Sun 17 Apr
Welcome to spring (again)! Such gorgeous warm sunshine.
First race of the new season's Anniversary Series. This is a great series for everyone to sail because we have the personal handicaps as well as the standard class handicap. Everyone is assigned a band from 0 (scratch) to band 5 based on past results (or for those new to the club on our judgement of standard) giving you a handicap a bit like a golfer. Also a bit like a pro-am tournament the pros (scratch sailors) cannot win the amateur (personal handicap) prize. This is every 3rd week of the month. Just to remind everyone we have the regular class results extracted every week, but also two monthly club-wide series. The Pursuit series on the first week of the months and the Anniversary on the third.
Next week the Wed series also starts (you should soon get a club-wide email about that) which also includes a personal handicap.
So, for me the exciting part of the weekend was putting 5215 on the water for the first time. Immediate impressions felt very similar to 4859 in handling and 'feel'. The new alloy rudder stock with the carbon tube tiller feels very light and easy to handle. The stock comes with an adjuster so you can slightly alter the full down position to give a lighter or heavier feel to the rudder. I have to say she feel fast out of the blocks, I set the mast in what would be the forward position on 4859, chocked in front and behind (I have two chocks) so the mast was slightly less raked for the light weather (and because with my injured calf I wasn't sure I could get under the boom with full rake).
I have to say we did not have the best start lines on Sunday. While the wind was somewhat uncooperative the lines were distinctly odd with the first leg being a starboard tack fetch. I had aimed to start at or close to the starboard end of the line - in the end I was extremely close to the mark just squeezing in between the mark and Peter Cottrell. The rules in that situation are quite clear - you cannot 'barge' in at the start mark. I barely had room and I think if he had been a bit harsher Peter Cottrell could perhaps have closed the door on me although I was coming in faster and higher. As it was I went as close to the mark as possible even heeling the boat to avoid touching the mark. Whether Peter could have closed the gap enough to shut me out I'm not sure because there was very little wind and if he'd luffed he would probably have stopped, but I was watching him in case I had to bail out. Unusually we were at the mark end because the Race Officer used a shore pole and inner distance so the starboard end of the line wasn't the committee boat but a small floating mark. Not sure I would have tried to put my new boat into the gap with a solid committee boat (with a metal engine on the back) but slipping through between Peter and the distance mark looked more possible. I tried a new technique (for me) of standing with my front foot in front of the thwart and to leeward of the plate with my back knee on the side tank to give stability and then taking the main sheet from the pulley by the jammer rather than through the jammer itself. That gave me a stable platform to be able to look up at the sail with the boat heeled for light weather and a free running mainsheet to react to the almost constantly shifting wind. It kept varying between full on beat and a close reach so important to keep watching the sail going easing in every freeing puff going for speed rather than height. In those light winds you can have massive speed differences that just are not possible in other conditions.
After the first mark we had all the 'fast' fleet just ahead and I was worried that they would blanket us but somehow the Solos seemed to keep moving able to tack the shifts and emerge at the end of the leg having leap-frogged most of the so called fast fleet. Looking back it was noticeable that Quentin was moving well establish a clear second solo towards the front of the chasing pack behind Peter Curtis (RS300) and me. Peter Curtis and I swapped the lead a few times but I managed to break clear until the last leg when the wind did a few more 180 degree shifts letting the next few boats catch me, but I was able to just hold on for a Solo first over the line. Quentin managed to stay clear of the chasing pack who seemed to be all gathered within about twenty yards of the last mark. I'm afraid I didn't see exactly who swapped places where but it was a might crowded pack. As I write this I think Jim Champ is still wresting the personal handicaps into Sailwave, but I rather suspect it was perfect Solo conditions and we may have filled all the top positions. (If you look at the web today Jim is still sorting out the corrected times but I think the relative positions are correct – we think they are all out by a factor of 10 but correct relative to each other) The fleet result was:
1. 5215 Gareth
2. 4418 Quentin
3. 3457 Mervyn
4. 4073 Peter C
5. 338 CJ
6. 3861 Dave C
It looks as if this was also the scratch handicap result with the personal handicap (band) showing:
1. Quentin (2)
2. Gareth (0)
3. Kirstie (band 5 xenon)
4. Mervyn (2)
5. Peter (2)
6. Dave (5)
7. CJ (2)
In the Back to Back races again Quentin showed that he has plenty of basic speed as he sailed past me on a broad reach. Although I managed to sneak back past on the next fetch / beat it is very clear that he will be challenging the front of the fleet. Welcome - the unwritten rule is that whoever wins should write the blog (I'm always happy to edit) - I suspect Quentin will need to sharpen his pencil soon. Actually it would be good in a few weeks time to have his first impressions of the boat and fleet. A new perspective is always welcome.
Starting in the first B2B was again ‘interesting’ with some confusion over the sound signals – in the first race I missed one of the signals so when I thought there was 2 min 20 seconds to go there were really only 20. The line was terribly starboard biased (it was almost a fetch on port) – completely my fault for not checking the flags – at about 15 seconds I realised the fleet was lining up to start and I was completely shut out – that’s when I looked at the flags and thought ‘whoops both flags are up I’m in an impossible position with no rights to get to the line’ – it was a case of “don’t panic Mr. Mainwaring” - change plan and go for a significantly late start but in the right place. Tack away from the approach because there is clearly no room anywhere near the mark, bear away loop round to come back into the line after the first wave but at least in the right place close to the mark. Then I tacked quickly onto port and sailed fast and low to get some clear air. Fortunately it seemed most people has started on starboard and took some time to find a space to tack. By footing away quickly on port I was able to get clear wind and then start working back up towards the mark. I couldn’t lay it but I was able clear most of the fleet to round just behind Peter Curtis with Quentin just behind me. As previously mentioned, on the broad reach (well it ended as that having changed gybe during the leg) Quentin sailed past me to be inside me at eight. I rounded eight starting very wide but cutting in late very close to the mark behind Quentin and initially I sailed high (it was a fetch to 9) while Quentin sailed freer but got slightly blocked by an RS200 which had overtaken both of us on the reach. When a small gust came I was able to free off and sail over Quentin.
In the second B2B the wind had changed again and it looked like a broad reach on port from the start straight to X. Difficult line to read – the starboard end was closer to X and potentially inside when we reached X, but you would be blanketed by those further up the line. I had just about decided to start near the port end on the grounds that it was nearer X and who knew what would happen when at about 10 seconds to go the wind reversed again. James Curtis in a club laser and I reacted fastest throwing in a couple of quick tacks to get away on port in what was again almost a beat from a very starboard biased line.
Thanks to Paul and Frank who were part of the duty team (though not responsible for the unusual start lines I hasten to add).
Finally some sad news, I just heard that Robin Pryke passed away last night. Mervyn will pass on any more news for those who knew Robin.
Have a happy Easter – see you Sunday – the weather forecast still looks excellent (probably saving the rain for the wedding weekend).