Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Nationals pt. 2

Day 4 - Wednesday
Awoken in the night by the sound of rain, the noise of the wind, and the cat on my pillow. Decided then that I was officially not looking forward to the forthcoming day's sailing, but what can you do but man up and get on with it.

Down to the boat park, where crew has rigged the boat, got changed, and is standing to attention awaiting orders. Wind down here is not nearly as scary as on the campsite, so we pulled the pins and went from 22'4" to 22'6".  It was onshore too, so a bit tricky getting off the beach with the fixed rudder and I held off tying it on until I was sure we were clear of the beach.

Out at the start line, where there was noticeably less weed floating about than there had been on previous days (when I spent half my time trying to avoid big lumps of it, and the other half trying to remove it from the rudder without falling overboard). Also observed that there wasn't even enough sunshine to make the Tack-Tick digital compass work

So the gun goes, and we're off, and the first thing I noticed as I sheeted in hard was that the mainsheet outer was coming apart at the point where it goes through the cleat. Spent the rest of the first beat trying not to damage it further, but it inevitably came apart and then started to bunch up. So it came to pass that we rounded the windward mark and stuck the kite up, and the fluffy end of the mainsheet outer refused to go through the hole in the boom resulting in my being unable to let the mainsail out. This is not good. I was just pondering what might be done about it when there was a clonking noise from the back of the boat and the steering went light. On closer inspection, this was because the rudder had just popped off and was taking no further part in the whole steering business. With great presence of mind, I alerted the crew to this state of affairs by shouting "oh bollocks!" marginally before the boat bore away madly and capsized on top of us.

It went upside down fairly smartly, and we were left swimming round it with me clutching the rudder. I experimented briefly with putting it back on the boat whilst I was in the water, decided this was a stupid idea, and climbed onto the upturned hull to do it from there. So I hauled myself onto the hull and strolled off to the transom, whereupon the movement of the boat caused me to fall off into the water again. Once again I clambered onto the upturned hull, stood up, and was promptly pitched off head first into the water.

At this point I gave up on the whole rudder thing and lashed it to the boat using the spinnaker sheet. I then hung around in the water until Iain pulled the boat up, and we got the kite down, put the rudder on, and re-rigged the mainsheet so that it ran outside the boom and could therefore function normally. But by this time we were in danger of being lapped, so opted to go back to the shore for a bit of mainsheet repair and a rest.

On the way, we passed Pete & Steve who were pootling homeward even more slowly than we were. It transpired that the tendons in Steve's arm were unequal to the task of crewing, so game over. 

Getting a new split-tail mainsheet in Looe in under an hour was clearly not an option, so we got the needles and whipping twine out and did a stitch and whipping job on both the fluffy ends, resulting in something that would let me hold onto the normal thickness of rope but cleating it on the inner core only. Then back out to the start line for race 2.

As usual we made a bit of a crap start, but tacked off, played a few shifts and hunches, and were doing ok at the top of the beat in spite of the mainsheet now being a bit unreliable in the jammer. Up with the kite, whereupon we found that we had really quite decent speed on the reaches, with several places taken and not many lost. There is a bit of a knack to 3-sail reaching in waves, basically you bear away down the wave-front for a bit of surfing, and then luff up when you get to the trough. Or maybe you don't, but that's what I did and it seemed to work ok.

Going up the beat we were being out-pointed, and I could see no way of avoiding it. But the compass had found enough photons to enable it to work again, and a bit more considered tacking on the shifts managed to put us ahead of the nearest boats regardless of their better pointing abilities. Going down the run, the boats we had just overtaken were doing it as 2 broad reaches where we were more-or-less dead running, and it was interesting to see what the net result would be. In the end I think we lost a little ground to the reaching boats, but it was only a very little given the length of the run, and we overtook them again on the next beat anyway. Still, worth bearing in mind for next time.

I have no idea where we came in that one, but I know we were ahead of Jez, so presumably we didn't do too badly. I then emptied my wallet (again) to purchase a new mainsheet from the local branch of P&B, handily located in Dave Wade's kitchen, so we should be ok for tomorrow. Hell, even I can put a mainsheet on a boat without screwing it up. Usually.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Nationals pt.1

The first thing you realise when you sign up for the nationals is the massive increment in effort between this and the requirements of sailing at your local pond. In the latter case, you turn up at roughly the right time on a Sunday morning and pull the sails up. For the Nationals, you have to first do a load of planning, upgrade your boat insurance, get the car serviced, get the caravan serviced, do the wheel bearings on the trailer, get a GPS tracker for the cat, do all those (many) little jobs on the boat, and generally empty your wallet in the cause of achieving all of this. You then find that the excellent weather is about to break, so your anticipated light-moderate breeze under clear blue skies translates into mournful staring out of the window at the trees bending double while the rain beats a tattoo on the roof.

Day zero - Saturday
After a mere 7 hours of driving very slowly on the M5, I finally arrived at the boat-park to find that Iain had done everything, and a good job too. Return to campsite with high hopes for tomorrow, and off to bed. Awoken at 3am by the sound of rain and the realisation that most of the air has leaked out of the inflatable mattress, leaving me lying on the ground. Eventually crawl out and find the foot pump, but the magic has gone.

Day 1 - Sunday
Wake to discover that the fridge no longer works on (free) mains electricity, so resort to running it on expensive gas. Arrive late to boat park, where Iain has once again done everything already, all we have to do is wheel the boat down to the sea and pull the sails up. Wheel boat onto beach with spinnaker pole sticking out from mast in spite of Iain's suggestion that we detach it, catch it on another boat, brand new mast-end fitting promptly shears off. Stare at crew in disbelief, crew stares back, tactfully refraining from saying anything. Then go and get old pole-end fitting out of toolbox and do a hasty replacement job. 

Afloat in time to miss the practise race, we observe that it is pretty windy and onshore so the waves are huge. Whilst waiting for the start of the first proper race and the multiple general recalls that follow, the wind and waves both increase noticeably. By the time we finally get off, it's all gone a bit mental. Zoom off up the beat, boat climbs huge waves with aplomb, and we're doing pretty well at the top mark. Kite up, off down the first reach, gybe nicely and set kite, and it's looking good. Then disaster struck as I was washed out of the boat by a big wave half way down the reach, capsized, and loads of boats sailed past while we retrieved it. Sailed on, but the waves were getting a bit hideous now. Going down the run we were overtaking the waves, climbing up the back of real monsters, getting to the top, and looking down at the trough ahead with some trepidation (aka naked fear) before the boat took off surfing down the wave at stupid speeds. Still, we made a few places back over the next few laps and were only a bit behind Pete at the end.  Iain had gone a funny colour during the race and was sick over the side when we finished, so we packed it in at that point. Pete & Steve stayed on for the next race, although Steve damaged his arm before they finished that one. Karen (who was refusing to fly the kite on self-preservation grounds) just did the one race.

Day 2 - Monday
Awoken at 3am by cat bouncing around on my bed and, when chastised, biting me. Possibly driven mad by sound of rain beating loudly on the roof, he eventually departed in the direction of the children, possibly to bite them too. By morning my wetsuit was nearly dry, so I put it outside to finish off in the thin morning sun, whereupon it promptly got rained on. A drysuit day then.

At the boatpark, Iain had rigged the top of the jib in a different manner to usual, so i pulled it down, re-tied it, and discovered that the tail of the halyard had gone up inside the mast. Stare at crew in disbelief again, then head for the toolbox and the rare-earth magnets to re-thread it. In process, discover that jib halyard sheave no longer goes round, but unable to fix that with WD40 so ignore it. Get halyard sorted laughably quickly and ho for the beach. Down here the wind is quite light and offshore, but out at the start it is possibly windier than yesterday and cross-shore. As a result the waves are smaller and lumpier, but as the day goes on, increasingly large. We had a couple of good races, but were slower than we thought we should be, possibly due to de-powering too much. Pete & Steve took the day off to let the arm recover a bit, Karen was still leaving the kite in the bag on the reaches, but chanced it on the runs. The sun came out and stayed out for most of the time, glinting seductively on those big ocean waves as they broke  into spray and foam, so we felt we were getting our money's worth for a change. Really good fun!

Day 3 - Tuesday.
Now designated a lay day as wind forecast to be gusting 40mph, although BBC weather said 12mph, and in the event probably no more than about 8mph. Shame, as I would have liked a bit of light-airs racing. Still, it gave me a chance to lie in after being woken (and bitten) by the cat at 4am that morning.