Thursday, 10 May 2018

Laser: class racing

One of the pleasures of class racing is that when you cross the finish line, if everybody else is still behind you, you know you've won.

Wednesday evening was lovely. A little cooler than it's been the last few days, but the threatened rain spotted briefly but never actually came in. Light southwesterly wind, not enough to plane, but just enough to make it interesting, to keep the boat moving and let me hike out with the occasional gust that came through.

Had a lucky race. A good start at the favoured end in clean air got me around the windward mark ahead of everybody. Jon and Pete then kept me on my toes, taking turns to snap close at my heels throughout the rest of the race, but without any major screw ups on my part, neither found the opportunity to quite squeak past.

One of the pleasures of one design class racing is there isn't a lot of difference to be be had in the speed of the boats.

There was a bit of congestion picking our way through the Handicap fleet and the Solo fleet's back markers. One poorly timed arrival at a gybe mark that meant I had to slow down and sail wide, letting Jon, not so far astern, gain precious ground on me, before cutting back in and squeezing past the inside of an Enterprise that fortunately took the mark too tight in and too wide out. Aside from that, it was relatively painless.

Then a fluky bit of pressure found me on the last beat but seemed to miss the others, and in clean air once again, gave me the chance to break clear ahead for the final lap.

Couldn't help but pause once I was over and done to take a photo of the finish line (it's between the chap in the red coat and the buoy visible afloat just off his right shoulder) whilst waiting for the others to cross it.

Forgive me if that sounds indecently smug. My first win in the new boat; I don't think they're going to let me get away with it that easy much more often.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Laser: over indulgence

I did it again Tuesday evening after work.

Sloped off to the lake to drift about on the Laser for an hour or two, that is.

A lovely evening, and a bit more wind to play with. On Monday I accidentally sheared the rivets holding the plug into the foot of the top section of the mast. Nice thing about a Laser is that the purchase of a rivet gun and a couple of rivets later and all's well again. Obviously had to take the mast section back to the lake and check it all worked before we race on Wednesday.

Also replaced the aluminium tiller and extension with a second hand carbon fibre set. Main difference is the tiller extension is longer, fatter, and has a proper universal joint attaching it to the tiller, as opposed to the old fashioned metal swivel that the original tiller had.

Makes such a difference in the handling of the boat. At some point I'll replace the tiller with a new, decent carbon fibre one. The tiller extension is perfect though, so that can stay.

Of course, Tuesday evening I really should've gone to karate, but the cough and fever still hanging on from the weekend, and doubtless aggravated by the three gigs, simply sapped the will out of me. An hour's sailing on the lake seemed a fair compromise.

Racing at the lake this evening. That will mean I've sailed the Laser three days in a row, which almost feels over indulgent, so the plan is to take Thursday evening off and go make up time back up in the dojo (posh name for the hall in Cinderford Leisure Centre) before heading back to the lake to sail again Friday evening.

Really had hoped to head down to Plymouth to sail Calstar this weekend, but apparently I have to take my wife to a friend's birthday party in town on Saturday night. I can't say I'm best pleased, which I know is horribly selfish of me as a) the friend concerned is a lovely bloke and you're only 40 once and b) my wife is generally very patient with my many and varied distractions, sailing included.

I shall therefore do my best not to sulk the whole weekend, at least not too visibly. I, of course, would vehemently claim to never sulk, but my wife has on enough occasions in the past stridently begged to differ in her own assessment, enough to make me doubt my own convictions on the matter. But even so, town on a Saturday night, and not sailing on a weekend when I could've done as I have no gigs . . . .

Let's just hope for a decent bit of wind tonight. And Friday night. And Sunday, when I'll be back at the lake again to get over a Saturday night out on the town and the effort of not sulking all the way through my friend's birthday party.

I'm really not a party person. In terms of my least favourite things to do, it's well up there with grocery shopping. I really don't do big crowds of people unless I can hide behind a guitar and microphone stand.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Laser: on a whim

In case you missed it, Monday was, apparently, the hottest May Day Bank Holiday on record.

There wasn't a lot of wind to go with it, so ordinarily I'd consider that to be rubbish weather for a holiday. However, voice shot and plagued by a hacking cough and accompanying temperature, I was very happy to distract myself by taking the Laser out on to the water for a few hours Monday afternoon despite the rubbish weather.

Although a public holiday for most of us, my wife Nik works in retail, so public holidays don't count for her. She had an 11 to 6 shift so wasn't going to miss me around the house. At least not so long as I (read: Dad) fixed the garden tap.

There was enough of a wind to make for a distracting sail, mostly practising roll tacks and gybes, holding station and then accelerating for the start, all quite different in a Laser compared to the old Enterprise I've grown used to these last half a dozen years.

There is something strangely satisfying, almost poetically so, in the balance of a good roll tack. The feel of the boat tipping over on top of you and then smoothly powering up as you switch to the other deck and roll her flat onto the new tack; the Laser seems almost designed to make the entire movement feel sweet.

You get it in an Enterprise too of course, but in a Laser the manoeuvre and feedback is almost instantaneous by comparison, the acceleration is obvious, and there is no crew to coordinate with, or for that matter, to screw it up for you.

Not that my crew ever did, to be fair. Any issues with Buffy's roll tacking was usually down to the loose nut on the tiller.

There was no racing on, but the Club was still a gentle bubble of activity, with three or four families and their kids and dogs also enjoying the warm sunshine and cool water.

One of the motivations for giving up the Ent, aside from the obvious and previously well documented issues with repairs and maintenance that were building up, was to be able to just drop down the lake on a whim whenever the mood so took me and sail by myself for a few hours.

So Monday afternoon I did exactly that. And it felt good.

Tap vs. dog

Bank Holiday Monday morning. All the gigs done, which was something of a relief this time around.

The one job I had to do before I could legitimately slope off to the lake on my own for the afternoon was to replace the garden tap that had seized up over the winter.

Not entirely trusting me to "remember" to do it before I headed out, my wife had a word with Dad, who duly came over Monday morning to help. Which meant I essentially got to watch him replace the tap for me.

I do sometimes have to wonder how on earth we'd cope without him.

It turned out to be a relatively straight forward job, once we applied enough brute force to remove the old one. Of course, aside from Dad's able assistance, I had two furry clowns who were very eager to help out . . . .

Freefall: nostalgia ain't all it used to be

Just before I was about to go on Sunday night, a lady in the audience came up to me and asked if I used to be in a band called Anastasia. Yes, I did. And didn't you used to play a song called Last Man Standing? Yes, I wrote that. Aw, she said, that used to be my favourite song!

Aside from being obviously touched, I was also quietly amused by the coincidence that a band that I'd started back in 1992 and effectively ended in 2004 would come back to nudge me out of the blue twice in one weekend. And flattered that the music we made back then touched at least a couple of souls in a way that has obviously stayed with them ever since.

Sometimes I do like people.

In the end, the third gig went fine. Our friend Paul Mullen of Panik Events was running the sound desk and worked miracles. Being the third gig in as many days, I honestly thought it was going to be the hardest on my voice. I hadn't actually been certain there was anything left of my voice aside a croak until the opening song. But it all came back in those first few bars, and vocally, the third gig turned out to be the strongest.

Could barely speak yesterday and definitely croaking today though.

Aside from the very first snap, most of the photos accompanying this post were taken the night before when we played for the Gloucester Civic Ball. One of the two charities it was raising money for was for a local dog shelter, which pleased me.

Nice thing about a Civic Ball when it's held in a posh hotel is that, whilst there is always a lot of hanging around after the soundcheck whilst the guests eat and then various dignitaries speak, it is always a comfortable environment to hang around in.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Freefall: one more for the road

Gig three. On in an hour, up on that stage there. Voice is in tatters, have developed a nasty hacking cough, think I should just have the one gig left in me though. 

Conscious that for anybody else, it's just a bit of a sniffle. For a vocalist losing his voice its laryngitis, flu, hacking cough and bubonic plague all rolled into one.

Melodramatic? I am certainly being a bit of a baby, forgive me.

All will be well when we're done in a couple of hours. And I'm definitely heading to the lake to play with the Laser in the sunshine tomorrow morning.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Long weekend

Last night's gig was fun. Hard work because I've picked up a bit of a cough and cold and am losing my voice, but fun.

A lady in the audience said to me afterwards we were the first live band she'd seen in about twenty years.

She then went on to say how she used to regularly watch bands with her friends at another Stroud pub, now long turned into a housing estate, called The Junction.

I remembered it well, used to play there often.

Do you remember a band called Anastasia, she asked.....

Um, yeah. That was us, that was me, that was my band.

Amazing how paths separate and then reconverge as this funny old life moves on.

Have another gig tonight, then one more tomorrow; missed the chance to go play with Calstar, though Dad's down there on his own this weekend. Feeling too rough to do much but try to recover between gigs, so no sailing at the lake tomorrow.

Monday is a bank holiday for us all though, so gigs done, fully intend to sneak away to the lake to play with the Laser for a few hours in the afternoon.

Weather's lovely. Looking forward to the chance to enjoy it then.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Laser: postscript

I should add that this morning everything hurts. I feel like somebody put me in a sack with a half dozen bricks then loaded me into an industrial grade tumble-dryer and put it on fast spin for an hour. I've pulled and stretched muscle-groups that I'd forgotten ever existed. Buffy could be brutal in her own kind of special way, but three hours blasting around in a Laser with an overpowered sail is a different kind of punishment all together.

Lest that sounds like an uncharacteristic slip into self-pity, it's a good kind of hurt.

I also took an uncharacteristic tumble on a bit of uneven flooring in the clubhouse before sailing yesterday, landed on face-first, fall duly broken and whatever residual good looks I may still possess preserved and protected by my hands and forearms, but aside from said forearms taking the impact, also cracked my knees on a concrete floor. I've never had the patience to walk and not run, and yesterday that caught up with me a somewhat embarrassing style.

So I'm hobbling around a bit and wondering if I'll be fit for karate this evening. Now that does sound too much like self-pity!

In any case, weather looks fun for this coming Wednesday evening, so I am aching but presently quite content and really looking forward to my next sail.

Laser: 118426

Dad and I drove up to Budworth Sailing Club in Warrington, Cheshire, on Saturday to look at a dinghy I'd found for sale on the Internet. An old 1985 Laser 1, her white hull looked to be in very good nick for her age, and she'd been updated with the XD kit (which, for the benefit of the uninitiated, are modernised, much more efficient and accessible vang, outhaul and cunningham sail controls).

And she included a combi trailer and launching trolley.

We arrived early, a couple of hours before we'd arranged to meet the seller. It turns out Budworth Sailing Club is a very friendly, active place, reminded me a lot of Frampton. Dad and I settled ourselves on a bench on the the veranda of the clubhouse to wait, but within twenty minutes, one of the members had invited me out on the safety boat with him to help start the afternoon's racing, so the couple of hours of waiting passed quite quickly.

We got back to Frampton, new boat in tow, for about 1900 Saturday night.

The following day the wind was a F4 gusting 5 from the northeast. An atypical but nasty direction for Frampton, it gets very disrupted by buildings, trees and the simple geography of the lake and so is exceptionally blustery and shifty by the time it hits the water and splits almost 90 degrees in direction at each end of the lake.

I got to the Club as early as I could to give myself time to work out how to rig the boat for the first time. Aside from attaching the clew of the main to the end of the boom, it was pretty straight forward.

Three races followed.

photo: ken elsey
I'd forgotten how nippy and nimble a singlehander could be. I got good starts in all three races, but outdid myself on the third, beating the pack around the windward mark with lots of room to spare, and leading the fleet for the next lap and a half before Phil in his much faster Aero finally overhauled me.

It was exceptionally good fun. She points exceptionally well upwind and is very quick to plane on the slightest gust, at least compared to my old Enterprise. The boat only came with a standard rig, so lacking the option of the smaller radial sail that the other Lasers racing that day had gone for, I just had to tough out the rough bits and found myself overpowered for a lot of the time. The reaches were a bit of a giggle though; the GPS on my watch recorded a high of 11.4 knots through the water in the third race. We've only ever had that sort of speed out of Calstar when hung behind a 1700hp RNLI Trent Class Lifeboat ......

photo: ken elsey
I squandered the fine start of my third race by screwing up a mark rounding and taking penalty turns and then getting knocked flat by an unanticipated gust on the beat; a simple case of not getting the sail out in time to spill the wind before the heeling of the boat trapped the boom against the water, preventing me from depowering the main any further and giving us nowhere else to go but over.

Already fully hiked out, it was an easy matter to roll over the top and onto the daggerboard, so the boat was back up and racing again very quickly, but the accumulation of mistakes eventually knocked me back to fifth place in the end, out of a fleet of thirteen.

It's clearly going to take a bit of practice to get good at this. And I'm probably going to have to bite the bullet and buy a radial sail at some point if I want to carry on playing in the big winds we occasionally get blasting through.

So three hours of hard racing on Sunday preceded by a good forty minutes of trial sail the day before on Budworth Mere, and I could only find one fault in my lovely new boat.

Her name.

Which the owner before the last had lovingly written on her transom: "Passing Wind"

Thursday, 26 April 2018

FOSSC: swapping the blue for red

It seems to be a universal truth of sailing clubs that if you stand forlornly on the shore staring wistfully out on to the water somebody will usually pop up to either a) invite you out to crew for them (or, occasionally, helm) or b) lend you a boat to race them with.

At least that seems to be how it works for me. And I'm grateful.

Wednesday was a lively day, with a boisterous southwesterly blasting up the Bristol Channel and sweeping over the lake at Frampton. I'd asked Amanda if she'd wanted to sail earlier in the week, but the co-owner of her boat, Juliet, was free for a change so they'd already agreed to sail together. Geoff was off to see his daughter in Gibraltar, so Ghost wasn't racing. And Charles and Alan already had their respective regular crews to sail with.

I had to go down the Club anyway to sort out the hand over of Buffy to her new owners. Charles' crew, Hannah, offered to give up her seat crewing for Charles, but that was a daft, if chivalrous idea and we both talked her down from that one.

So there I was, stood on the lakeside, gazing forlorn out over the wind ruffled water.....

Then Hannah asked, "Do you want to borrow my old Topper? It's a bit rubbish but . . . ."

In my mind, there is no such thing as a rubbish boat to a man with no boat. Plus the air was blustery that evening, and Toppers are a bit of a giggle in a good blow. Naturally, I almost bit her hand off. And, of course, I had my sailing kit to hand in the boot of the car even though I hadn't held out much hope of sailing. One can never be too prepared.

It was terrific fun. First time I've raced a singlehander in a very long time. Which I deftly demonstrated when a gust caught me out whilst running by the lee down to the green mark, and the little boat broached violently, surprising me with a sudden, unavoidable swim.

Nice thing about singlehanders is that capsize recovery is a complete non event, so we were back up and on our way again in very short order. However, a failure in the autobailer (easily repaired, but only once back ashore) meant that I sailed the rest of the race with a cockpit full of water.

Boats full of water are becoming something of a personal motif. Hopeful it's one I can now lose.

The rain came in and the wind died down towards the end, and in a Topper full of water, that meant a lot of time sat heavy and seemingly going nowhere; the last lap did seem to drag out a bit. But, being the same for everyone, it wasn't enough to knock me out of the lead. It almost seemed rude to borrow a boat and then beat them with it, but on the other hand, I did snap a very pretty picture of Charles and Hannah running their Enterprise "Boldly Goes" off goose-winged in to a rainbow ......

Monday, 23 April 2018

Sold: Enterprise 21870 "Buffy"

UPDATE 23/04 @ 2203hrs: Now sold to a very nice couple at the sailing club. I'm both strangely bereft to be parted from her, and quietly happy she's going to a good home. Now to find myself a Laser to play with ......

Includes launching trolley, road trailer (not a combi) and leak ……

A much loved, heavily raced and admittedly hard-used Enterprise dinghy.

Wooden hull. Carbon fibre tiller extension and flyaway jib pole. Kicker and down-haul controls led aft to helm position, dyneema main halyard, all rigging in good nick, four nearly new, airtight and frequently exercised buoyancy bags. Boom up cover is a bit grimy and has a broken strap but otherwise good condition. Includes a very worn suite of sails, main sail has a couple of taped patches along the shroud line.

Decks very much in need of re-varnishing, white hull needs a fresh coat of paint.

Launching trolley and road trailer included. NOT a combi, but the road trailer carries the boat on her trolley with judicious use of appropriate lashings. Trailer has been stood in the grass in her berth unused for some years; wheels turn but can make no guarantees as to the safety of the trailer or the condition of the wheel bearings.

IMPORTANT: She currently has a significant leak, suspect centreboard case is failing and will need some potentially extensive work to make sound again. I’ve got neither the time nor the talent to do the necessary, hence the price being asked and the reason for sale.

Currently lying in her berth at Frampton-on-Severn Sailing Club.