9th March 2014 - a perfect day. Only the beginning of March, but it was sunny, warm, and 8-12mph - absolutely perfect!
Unfortunately, the Draycote Fireball fleet didn't quite live up to the occasion...
Race 1 - K, OL, J, S, P, N, H, E, Gate
Sidling up to the start-line with 15 seconds to go, I luffed Pete & Diggers, who vaguely luffed Helen & Paul, who didn't take much notice, so I got the fleet boat's boom bouncing off my head for my pains. Inspired by the desire to escape from this, we went flat out for the line a full 5 seconds before we should and were over the line when the gun went. So we went back, restarted, and chased the rest of them up the beat. Obviously you can't afford to give Pete & Mike an inch, and we had, so they scampered off in short order, leaving us to battle it out Bob & Paul, Helen & Paul, Paul & Nick etc. Round K, through OL, round J, and a run down to S followed by a beam reach to P. Jane & Pat tried to kite it to P and managed to capsize right in front of the start-line, so that was one less to get past. But by the time we were on the next beat it was clear that Peter & Mike were doing a horizon job, they were up by K again in no time, and, er, hang on... we weren't going to K, we were going to N (which is close by, but not that close). Weyhey, game on, we and everyone else piled on up to N and took off down the rather tasty 3-sail reach to H, leaving Peter & Mike plodding back round OL, J and down the run again. It turned out they had only written down the first line of the course!
So after that tasty reach, we gybed and had another tasty reach to E, then up through the gate and start the next lap. K, OL and J came and went, and we were on the run down to S for the 2nd time with Colin & Karen and Paul & Nick, when they both decided to go off to H instead. Weyhey again, just got to catch Bob & Paul now. Another lap on, Bob & Paul decided to fly their kite from P to S and we decided it was a stupid idea, and it was, so we got past them and went on to win in a highly undeserved fashion, purely due to sailing round all the right buoys in the right order.
Race 2 - K, OL, J, X, S, T, P, F, E, Gate
Another great course, straight off the course computer but expertly chosen by JT.
This time we had a good start and spent most of the race sitting on Peter & Mike, at one point getting a really decent lead on them. But there were a lot of other Fireballs getting in the way, and we couldn't seem to get past Bob & Paul, which gave Peter & Mike a chance to come back at us. This multi-boat battle eventually resolved itself on the reach from X to S, where Bob & Paul had a decent lead but decided that F might be nice at this time of year, so sailed off into the distance and were completely out of the race by the time they came back. We rounded S with Colin & Karen and Peter & Mike, and the latter pair arrived at T before us, and we then had a continuation of the 3-boat battle all the way to P, F, E and up through the gate. Naturally it is accepted practise that when you've been keeping a boat behind you and they overtake, the race will promptly end, so we grabbed ourselves a close 2nd behind Peter & Mike and ahead of Colin & Karen, and then plodded back to the shore to de-rig. When we arrived there, we spotted everyone else doing the K-OL-J leg, still racing, and it occurred to us that maybe the race hadn't finished after all!
Ah well, too late to do anything about it, so we went ashore, followed closely by a few other boats who were hoping for a finish at OL and didn't get one. Peter & Mike carried on for another lap and finished at the gate, came ashore, then found they hadn't signed on. So in the end, Helen & Paul won the race, again by virtue of sailing the right course rather than by going particularly quickly.
Obviously it's nice to win, but in an eight-boat race it's clear that seven boats (14 people) won't do so. What's more important is that they all enjoy the race and go home feeling good about it. On Sunday, with the sunshine and the mild Southerly F3, the excellent course and the close racing, I think we hit the spot very nicely.