Wednesday, 3 April 2013


Having missed a couple of weekends due to the arrival of snow at the most in-opportune moments, I was very happy to find that today was free of snow, rain, hail, and boasted a sensible amount of wind too. So we rocked up (somewhat late due to losing an hour what with it now being BST) and started to assemble the boat. Rig as usual, plus:

  • Inflate dodgy tyre
  • Put bobbles on the end of new spinnaker sheets so they don't pull through
  • Lubricate the kite halyard cleat, which was sticking so disastrously last time out

By this time we were clearly going to miss the start, especially as it was a million miles away down at 'C' (ie, as far away as it is possible to be). But the other 2 Fireballs were similarly tardy so I wasn't concerned - we could start at the end of the sequence, no worries.

En route, a kindly Solo sailor sailed upwind a way to tell us that we were 20 seconds from our 3 minute gun, which came as a bit of a surprise, but was information gratefully received.

When we eventually arrived at the line, it transpired that the OD team had waited for us, thereby condemning everyone else to a noticeable delay before their start. Did I mention that it was pretty damn cold ?

No ?

Ah well, it was undeniably pretty damn cold, and some elements of the Laser fleet seemed to be a bit unhappy about having to hang about in those conditions. A Laser sailor bellowed something to this effect at me, which seemed a little pointless given that we'd only just arrived and had no way of altering the situation. Compare and contrast with the attitude of the Solo sailor who was going to have to wait even longer, I'm saying nothing.

Race 1 - T, J, OL, M, B, Y, C

Anyway, off we went, with my attempts at shutting Badders/JR out at the committee boat a complete failure, so we were last off the line and tacked off right. Thirty seconds on port tack, then back onto starboard. When the other boats tacked and crossed ahead, they'd pulled out a decent lead in not a lot of time. Well we're not having that, there's clearly some goodness to be had on the left hand side of the beat, so off we go!

So we went a decent distance left, found a lift towards the bank, eventually tacked back onto port and were lifted up a rather nice wind-bend which extended all the way to the first mark. Below us, running in parallel, were Badders/JR and Pete/Rachel, neither of whom were pointing as high as we were, being as they were on the outside of the bend. So, with a couple more tacks at the top of the beat, we went round 'T' in first place and set off towards 'J' with a very healthy lead.

"Game over", said Poorly Paul as he fixed the pole onto the mast and I hoisted the kite. But no, apparently not. The kite went halfway up and stopped dead. Oh dear. Much pulling up and down of the kite made no noticeable difference, and we went round 'J' with it still at half mast, ie bloody useless, and a much reduced lead.

There followed a dead run through 'OL' to 'M', where I discovered that if I let the rig tension right off, the kite would go up. So we hung on to our lead down to 'M', then reached off to 'B' in fine style. Arriving at 'B' we discovered that the kite wouldn't come down either unless I let the rig tension off, at which point we found ourselves going upwind with the jib luff looking like a banana. And can you get the rig tension back on again with one hand while steering with the other..?  Well no, not really. So we experimented briefly with Paul steering, but that didn't go well either, so we trotted off up the beat to 'Y' with minimal rig tension, and were still there-or-thereabouts in the lead going round it, bore off for the 3-sail reach to 'C', and whoop-de-bloody-do, the kite wouldn't go up again.


After some experimentation it transpired that the kite would only go up or down if the rig tension was completely off, which made hoisting and retrieving it a bit of a faff:

Bear away
Release rig tension
Hoist kite
Re-apply rig tension
Sail to next mark
Drop the rig tension
Retrieve the kite
Re-apply rig tension

Repeat until hand hurts, then repeat some more

Well you can't race seriously like that, and with three laps and two hoists per lap, we were clearly not going to do well. However, we were still in with a shout on the last beat, albeit from a position where our overall position couldn't get any worse, ie behind both Badders/JR and Pete/Rachel.

"Go left", said Poorly Paul, who tends towards the notion that if it worked last lap, it couldn't fail to work this time either. Well with 30+ years of experience under my belt, I know better. We were on port tack and already near the lay-line and going further left just didn't look sensible. So we followed Badders/JR up the middle of the beat, and b****r me, in comes Pete/Rachel from the far left like a Communist on a jet powered bicycle, straight past the pair of us, round 'T' and off towards 'J'. Naturally our kite wouldn't go up at all on that leg, so no chance of a fight-back, so we settled for a lowly last place and a lunchtime of kite-maintenance.

Once ashore, we discovered 2 things wrong with the kite halyard:

1) It was wrapped once around the luff wire, although Paul swears it wasn't when he rigged it
2) It had a tiny half-hitch (slip-knot to you) in it, about halfway up

It appears that this precise combination is sufficient to jam your halyard with the kite halfway up, presumably when the knot meets the luff-wire and catches on the sheave at the top.

Well getting slip-knots out of 3mm D12 when they've been pulled very tight for the last 'n' months is non-trivial, and it took us about half an hour, working in shifts with a fine screwdriver blade and a total disregard for the integrity of the D12, before the thing came undone. And honestly I'm still amazed that it did - when we started it looked like a little shiny bump in an otherwise perfect bit of grey D12. When we'd finished the lump had gone but it was all a bit fluffier.

Then a load more hanging about, as the next race was a pursuit and therefore we would be going at 2:30pm instead of 1:15pm. Still, it gave us a bit of time to warm up and to replace the nuts and bolts holding the kicker jammer on, which the eagle-minded amongst you will remember had exploded last time out and were only now attached with equal measures of friction and hope.

Race 2 - H, J, OL, M, Y, X, D

Then off to the committee boat (which thankfully wasn't waiting for us this time) and the opportunity to make an even worse start than this morning. So we went left, tacked when the shore loomed, right a bit, then left some more. And lo, it appeared that the fabulous wind-bend was still there and still doing its thing, because we popped round the windward mark ahead of Badders/JR, hoisted the kite, and joy of joys, it went up so beautifully, and whoosh, off we went.

There then followed an entire race where Badders/JR failed to catch us, whilst we overtook everything else out there for the simple and rather dull reason that we were in a faster boat. We were aided and abetted by some rather fine reaches, notably H to J and X to D, both of which were great fun. The run from J through OL to M was pretty much dead and therefore a good thing, offering us the opportunity to choose between the wind channel inshore and the gusty stuff further out, although when we got it wrong it allowed Ally in the Contender back past us. Finally there was a very close reach from M to Y which would presumably have made a heavy Laser sailor very happy, but they'd all gone home and it did nothing for yours truly at all.

We took the lead when we overtook a tiny yellow boat en-route to K, did the dull leg to Y, and observed the finish boats congregating around X as we approached. They held station ahead of us until we arrived at D, and then finished us just as we were getting the kite down and were too busy to notice. At the same instance a flying Moth flew past - I hadn't even seen it coming although there's not a lot I could have done if I had. As it turned out, it was Tom, and he hadn't actually started the race, having joined in with the other Moths some time later. So he had the moral victory while Poorly Paul and I took the little silver RNLI trophy that Pete Wood got last year and which clearly hadn't been cleaned since.

All in all then, a mighty fine day's sailing. Many thanks to the OD team who must have worked so hard to make it all happen.

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