It was the sort of morning when you look out of the bedroom window at the rain, browse the forecast (which says 'snow later'), and opt to stay at home. But I hadn't sailed since New Years Day, and hadn't put in a full Sunday since last August, so I was damn well going to sail if I possibly could. Poorly Paul, fresh back from his all-you-can-eat-and-drink holiday in the sun, was also up for it, albeit a tad heavier than usual.
So off to the club, where we met a decent crowd of other suitably insane Fireball sailors, threw the boat together, ignored the flat tyre but put new spinny sheets on, and zoomed off to the start.
On the way to the start we put the kite up and discovered that the new spinny sheets were not the same as the ones we'd taken off. The old ones were made such that the taper would hit the bobble in the right place for the twinner to work. In spite of my asking specifically for this arrangement, the new ones from P&B weren't made that way and required a knot to be tied to meet the bobble, and of course we hadn't done this. So spinnakering was going to be a bit amusing. I also discovered that my new waterproof gloves were almost impossible to put on over wet hands while steering the boat, but when on, they were definitely worth having.
Race 1 - T, OL, Y, B, D
Down at the start line I observed that there was a significant port end bias, so with 30 seconds to go we went for a port tack flyer. Fortunately all 5 other boats were only halfway up the line on starboard, and finding it hard to lay the pin, so we had a clean getaway and were first round the windward mark as a result. Behind us on the reach the entire fleet were all grouped up in a big Firebally mass, and we watched with some amusement as various boats luffed each other up or attempted to put their kites up (I think JT managed it). Then round OL and onto the run to Y, where the entire fleet sat on our wind and gained a lot of ground, before various bits of it got into luffing matches and shot off sideways. Helen and Paul made a neat job of avoiding this by going low, and were just behind us at 'Y'.
The leg to 'B' was a bit too broad to be interesting, but the gybe at the end slowed us down as Paul had to do many stringy things to make the twinner work. Helen and Paul made a spirited attempt to get past us to leeward, and in fact succeeded, but had gone a bit too low, allowing us to re-take them when they had to get their kite down early. This was a nice close 3-sail reach, requiring mucho cunningham and judicious easing of the kicker, also some hanging out - reminding me how unfit I am.
We had another 2 or 3 laps of that, with Helen and Paul hanging on to our transom and the rest of the fleet making various random sorties in our direction and then dropping back again. Somewhere on the last beat Bob & Paul capsized due to a communication failure - Paul was still discussing tacking to lee-bow a starboard-tack Fireball whereas Bob had already made up his mind. Cue a major tea-bagging for Paul, while Paul & Nick in the other boat made their getaway.
And so to lunch, where the wetbar had notably more Fireballers in it than all the other fleets put together (it's not often we outnumber anyone these days, so I have to get my point scoring in where I can).
Then adjust the spinnaker sheets to have knots in all the right places, and off to the start of the next race. We flew the kite out to the start, and it was good.
Race 2 - T, OL, S, Y, D
There may have been anchor problems on the committee boat, as we were pretty late but still had to hang around while stuff was sorted out. During this time we observed that it was noticeably colder now than it had been in the morning, plus a fair bit windier. Starboard bias on the line - Helen and Paul were a bit over-keen, got there really early, and were observed trying to sail backwards back across the line with 20 seconds to go. So, staying well out of their way, trot up to the line, gun goes off, Colin and Karen capsize, rest of fleet zooms off. I love that bit just after the start when all the (upright) boats are haring off together, all apparently going at exactly the same speed, really exciting stuff.
We were again first to the windward mark, and (I think) at OL, but Helen and Paul were close behind us. The next leg to S was a closer reach than we were expecting, and just as we arrived at S the guy rope parted company from the kite, which clearly wasn't a good thing. So we gybed and retrieved the kite, and set about trying to get the errant sheet back round the forestay and onto the corner of the kite. While we were fiddling about, Helen and Paul zoomed past us to leeward with their kite up, so we parked the string and set off after them. Fortunately for us, it got a bit windier and they had to pause to take their kite down, so we blasted past, gybed around Y and went back to re-stringing the kite. This leg was quite broad, but for some reason they chose not to kite it, giving us time to finish the string thing and test it out, and still be ahead at the mark (D).
Back up the beat to T, we were still ahead of Helen, with John & Quentin in 3rd place but quite well back. Two-sail reach to OL, gybe, then hoist kite for that uber-cool reach to S. But woe, the kite wouldn't go up, and we dobbered off towards D hauling on the various ropes, all to no avail. Helen and Paul had chosen OL as a good place to inspect the centreboard, but JT & Quentin had caught up and were hooning off down the reach in a thoroughly excellent fashion. So, big sigh, once again we put the kite back in the bag and went after them on 2 sails.
Gybing around S, we were right on their transom, and we both set off towards Y at high speed, ducking and weaving as the gusts blew in. We were sat in the flat water directly behind them, but couldn't find the extra speed to get past, so we just sat and enjoyed the ride. And it was worth it, both boats charging across the lake, all four blokes thoroughly engaged in staying upright and coaxing maximum speed out of their craft.
And then we were at Y, where we gybed a bit wide in case JT decided to go swimming in front of us, but no worries, both boats rounded just fine and we followed them down to D, still sans-kite. Now at this point JT ought to have bunged his kite up and waved goodbye, but he didn't, so we were close enough at the end of the leg to take them out on the next beat and win the race.
Further back, Colin & Karen were involved in an epic battle with Bob & Paul, the latter being somewhere behind but determined to catch up, and the former being hampered by flappy string. The story is that the knot on the end of the mainsheet had come undone at some point, and somehow the whole lot had been dragged out of the boom. Some hasty re-rigging had fixed it up again, but with the mainsheet on the outside of the boom instead of running along the inside. The net result was that every time they tacked, the mainsheet dangled down from the boom and lassoed the unfortunate helm, requiring Karen to untangle him, plus some swimming when this didn't happen quickly enough.
So Bob & Paul did a great job of catching up by flying their kite across from S to Y (which looked absolutely epic boys, I take my hat off to you), and Colin and Karen finished the job by capsizing while untangling after a tack. I'm not sure if either of them beat Paul & Nick, but I'm pretty sure that Helen & Paul came in third after us and JT. And that was it, put boats away and retire to the bar and a nice drinky.
Now, this being Monday, I hurt all over and my skin appears to have turned into the sort of thing you might find in a museum wrapped round a bit of ancient pottery. Not sailing for 5 months apparently removes whatever feeble levels of fitness a chap used to have and leaves previously damaged wrists susceptible to all sorts of interesting pains on the day after. Not a lot of work getting done today, that's for sure.
But it was great, and well worth it!