Sunday, 8 December 2013

A real blast

Well here we are in December, and the weather today was really nice. Better still, the forecast was 13mph, ie about perfect.

Race 1 - Y, K, OL, E, T, H, Gate

Assemble the boat and fix the sticky-out core of spinnaker halyard problem which had caused our ignominious departure from the Draycote Dash a couple of weeks back. Then ho for the start line, where we find that it is a bit windier than we had guessed, and that 22'8" is probably not an ideal rake. We stuck with it though, and coming off the start line we were well placed at the pin, but a bit slow, with Peter & Jez bounding past us to windward. Now I imagine I have done this to a few people in my time, but can I just mention how dispiriting it is when going upwind to have the other guys pointing higher than you and going at least as fast, particularly when they continue to do it for the entire upwind leg.

Round the windward mark then, in distinctly 2nd place with Colin & Karen breathing down our transom, and everyone else not far behind them. Peter & Jez generously tried to fly the kite to K, which turned out to be a BAD IDEA, but sadly not bad enough to let us overtake them.  Then down to OL, gybe, and waaaaayyyy heeeeeyyy, a fabulous reach right across the lake to E. this was one of those delightful slightly-too-close-for-comfort legs, where you had to pick your moments to sail high, and then blow all the gains on a bear away when the next gust came through. This is what Fireballs are best at, and although we weren't catching P&J, we were at least having a lot of fun trying.

Peter & Jez are presumably hidden from view by our sails in this shot, with Colin and Karen just behind

We all dropped the kites at E for a 2-sail reach to T, then another gybe and back up with the kites for the run down to H to start the next lap.

Another dispiriting beat, where we lost some more ground, and another rest-of-the-lap where we had fun but didn't gain much back, until the leg down to H where we went above the RS200 and they went below it, and suddenly we were right on their transom again. Round H, up through the gate, and then an interesting little tacking battle to dissuade them from sitting on our wind all the way upwind. We still hadn't caught them at Y, so sailed another lap just behind them, and eventually ended up at K, where they had just done their bear-away onto the run to OL.

At this point I figured we might be getting finished at OL, so went high with the extra speed that generates, and they spotted the danger and responded. Then I worked out that we weren't finishing there after all, so slung in a quick gybe and - after they followed suit - we claimed water at OL and were given just enough to squeeze through the gap. Jez told us we'd got loads of room, although our boom waving about by his head (but sadly not making contact) suggested otherwise.

Now we're off to E, and a repeat of that fabulous 3-sail reach. We both went a bit high of the mark and came down  to it on a broader reach, and it was there that it went a bit pear-shaped for us. There was a Fred plodding up to the same mark from somewhere below the lay-line and he was definitely entitled to water (sorry, mark-room). He was going to be going through about 180 degrees to go round, with a gybe in the middle, so would probably take about half an hour to complete the manoeuvre. With Peter and Jez behind us, I could see us being forced to go round the outside while they just dropped through the gap behind the Fred, so I went for the only possible alternative - getting round ahead of the Fred. We were already almost ahead, and as we were coming in from upwind I figured we might just sail across his bow right by the mark and be out of danger before he could hit us. Turns out I was wrong, and the Fred's bow clonked our gunwhale, followed by a bit of shouting from the driver.

Well the proper course of action was to do turns and watch Peter and Jez sail off into the distance, but that seemed a bit rubbish, so we carried on. P & J went low due to kite untangling exercises, but somehow managed to come past below us to be ahead again at T. We both gybed, and we 2-sailed up over them and through their wind before putting the kite up, resulting in us getting ahead again. This was probably the last leg before the fetch to the gate, so it was all getting a bit tense by this point. They got their kite flying and flew up past our transom and over our wind, getting themselves alongside and well placed to be on the inside at the mark. I had been luffing them up a bit prior to this, so just carried on sailing above the lay-line, thinking we might take them the wrong side of the mark in some last desperate move to get the win. But Peter lost the plot about 10 seconds later and bore down onto us, the boats coming together side by side in a fairly clear windward-leeward scenario with us in the right for a change. So they pootled off to get the kite down and do turns, and we zoomed round H and across the line for the win. Hurrah!

Except of course, we had infringed the Fred previously, so we were duty-bound to retire, and did so immediately we got back to shore. In hindsight, it would have made more sense to do the turns and claim a 2nd place, and if we had infringed another Fireball we certainly would have done so. But a marginal clonk from a Fred in the wrong place at the wrong time somehow seemed to be in a different category, and we were enjoying the race far more than we would have enjoyed getting 2 points from it, so it made some kind of sense at the time.

Back on shore, the rest of the fleet turned up and we all recounted our experiences. Paul and Helen had found the centre-board bolt on the floor of the boat, so had retired. Pete and Rohanna had done something unspeakable to the kicker on the fleet boat, and everyone had enjoyed themselves enormously.

The afternoon race was a bit lame by comparison. No fabbo 3-sail reaches, less wind, and pretty dull all round. We won that one, but it's not the one I'll be remembering.

Fleet boat with Pete & Rohanna (lovely)

Upside down boat with Paul & Helen (chilly)

Just saved it after gybe with Jane & Pat (scary)

Mo & Holly preparing to overtake Jane & Pat (slightly wobbly)

Many thanks to Rob Parker for the excellent pics. More of me next time please ;-)

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