I have neglected this blog shamefully over the past few months - for the simple reason that a big work project landed on my desk when I returned from the Nationals, and I've been doing that ever since. It was also a big project with a stupidly short timescale, so it's required weekends and evenings to the exclusion of all else. Doh!
In the meantime however, I have managed a little bit of sailing. We had the Draycote Fireball Open Meeting and Inland Championships, which was a massive pain in the bum to organise and which rewarded us with almost no wind at all on the Saturday. The less said about that day the better frankly, but the Sunday made up for it rather nicely. It started glassy calm, but there was a bit of wind by 11:30am so we all went out, and the wind built from there to become really very nice, assisted by the strong sunshine. We had two excellent races, which helped to make up for the smorgasbord of disappointment the day before.
We were mid-fleet most of the time, and our exploits are not really worth recounting. Probably the most interesting thing was watching the tactics of Maria and Jez, who were sailing around in our vicinity a lot of the time. Going down the reach to the bottom mark, a leg full of Fireballs all blasting along in the sunshine and a F3 breeze, we were able to watch M&J's progress from not far off their transom. It was all luff, overtake, push up, luff, overtake, and repeat. I was impressed that this worked so well, as when I try to overtake anyone on the 3 sail reaches they promptly luff me off the course, but it worked for them. Except that all that luffing and overtaking put them well high of the mark, so they came down to it on a dead run (claiming water at the mark from everybody else as well). This is a win-win situation, as long as nobody throws a spanner in your works. On this occasion a couple of Irish guys were doing the same thing, and they fancied the inside spot too. So M&J luffed them up some more and there was a bit of shouting. I was watching this with some interest as our more straight-line approach had put us in the middle of about 8 other boats as we approached the same mark, and I was watching intently through the gaps and calling for water for 4, no make that 5 boats. But it appeared that the luffing match had gone on a bit too long and a bit too far, and I am left with the abiding memory of a Fireball with its kite still up hurtling past the wrong side of the mark, whilst another one slammed straight into the buoy. This probably wasn't a huge heap of fun for those involved, but with the sun glinting off the water and shining through the spinnakers of the latecomers, and boats literally all around us, it did make for a very memorable moment. Remarkably, there was no contact between boats either.
Later on, the Irish crew retired, although as they pointed out, they hadn't broken any rules. Having been denied water, they had gone the wrong side of the mark and had come back round without infringing anybody. Maria and Jez also retired, presumably due to having committed GBH on the buoy.
When watching this kind of thing, I am always struck by the sheer ambition of those involved. I sail around the open meeting course with the sole intention of staying out of trouble, and I make going-as-fast-as-possible a secondary goal. The boys and girls at the front of the fleet just go for speed all the time, and with clear air they can pull well away from the pack before engaging in any serious boat-on-boat tactics with anyone who is still in the vicinity. But when you are sailing around in the pack, whilst there is plenty of scope for making huge gains, equally there is plenty of scope for it to all go horribly wrong.