Most of last week was spent camping on the side of the reservoir at Chelmarsh Sailing Club where I raced in the British Moth Nationals; a class I sailed for some years and will always be terribly fond of. When one of the members at Chelmarsh generously offered me the loan of one of his boats, sail number 829, I simply couldn’t resist. I drove up on Tuesday, the day before the event started, to get settled in and have a chance to set up and sail the boat before the event started Wednesday morning.
To be fair, I didn’t do the boat justice. This was the third Nationals I’ve sailed at, and was my worst result by far. The first race started great, in the top five around the windward mark, then at the subsequent downwind mark I got hit by a nasty gust as I rounded and was unceremoniously tipped in. It was my only capsize of the week, but put me to the back of the fleet and set the trend for the decline in my results over the week that followed.
|photo: peter styles|
|photo: peter styles|
But it didn’t stop me enjoying myself. A class of boat I love (though have clearly forgotten how to sail), and a week in the company of many old friends, good food, good beer and my guitar. I drank rather a lot but am pretty certain I succeeded in not embarrassing myself; even though I danced all night to the band that played followed the championship meal on Friday evening, I’m assured that what happens on tour stays on tour. There is a good reason I don’t normally dance in any other circumstances!
|photo: roger witts|
The final race was at 1000 Saturday morning. Fun conditions, very shifty, very gusty. Off the water by 1100, packed the boat away, reiterated my thanks to my host for his generosity in lending her to me, and then said goodbye to friends and skipped the presentation to get home in time to shower, change and get back out for a gig at 1700. A birthday party beneath a pavilion in the grounds of the local Farmer’s Club, it rained as we were setting up and absolutely poured down as we were packing away which made keeping the instruments, lights and PA safe a bit of a challenge, but failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the audience.
|photo: debbie wade|
On Sunday Nik was working all day, so there was nothing else to do but get up and shake off the late night and then to head down to Frampton to race for the afternoon. The first race was the second week of the Pro Am series I wrote about previously. I had the chance to add the Racing Coach endorsement to my sailing instructor’s ticket a few years ago but intentionally dodged it. I like teaching people to sail, but racing is a personal adventure, and not something I feel especially comfortable explaining or teaching. A simple matter of confidence. Every start, every mark rounding and every crossing boat still feels like a lottery with respect to whether or not it’ll go right. A bit like my relationship to karate, with this I shall ever be but the fumbling student.
So having to line up the prefect demonstration of a racing start with somebody quite new to dinghies crewing for you in the boat, explain what you’re doing, what you’re thinking and what you’re trying to achieve, whilst desperately trying not to foul any of the other eight double-handers vying for their space on the line or otherwise not make yourself look stupid was a touch stressful. The conditions were very blustery, F4 gusting 5 but with big lulls to throw you off guard, and as always on the lake, very shifty.
It worked though, and we hit the line at speed, on time and bang in the right place. Third around the windward mark, ceding first and second place to a couple of lighter crews with very experienced helms, we held our position in the fleet through the next thirty minutes to finish a respectable third.
The next trick was to replicate the start in a second race, but with my crew-mate now on the helm and me coaching. The last thirty seconds were a little tense, with the fleet all luffing up about us, then we found our space to bear away and accelerate in the final few seconds and pulled it off again. Our upwind speed was good through the next half hour, but our tacks showed the need for some more practice, and up in the regrettable wind shadow at the top of the course (the marks should’ve been laid well clear of it) we caught a very unlucky break that saw us drop out of the back of the fleet at one point.
We part salvaged our dignity on the last lap however, spotting and catching a good lift up the beat followed by a clean air reach that saw us take two places back to finish in a not disreputable seventh place.
|photo: ken elsey|
Then I got bloody minded, grabbed a bottle of water and went anyway.
|photo: ken elsey|