Monday, 11 May 2015

Bumps for the ducking thereof

photo: ken elsey
Had a great day's racing on Sunday with our Enterprise "Buffy" on the lake at Frampton. Winds a little west of south west, gusty, highly variable and generally building through the afternoon; by the second race, they peaked at an average of about 17 knots. A couple of the course marks were deep in the shadow of a large tree on the windward shore, so were plagued by unpredictable shifts of forty-five degrees or more, complete lulls in the wind, or sudden, brutal, boat-flattening gusts.

The racing proved to be a bit of a contact sport, although for a change it was other folks hitting me.

In the first race, in the first beat, we were in the thick of the scrum congesting on the starboard layline with a bit of height to spare but lots and lots of dirty wind from the surrounding sails. We were controlling our speed on the approach so as to not charge over the slower boats that had got there first when a Laser came barrelling in on port, cutting in front of us and then tacking, which was a marginal move but excusable in the excitement, although he really should have ducked. However, he then bore away to the mark on top of us, taking a line straight for it, seemingly oblivious to all the other boats already there, ourselves included.

Fortunately, in all the foul air, boat-speeds were low even if tempers and the language were high. Our bows were pushed into his port stern quarter, his weight shoving us down on to a Topper that I'd otherwise been both obliged and endeavouring to give room to. Our collective weight shoved the poor Topper below the windward mark whilst we slid onto it. We scraped around, making our opinion of the situation very clear to the Laser concerned, along with the demand that he took his due penalty turns.

For once, it didn't do us much harm. The pandemonium of the collision had the rest of the fleet behind piling up on each other and the mark, confused and tangled up together in a noisy, shouty and chaotic furball, giving us a welcome gap and some nice, clean air for a fast reach down to the next mark.

The other bumps came in the second race. We'd rounded the leeward mark Green just a shade ahead of our friends and nemesis in their Enterprise "Ghost", and were beating up to Green-Yellow under the shadow of the afore mentioned tree. We were both close-hauled and fetching the next mark, Ghost comfortably so, but with us needing to pinch somewhat and quietly praying for a lift. Ghost was just to windward of us and slightly abaft, and so eating our dirty air; what we were loosing in boat speed they were loosing twice in height, and having great difficulty pointing to match us.

A few boat lengths out, Ghost just closing to overlap us on the outside and to windward, we were hit by a gust. I hardened up into it, warning Ghost they were windward and to keep clear. Unwilling to tack away and cede us the advantage, they pressed on but couldn't point any higher. They slid into us, and we just cleared the mark to leeward. As we bore away, I lent back and my head and upper body fully in their cockpit observed, conversationally, that I was pretty certain they were still the windward boat.

As we fended off and the boats separated, Ghost conceded and graciously did her penalty turns whilst we reached away towards the next mark.

But talking of bumps......

It was a great day's racing. We took 5th out of 23 boats in the first race. However, we had to retire from the second, despite getting out in front of Ghost; Hels had clouted her head hard with the boom during a clumsy tack a little prior to the start. After the initial stunning had worn off, she'd held out heroically and insisted we pressed on, but the injury took its toll. About 45 minutes in, she was beginning to feel faint, so I dropped the mainsail and we headed back to shore. Behind us, Ghost continued the race, taking a hard earned 4th place in the end.

With the ground firmly under her once more, she rallied once more. Whilst undoubtedly a little concussed, I think, fortunately, no serious harm was done. But it would have been foolish to have continued out on the water. There will be other days, and I was very pleased with how well we'd sailed together in quite taxing conditions.

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