Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Spaghetti South Western

For entertainment purposes only, the above is the track of of the last
race of the Winter Series at Frampton, this Sunday just gone.

As previously mentioned I think, it proved to be our worst result of the
series, finishing 7th out of 17, but it was fun.

I've been reflecting on our sailing at Frampton. If you'd told me eight
or nine years ago when I first came back to this game and joined the
club there, that I'd get so involved with the racing scene, I'd probably
have scoffed. That I did get lured in, and relatively quickly at that,
is very much credit to the inclusive, welcoming racing fleet and the
overall friendly atmosphere at Frampton. The racing is a big part of
what's kept me tied to the Club, but it's been as much about the friends
I've made and the people I sail with as it's been about the sailing.
Actually, that's not fair. I'd say more so; much, much more so.

And that says a lot for the people at the Club, because I think we've
already previously established how I feel about sailing. With Calstar,
we've now got a bigger boat and wider ambitions than can be contained on
the lake at Frampton, but I don't think it matters much where we go with
her, Frampton will remain home.

But I digress.

I thought that racing at Frampton was initially about providing enough
variety to such a small lake to enable the sailing to keep its interest.
You can only cruise past the same old swan, duck or willow tree so many
times before the repetition starts to wear. When you're racing, the
landscape is set my the wind and the other boats on the water, and
that's never the same from one race to the next. It's endlessly
challenging, at least viewed from within, and from the perspective of
somebody at my level of racing. Perhaps in another twenty years time or
so when I'm consistently beating everybody I meet out on the water it'll
finally grow dull.

So I originally thought that the racing was simply about maintaining
engagement. The actual result didn't really matter, and as well, because
for the first year or so pretty much every race was a futile chase and a
study in transom spotting as I struggled to keep up with the back of the
fleet. Of course, I'm only studiously non-competitive when I feel I've
no chance of winning. The result does matter, and the race kept dragging
me back week after week. And so the results improved.

And it's been a study in psychology through each season. In the
beginning I'd have exulted to have simply not been last. By the time I
was catching the back markers, that didn't feel like enough and I
hungered for a mid-fleet finish. For the last couple of years or so I've
usually picked up a bit of glassware with a 2nd or 3rd place overall in
any series I've completed, but even that success, grand by the standards
of the early years, is dulled by the fact it isn't a win. So I get a
buzz from the competition, and that is probably as much a part of the
enduring engagement as the variety racing brings to my sailing.

But actually, I think the greatest attraction and benefit of racing at
Frampton is simply the huge amount of time spent on the water over the
year and the tangible benefits all that practice brings to my boat
handling and sail-craft. Because we're racing, we go out all weekends,
in pretty much all weathers. I know my boat and her limits just as I
know my own, and I get a real rush from exploring them and occasionally
pushing them. I know the waters I sail on, and how they're likely to
behave on any given day in any given conditions.

Whether drifting through the fog taking a best guess at where the next
mark is and trying not to breath for fear of upsetting the balance of
the boat and setting of the sails, or screaming down a planing reach in
the teeth of a gale wondering how on earth we're going to manage the
gybe coming up at the end of it, you feel alive, utterly trapped and
embraced within the moment.

I think we're going to have to find people to race Calstar with. Sure,
she's a cruising boat by design and intention, not a racer, and we
brought her wanting to explore, not chase around the cans. But I'd like
to get to know her as well as I know Buffy, and I want to get to know
her home waters as well as I know my home lake at Frampton.

I think to do that, we're going to need to race.

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