making life easy for us. The RS200 start was an excellent case-study in this, where Steve Irish had an easy get-away on port at the pin whilst the rest of the 200s were only halfway up the line on starboard - and by the time they'd tacked and got going he had a 30 second lead. Plus it appeared that Steve might be aiming at bagging the Club Championship trophy, needing only a top-four place to stitch it up (according to Poorly Paul, who takes an interest in these things). Frankly, I couldn't see us stopping him in a F2-3 on a course with no spinnaker reaches, and I was more interested in getting round without embarrassing myself.
So, 30 seconds to go, and we pushed in in-front of the rest of the fleet as they came up the line on starboard, then peeled off and gybed to make an approach on port. Pete & Serena booked themselves a place right by the pin on starboard, but got there too early and went over the line with a few seconds to go. Martyn & Richard peeled off as we had done and went for a spot further down the line, so I watched their approach and timed my own to be marginally ahead of them. Pete obligingly got out of the way to come back round the pin, the gun went, and we're off!
Normally I don't care too much about the start, but when you can lay the first mark without tacking it's important to be at the pin end and going fast. Further downwind Martyn & Richard, sailing the boat they campaigned into 7th place at the last Fireball Worlds, were going like a train, but (remarkably) we were just as quick and had our nose ahead of them. Pete & Serena were behind us, pointing higher, but in a drag race to the mark they were stuffed already. And so it came to pass that we arrived as first Fireball at B with Martyn & Richard breathing down our necks, tacked around it and started on the next leg to M which was another fetch. Nothing much changed there, then a dead run to D which we spent trying to keep Martyn's mammoth kite from taking all our wind. Then a seriously biassed beat to OL, where we caught up with Chris in the RS300, and another run down to F. We went left on this where Martyn went right, but we did OK out of it. Halfway along this leg the RS300 challenge expired in a graceful windward capsize - they are buggers to keep upright on a run. Then round F and into a gaggle of other boats for a proper beat to Y. The wind picked up to the point where my wrist started to feel a bit overworked by the mainsheet, but fortunately there was a significant port tack bias to this beat, so the wrist spent most of its time steering. At Y it transpired that I had forgotten the course, and tried to sail straight to T instead of going via E like everybody else. So Martyn & Richard promptly zoomed off, and by the time we'd got sorted out we ended the leg alongside the same slow boats we'd started it with - ie it hadn't gone well. And to make it worse, the wind had dropped again, so no planing offwind for us.
The leg to T was another fetch, as was the leg to B where we got past a Fred to windward and a Solo to leeward. Then M where we caught up with Steve Irish in the RS200, although he got away a bit on the way to D. We pulled back a bit on the leg to OL, and again went left en-route to F, overtaking Ally in the Miracle. Steve went right-ish, and we were level pegging as the rescue boats started massing around the leaders. A couple of 49ers had appeared behind us and we figured we'd lose out to at least one of them in the closing minutes of the race, so we gybed and just aimed the boat straight at F. Steve meanwhile went off towards H, possibly in an attempt to fend off the lead 49er, and when the rescue boats arrived it was 49er, us and Steve in quick succession. Further down the leg the winner was a Tera followed by Martyn, another Tera (I think) and a Solo.
So no glassware for us this time, which was OK as I had to zoom off for the family lunch at 2pm anyway. However I was very happy with the wrist's performance, and pretty cheerful about my own.
2013 could be a good year for sailing.
Bring it on.