For the uninitiated, this is a personal handicap race series held over one day, where we start each race from the shore at intervals dictated by the skill (or lack of) of the persons concerned. The idea is that the slowest boats start first, the fastest go off last, and the whole lot meet in an unseemly mess on the finish line. It was originally called the Marriott Mug event, but we lost the trophy Mug some years ago and hastily replaced it with the Ice Bucket trophy - re-titling the whole event in the process. The whole thing is a bit anarchic, and gives our sailors loads of potential to comprehensively screw up their own chances of winning.
Sunday dawned bright and with a decent 8-10mph breeze from the East. We picked up the course and opted to join it at 'E', the idea being that we don't trouble the start line with our presence until the sequence is over, and we don't join in in the middle of another fleet's race. It's a tricky thing to get right when our start sequence covers 11 minutes, and as usual we got it a bit wrong.
Race 1 - E, Y, S, J, N, Gate, H
First off were Jane and Pat, who sorted themselves out and then made a beeline for 'D'. We had a bit of a shout to correct them, and a helpful Moth sailor went and told them where they should be going. Less helpfully, he said 'T', which wasn't even in the course.
Gordon and Bryan went off next at 5 minutes, neatly intersecting Jane and Pat who had gone round 'T' and were running down to 'Y'. Presumably nobody said anything about the course though.
Then we released JT & Quentin, Bob & Paul and Helen & Paul, all at 8 minutes. Then, three minutes later, Paul and I started too. When we arrived at 'E', there were Jane and Pat, who had come back up from 'Y' and lost 10 minutes in the process, so it was clear that this wouldn't be their race. By the time we got to the mark, the entire Laser fleet were there too, so we had to avoid them while rounding, and also on the deadly dull broad reach to 'Y'.
Beating back up towards 'S', we spotted Paul Anthony in the front end of Caroline's Miracle, apparently holding the mast up. This is why you shouldn't allow Fireball sailors into small delicate boats - they only have to sit down heavily and the forestay pulls out of the deck. God knows what Caroline will put on the insurance form.
So with Jane and Pat easily dispatched on the beat, we rounded 'S' and had a nice 3-sail reach across to 'J'. followed by a slightly-too-broad reach to 'N'. Then a beat up to 'H', followed by a very sexy 3-sail reach to 'E'. We were gaining on the rest of the fleet now, and spent the next lap improving our position. We had pretty much caught up with Bob & Paul when they started sailing round in circles to retrieve Paul's hat, which had blown off into the water. This took a while, neatly removing them from the picture. Then up at 'S' for the last time, we were just behind Gordon & Bryan and I guess the pressure got to them as they promptly pulled off the best spinnaker hoist inside the jib exercise I have ever seen. This left us just chasing JT & Quentin and Helen & Paul, neither of whom we were able to catch. But JT & Quentin had done something unspeakable by way of a mark rounding sometime previously, and thus retired, leaving us 2nd to Helen & Paul. Not bad!
Race 2 - E, Y, S, J, N, Gate, H
Same course as before, which is a shame as we'd already been there, done that and got the T-shirt. We were joined by Paul Anthony & Caroline (of broken Miracle fame) - on a scratch handicap as Caroline had never trapezed before. This time we got away early enough to avoid the Lasers and the Freds, but the early starters had a much better reach out to 'E', and Paul & I were maybe 2 minutes worse off than we should have been by the time we arrived there, which is a big thing to overcome when piled on top of the 11 / 6 / 3 minutes we had already given away. Up front, Jane and Pat were having a good scrap with Paul & Caroline, with J & P getting the upper hand eventually. Mid-fleet, Helen & Paul were establishing a lead over JT & Quentin and Bob & Paul, with Gordon & Bryan ultimately falling behind them too. All of this was quite exciting if you happened to be there, but from our point of view the entire hour was spent sailing around by ourselves, with Paul saying helpful things like "They're miles away, we'll never catch them".
Then, on the last lap, we arrived at 'Y' possibly only a minute behind Bob & Paul and Gordon & Bryan. We went right up the beat, and were astounded to find that when we tacked, Bob & Paul had pretty much doubled their lead on us (and caught a load of other boats in the process). Still, we persevered, and arrived at 'S' just ahead of Gordon & Bryan. Helen & Paul had hit 'S' and done a 360, so they were back in the pack too, leaving us with a boat directly behind and four boats not too far ahead. Jane and Pat were maybe another minute off, so no chance to get them.
So, kite up and the wind kicked in, and we had a very satisfying reach to 'J', gybing maybe 20 seconds behind the pack. The leg to 'N' was a bit too broad for comfort, so we went last-ditch hero-or-zero and went high to pick up the extra pressure further out from the shore. It kinda worked a bit, but it was quite a short leg and we had to come back down again, and the net result was that the other four boats rounded immediately ahead of us, with just a quick upwind dog-leg to go to the finish line.
All of a sudden, the water was full of Fireballs (and a few other boats), the breeze was on, and it all became very exciting. JT & Quentin had rounded first, and high-tailed it off left. Bob & Paul were also going that way (if memory serves). Paul & Caroline were doing much the same, but pinching up, causing Helen & Paul to make a hasty course adjustment and duck under their stern. Behind us, Gordon & Bryan had given us a few seconds grace, so we tacked off as soon as the finish-line looked do-able, and just went flat out for the committee boat. On the line it was pretty clear that JT was across first, but I couldn't tell if we'd got there next, or Bob & Paul, or Helen & Paul, or Paul & Caroline.
Back on the shore, the adrenaline buzz eventually faded, but we were grinning a lot for quite a while afterwards. It turned out that we'd failed to overtake any of the cluster of boats on the finish line, but I didn't care.
And after all that, a dead-heat for the trophy, and only 2 points separating 1st place from 4th in the series. Results were:
|1st||14111||Jane Collison||Pat Collison||5||1||6||6|
|2nd||14891||Helen Salisbury||Paul Roe||1||5||6||6|
|3rd||14064||Bob Morris||Paul Butler||4||3||7||7|
|4th||14778||Mike Deane||Paul Disney||2||6||8||8|
|5th||14705||John Tenney||Quentin Hayes||8 DNF||2||10||10|
|7th||14843||Paul Anthony||Caroline Noel||8 DNC||4||12||12|
So another great day's sailing, in spite of the wind being a bit marginal. It was a shame we didn't have a few more boats out though. Congratulations to Jane and Pat for winning (on last-race tiebreak rules), and to Caroline for surviving an entire race and the epic battle for the finish-line.
She said she enjoyed it.