It was the second week of the Spring Splash. It was snowing. It was cold. I didn’t want to get out of bed. But I forced myself and having pontificated about, got my arse in gear and found myself launching my boat with the snow full in my face.
The wind was behind me so it was an easy get out this week, and I headed out for the start line! There was another Vareo waiting for me – along with a few familiar faces from last week. The wind was steady at around 12 knots – with huge swell coming in from between the piers. If only the snow would stop.
Miraculously – it did. And then the sun came out – and more importantly stayed out. South Shields obviously has magic weather.
I worked out where the start line was based on where everyone else was sailing (turns out I was nowhere near the only one who had no idea what the course was – it was set on the back of the power boat in letters, but I think most of the visitors were guestimating around the buoys the patrol boat had dropped) and I even got my watch sorted to do a race countdown. I had listened to my own advice this week and put on my SMALL sail. And I could already tell that it was making a huge difference to me on the boat – my handling was much better than last week and I was definitely feeling more confident in the boat. The whistle went and the countdown began!
Now – in a total aside – what is all this about a 5 minute countdown? All the club racing we do is three minutes. That is at all of the clubs who had people there (Kielder, Derwent and South Shields). But because it is an ‘open’ we move to a five minute start. I can understand this if there is a huge fleet which needs more time to get positioned etc, but this seems a little crazy otherwise – is it just me? I bet someone will go all RYA on me and tell me why I’m wrong……!
My aim for this race was to get round the course and get a finish – but I generally reckon that you can lose a race on your start. So I was underwhelmed when the whistle went and I had a Topper to Winward stopping me from pointing up – poor positioning on my part and I hadn’t been keeping a close enough eye on where everyone was – it was also a good reminder of why transits are a good idea – I was obviously a country mile off the line if there was room for a Topper between me and it!
So I tacked round the back and started to work my way up the course. The sun was shining, it was a beautiful day and me and DiagoNelly were getting along famously! After my first tentative lap I suddenly realised I was in front of the other Vareo – or rather had been as it smoothly overtook me on the winward beat. Now I had my little sail on and he had a big sail, but there is no difference in PY. My sail shape was horrible as my outhaul was too short – so I had no adjustment in this area at all. And I obviously wasn’t paying proper attention as I hadn’t even realised I was ahead.
I felt sick. With adrenalin and excitement in a good way. No way was I going to let that pass, and I made a little time back on the downwind leg. It was still close but on the last lap there were three of us at the mark – myself, the other Vareo and a Laser. To say I had a poor mark rounding would be an understatement and I mournfully watched them sail off into the distance as I untied the mainsheet from my toe straps.
I finished sixth. That’s actually out of a field of eight, so not too bad…. BUT BEHIND THE OTHER VAREO. In fact I had watched him over the line and worked out based on my finish I was about 9 and a bit seconds behind him per lap. That’s huge.
Second race they moved the course – I had of course only just got used to the first one, but this time I got a good start as one of the first over the line. I was however heading for the wrong buoy. I corrected but lost some of my early advantage. My mantra was keep it simple. Keep the boat flat, use your sail settings quickly and get tight to the marks. It seemed to be working as I got round the course, but I was fighting neck and neck with the other Vareo. He got the inside line on a mark at the beginning of the second lap and I found myself behind him for the rest of the race. Not by much. Shouting distance (we shouted! In a friendly way obviously!). And by the last beat up to the finish line I knew he was ahead. I took a different path up towards the finish line – and must have got an advantage – as we came up to the finish line neck and neck….. and he beat me by 2 seconds. 2 SECONDS!!!!!!!
There’s only one thing for it. This means war. In a nice way. Kind of.
You will notice there has been no mention here of our gennakers. This is because neither of us used them. I have wanted to focus on getting my elf back in my boat, sailing on the sea etc etc without worrying about this one too. But it has become obvious that the next round could be won by whoever gets up the nerve to do this first.
I am also getting my outhaul extended so that I can correctly set my sail, and replacing my main sheet, which is a bit ‘sticky’ – it seems to be too thick.
It all feels a bit OK Corral. And I’m liking it! It’s great to actually have another boat to class race against and I really enjoyed racing, for which I have to say my enthusiasm had waned – there’s only so long being last is appealing for.
Roll on next weekend – and watch out – I’m coming to get you!