Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Spring breakages

The forecast said sunny, warm, and 10-12mph, but the bushes in my garden said nothing at all. Paul also reckoned it to be a waste of time; fortunately I talked him into it.

We were in good company today, with the welcome return of three Petes swelling our numbers to a decent 8 boats. We'd have had the full set if Pete Slack hadn't been away :-(

Race 1: T, N, D, J, OL, E
The start line for the morning race was about a million miles from the beach, and given the feeble wind took a long time to get to. We then had a bit of confusion caused by some people not arriving at the start in time, and other people saying they'd wait for them and then not waiting for them, resulting in some other people who thought they were waiting getting decidedly worse starts than the ones who decided not to. Still, it gave us something to aim at. I won't go into detail, suffice to say that various people had a go at the lead, but we were pretty quick on the dead runs (of which there were many), and eventually came out in front.

Lunch time then, where somebody told Paul that this pathetic breeze was as good as it was going to get, resulting in a distinct disinclination on his part to spend the afternoon drifting around in it. But we went anyway, and a good job too as the wind picked up very nicely by the time we started and continued to rise through the race, and I for one would have been absolutely gutted if I'd missed it.

Race 2: T, S, Y, K, OL, J, E
Off the line we all went left except for Pete & JR, who port-tacked it behind everybody and took off to the right. For reasons that are unclear to me, this put them into a good lead, but I figured we could catch them. We were 2nd around T, bunged the kite up, and chased them down to S where we gybed and hooned across to Y on a reach that was slightly too close for comfort but nonetheless tremendous fun. It was at that point that things started to go wrong. We took the kite down at Y, I pulled a handful of kicker on and the cleat promptly exploded, shooting its constituent parts all over the boat. So I steered and played the mainsheet and held on to the kicker, whilst talking Paul through the reassembly process. When we'd tried most permutations of the available components, we eventually got the thing back together, albeit with only one nut securing it.

Remarkably we hadn't lost too much ground doing this, so were reasonably close to Pete & JR at K, OL and J. And when we both bore off for the run to E and Pete's kite went under the boat, I thought we were sorted. So we bunged the kite up, fixed the pole, sheeted in, and woe is me - the corner of the kite had come untied (again). Aaaargh!

We went through the usual procedure, gybing, posting the string round the forestay, gybing back, re-tying it and pulling it up again. Pete didn't get away at all during this time, but as soon as we'd got the kite pulling again and thought we were safe, he just sailed off into the distance. And worse, Peter & Mike were gaily sailing past us downwind and Colin & Karen were on our transom.

By the time we arrived at E, Pete was gone. Peter & Mike were vaguely catchable, and Colin and Karen were just behind us. So we set our sights on catching Peter, and at the end of the beat we'd been overtaken by Colin as well.

"Ah well", says I, at least we can blow them into the long grass on the close reach. So we pootled down the broad reach to S, gybed, sorted the kite out, and as soon as we sheeted it in for the close reach, the halyard cleat started slipping and it went all Aussie-drop on us. So I laboriously heaved it back up again, and it promptly came down again.

"Bugger it, we'll 2-sail it", we said, but by this time Colin & Karen were long gone. We clawed back just enough on the final beat to end up on their transom again, but there was no way past, and we ended up 4th.

By way of an observation then, sailing a boat that doesn't work reliably is rubbish, and is the best way I can think of to convert an excellent race into a waste of time. Now I have a hard-earned reputation in the boatpark for doing as little boat maintenance as possible, so you may be thinking that this boat unreliability stuff is well deserved. But in fact, it boils down to three things:

1)  New spinnaker sheets. The tapered ends on the new one are thinner than on the old one, so the knot on the end is smaller and can now be pulled through the eye on the kite when the breeze is up. It's taken me a while to work this out - but I have a couple of tiny bobbles ready and we won't be suffering from that one again.

2)  Excellent D12 spinnaker halyard. We've had this for ages and it really is fabulous, it is the only stuff that has ever been reliably taken up by the take-up elastic. But it is also a bit shiny and it needs a decent cleat. While I've been resting up with a broken wrist and Paul has been, well, just resting, one side of the cleat has gone a bit sticky and is no longer fulfilling its primary purpose. I shall replace it forthwith, and will endeavour not to break any more parts of my anatomy to avoid it happening again.

3) Exploding kicker jammer. Yeah, OK, that's down to poor maintenance. But the bolts had locknuts on them, they're not supposed to just come apart willy-nilly after 10 years of service. This, I submit, could happen to anyone.

So, roll on next week, when we may have the full complement of Petes and another chance to show 'em who's fastest. Meanwhile, donations of 3mm (4mm?) locknuts gratefully received.

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