Round the Cans

This Sunday I went sailing with my Dad. As I’ve mentioned before, my Dad windsurfed rather than sailed, and did his best to encourage me in this pursuit. I never got far, preferring to use the board as a canoe for exploring the lake.

Recently I gave it another go, but found that as I have no coordination or balance this wasn’t as easy as it looks. Essentially I spent short periods of time wobbling on a board, followed by much longer periods of flying through the air and landing in the water.

So a few years ago when my Dad started to sail and come up to the lake it was really nice to have something we could all talk about and share.

This year for the first time we are doing a series together – him helming and me crewing. I’m not bad crew usually, the ‘bottom of ballast’ is a key advantage in a boat like my Dads (Flying Fifteen) and at key moments I do indeed deploy the bottom to tactical advantage. Pass me another pie.

So this was the first race – and the weather was lovely – really hot with a 3 with a few gusty bits in it, so it was always going to be a slower race with plenty of time to chat and pontificate about how much better than the rest of the boats we were doing. Well we could dream…

But as the countdown came to an end and we got over the line we weren’t doing badly following Ernie (the fastest milkman in the west) on the beat up the course. The wind was patchy, but we had headed for the right hand side of the course where there was definitely a little more wind. Our first concern was where the first mark was – we had a vague idea but with some of the recent weather the marks are all over the place – and as we overtook Ernie it became increasingly important we worked out where it was. We sighted it and got on a good line – just as a couple of bothersome future-Olympiads in a Laser 2000 called starboard on us. We tacked and had to follow them round the mark – our only consolation being that we were still holding position in second. Catching the wind as we headed off across the lake we sailed straight for the next buoy. I don’t mind telling you we were a little stressed – we were second – ahead of four other boats (I know – poor turnout. A lot of people weren’t back from the away cruise at Tighnabruaich) – and we realised there was only one way to keep our position – get to the gybe point and get the kite up!

Little nervous about this – last time we’d done it I’d ended up spending slot of time crawling around on the foredeck in windy weather.

But against all expectations we got it up smoothly enough, and without me braining my Dad with the spinnaker pole, and with a bit if tinkering the boat took off – closely followed by Ernie and Rob (the newly incumbent sailing commodore) in a race rigged Wayfarer who had also managed to cleanly hoist and were bearing down on us!

But we made it to the bottom of the run, and with only one adventure on the foredeck got the spinnaker down, hardened up and tacked up through the gate, beating back up the course.

At this point we remembered to breathe and looked at each other going “Really?!? We’re still in second?!?! “

We lost some water on the way up to the mark, but were heartened to see the children swimming rather than sailing around the mark – but the Wayfarer was gaining – we pointed up and made the mark as the Laser 2000 took back off across the lake. With a bit of wind we were pulling away – only to find ourselves being overtaken to leeward by a bright pink Dart 18 which was steaming past in our dirty air – and glancing back Ernie and Rob were hoisting the kite – that’s right they were going to reach across and then gybe it round the mark.

With one thought my Dad and I prepared the ropes and… didn’t hoist as we plainly knew there was no way we would get it through a gybe – and besides we were nearly there – we came round the mark a little enthusiastically and did a perfect hoist at which the boat lurched up onto the plane – I was just hanging on to those sheets as we held the line right down the lake, brought it down, rounded the mark and made it through the gate in third.

We both looked at each other and started to breathe again – while being vaguely hysterical as we watched Ernie, my brother and the boat fixer finish. We even did a cool hand like we were down with the kids!

We knew we would be reshuffled with handicap, but it felt good – it tasted like victory.

And you know what? Even with handicap we came third – 32 corrected seconds behind the fastest milkman in the west and the sailing commodore – with those irksome kids in first.

So if we can just learn to gybe with that kite up….!

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