Sunday 8 Jan
A welcome return to warm (well warm for winter) gentle winds from the gales of recent weeks. Before sailing we put all the Solos back where they should be – please note you DO need to tie your boat down. If you are in the main section with the scaffolding I don’t think there is any risk of the anchors pulling out, a strong tie over the boat is enough, although as Eddie will attest a spacer bar over the tanks to avoid excessive force on the edge of the gunnel is even better.
The start seemed to me to have shifted to a slight starboard bias (from being even or marginally port when we launched). Ah – yes that is a key point - to get to the start on time you do have to launch on time… Even though we are the last fleet to start Paul and I were the only boats on the line at the designated time. Since there was a decent fleet just launching we elected to wait and persuaded the RO to keep doing two minute intervals until the fleet arrived. Finally we were all ready – during the wait the wind was slowly lifting on starboard – always a good idea to watch the progression and the delay made it more pronounced. I had planned to come up towards the line almost close hauled to shut out anyone attempting to reach in round the committee boat but I got my timing wrong. It’s amazing how long it takes to drive up through the dirty air of stationary boats to windward. I’d almost got up to the line as we started but I was still slightly late. Coming up under Merv I realised that although in theory he was windward boat he wasn’t going to be able to respond quickly as he was almost stationary stopped on the line (I wasn’t sure if I’d approached from clear astern or alongside but whichever I figured I had to give him time to respond) The only way I was going to miss him and not be right under all the other early starters was to luff very hard up round his transom as he was still mostly pointing down the line. Clearly I should have been thinking further ahead but I was still in ‘got to get up to the line mode’ and moving quickly. I went for the gap but getting up past Merv’s transom pushed me into a tack and then I couldn’t avoid fouling Peter H and another boat possibly Dave C who were coming in late but right on the committee boat. I apologised that I was avoiding Mervyn – true but still my fault – so I did my 720 on the line and started plain last! Given that Paul and I were the only ones out on time it was a bit ironic that we both made poor starts. Paul hadn’t spotted the wind shift and had started down the line a bit, I was just rather late after making a 720.
So, late but in the right place. At least that meant I could tack for clear air. Looking up the beat there wasn’t very much clue because having waited four minutes for the fleet the lasers has gone round the windward mark. However the fact that the wind was slowly freeing on starboard suggested to me that I should start the beat on port (before the heading wind on port made it even worse) and then take advantage of the lifting starboard tack to be on the inside of the wind bend. This worked well and allowed me clear air and a chance to recover some lost ground. Peter Cottrell had got away very cleanly and had a clear lead, Mike Lipscombe next then in quick succession Gareth, Tony, Paul. Now we had the next lesson in preparation – you have to know the course. For a while we all (except Peter H) started following Peter C towards mark 5 not mark 4. The result was that when we remembered and bore away it became a dead run. Peter C had enough of a lead to get round clear ahead. Mike L still second but only by a whisker. Tony P got water on me while I had water on Paul. Mike was still clearing the mark as Tony approached at speed so Tony had to duck Mike’s transom. Mike didn’t make the sharpest round-up giving me a gap so I was able to round close to the mark slightly upwind of Mike and start the second beat in clear air to windward of Mike and just ahead of Paul while Tony footed fast below Mike. I again elected to head slightly right making several tacks while Tony continued heading left on a long starboard tack eventually tacking back for the mark. Honours even – I started the leg just behind Tony and ended the leg tacking under him as he rounded the mark.
As we approached the second windward mark Tony was coming in on port, and I think marginally over standing. I was coming in fast on starboard and for a while it wasn’t clear that Tony would cross. I think that’s why he went slightly high of the mark. Although Tony was crossing ahead of me there was a gap by the mark so I threw in a tack into the gap. Wasn’t sure what would happen but I figured that we would be changing course by more than 90 degrees so it was worth trying to tack under Tony because I was coming in with really good speed. To my slight surprise I made the tack and wasn’t completely blanketed by Tony – the wind seemed to have headed a bit on the start of the reach so although only alongside him I still just had clear air because the wind was ahead of the beam. That gave me a chance to drive up into clear air. Not sure what had happened to Mike on the beat but I know Tony and I were now chasing Peter C who still had a lead of about 20 yards. Down what eventually became a broad reach we pretty much held position. I couldn’t catch Peter and Tony couldn’t catch me so end of lap one – Peter C from Gareth from Tony then (not sure of the order – Paul, Mike and Mervyn all quite close – didn’t see Peter H but I know he wasn’t far away). Up the second beat Gareth and Tony worked through Peter who stayed a comfortable third. Again Gareth tacking the smaller shifts and Tony making longer tacks but no major changes in position. Over the last lap the gaps at the front extended while the gaps between 3, 4, 5, 6 seemed to close up although Peter C was never really threatened in third.
So… lessons learned…:
· Be on the start 10 minutes before the start – that way you can check the conditions and if you get a small issue you still make the start (we might not always wait for you...)
· Check the course and double check the course when you get to the committee boat…
· Don’t get trapped in the second rank below the line – there is very little wind and it is really hard to get going.
· A 720 on the line isn’t the best start…
· Good mark rounding can gain or lose several boat lengths – start slightly wider, end really close and get the power on quickly and smoothly when rounding up.
I think it was also one the best races we’ve had for a while. Plenty of boats and good close racing.
In the B2B the first start was very port biased – Peter Curtis and I both came in on port, tacked in gaps under the boats coming down the line and drove up hard for the line. James Curtis got the perfect start coming down the line and hitting the pin on the gun, I started just behind him having tacked into the line and driven up and Peter Curtis started another boat length or so behind me. Peter and I both tacked and crossed the fleet but Peter then tacked left while I continued right. Talking afterwards we had both spotted patches of wind in different places. Strangely we both gained so that at the end of the first beat Peter was in the lead (well in the 200 he should be) but I was second on the water. At the end of the first lap I was still second on the water but Peter had pulled out quite a lead. Inevitably the leading lasers eventually caught me but what I lost as they overtook I could regain by using their waves. Tony and Paul had a close tussle all race but on handicap were separated by the leading laser. Overall I just pipped Peter by 5 seconds on handicap with James Curtis in the Feva third (his great start probably gave him clear wind for most of the first beat) – in light/medium winds that is quite a result for the Feva which is normally better in strong winds.
B2B 2 followed a similar pattern to B2B 1 but the RO had bought the windward mark in a bit so the first reach was now too shy for the 200s making it relatively better for the single handers. The run of close results continues with one second between 2nd (laser) 3rd (RS200) and 4th (Feva) and another few seconds to 6th (Laser). Paul and Tony continued their scrap most of the way round probably costing them in the overall with Paul sneaking back past Tony on the run with some good tactical gybing and Peter H closing quickly on the pair of them.
Overall a most enjoyable day’s sailing. Not too cold, enough wind to sail nicely but not too strenuous.
This weekend looks colder, but at the time of writing the forecast looks like gentle easterly with some sunshine. Perfect winter sailing weather for everyone.