So this weekend was packed at the sailing club – we had visiting T15 windsurfers, cruising, racing, BBQing and the clubs Little Americas Cup on Monday. It was probably the busiest weekend the club has seen for a while – despite appalling weather – veering from no wind and sunshine, to torrential rain with anything from no wind to really strong gusts coming in.
Now the Little Americas Cup is one of my favourite events – in homage to the original yacht racing in which our Olympic Gold Medal winner Ben Ainslie is competing at the moment. Sorry – promised I would drop the Olympics didn’t I.
You’ll notice I said ‘Little’. So don’t think this
It’s a one day series ran in those infamous Toppers…… yep we’re back to those again… and the whole club match races against each other in these tiny craft, all on the same course in back to back races ran really close to shore for maximum jeering. It can be a long day as you need to race everyone in your group and then there are semi’s between your group and the other groups and then up to a finals.
Having not done enough sailing this year I really felt this would be a great idea – especially in the sheeting rain with promises of big winds and gusts of up to 38 knots. What I actually thought was ‘what the hell, I’m always knocked out early doors and at least I’ll have shown willing and with any luck I’ll be able to justify some cake if I’ve been sailing’.
So after an evening of preparing in the bar we were all ready to go.
Following my recent posts about Ood’ing it’s also a really complicated one to run. This year our Rear Commodore was back in the chair having ran this for a number of years. And he did something I have never seen before. Set up a course with a running start.
What this means is that the start line is DOWNWIND, round a P course and then a beat UPWIND to the finish. I only worked out what this meant as I wasn’t in the first race, so I could watch how to do it, but the course looked a little like this –
Actually the wind and rain were a bit more wonky than that, but you get the gist!
So the clubs six Toppers were rigged and tied to the jetty and the racing began. Each race is between two people from a group – and three of these races take place on each start. So you get a hoot to start the countdown – which is two minutes and at the end of this two minutes the first pair set off, followed a minute later by the next pair, and the third pair go a minute after that! Added to which to keep it fair you must change boat every race – so that there is no tactical advantage from one of the very high quality boats being set up better than another (i.e. having all its bits in working order). The boat to avoid has usually been Jester – with a slow leak, but after some remedial work prior to last years race he went from zero to hero becoming the most favoured boat due to his racing orange colouring.
It’s not confusing at all.
On top of this watching the adults trying to climb onto these ridiculously light boats from the jetty is a sport all of its own… I wasn’t the only one who had my only capsize while trying to swap boats between races.
But the unusual course and start were not the only oddity. This year we had the tightest racing the club has seen in at least my time. People were doing tactical maneuvers, ‘covering’ people on the upwind leg, positioning themselves for mark overlaps, stealing wind on the downwind and generally doing things you would not expect to see. And as its so far into shore and ran from the jetty – there are always lots of spectators waiting for their next race – cheering – and it turns out… taking notes.
So what started as a few people who had worked out some tactics, became a few more people who had also got tactics, followed by lots of people who had tactics and the tightest racing we have seen for ages. Both the semi finals and finals all went to sail-off’s the results were so close.
So why am I telling you all this?
Well firstly because I thought you would be interested in what is in our club an unusual and fun event, secondly to tell you about an exciting downwind start, thirdly to share what a great way of running racing this is for raising the standard of racing across your club and get more people involved, and lastly
I actually came third in a proper race event.
I still don’t believe it.