Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Blue sky chills

Sunday was a chilly one.

It read -2C on the dial as I scraped the frost off the car. We drove to the club half expecting to find the lake iced over, but arrived to discover the water, on our windward shore by the club house at least, quite liquid and ice free and a small collection of fellow enthusiasts by the lakeside rigging their boats to race.

photo: ken elsey
I was sailing with my eldest son, Ben, so had the pleasure of crewing whilst trusting him to the helm. He's far to big and clumsy these days to be entrusted to the front of the boat.

Two races were scheduled, the first a pursuit, and the second a class fleet race.

The pursuit didn't go well. Annoyingly, we neglected to tension the jib before launching and didn't spot our mistake until we'd started and were half way up the first beat wondering why on earth we couldn't point up into the wind at all. On an Enterprise rig tension is achieved with a highfield lever at the bottom of the mast. One crew member hangs on the forestay to take the pressure out of the rigging with their body-weight whilst the other pulls the lever on. Obviously this isn't possible on the water, but we managed to brute-force the lever directly with a combination of both mine and Ben's weight combined.

photo: ken elsey
I can still feel the bruising from the experience in the bones of my hand, but needs must.

It was an indifferent result. Despite the forecast promising a F4 gusting 7 (off Portishead at least, I'd neglected to check the local forecast for Frampton) the winds on the lake were easterly, light and fickle. Ben's least favourite conditions. His over-enthusiastic roll-tacking almost capsized us twice, which he quite unfairly tried to blame on me. The boat is still leaking around the centreboard case; this, along with the two near missed capsizes meant that I spent an inordinate amount of time in the bottom of the boat mopping icy water out of the bilges with a sponge, there being nowhere near enough wind to get the auto-bailers working.

At least the sun was shining. It was, in fact, a gorgeously pretty day if you could just grit your teeth and bring yourself to see it past the chilblains in your fingers.

We finished the first race an inglorious 7th out of 13 boats.

photo: ken elsey
The second race, which in the handicap fleet saw us competing against an array of Toppers, British Moths and a Mirror, was an altogether better affair. The wind picked up a little, but still remained fickle and unreliable. The start was a chaotic jumble, the line possibly a little too short for the number and variety of boats competing in our fleet. Ben crossed it well however,  screaming "Starboard!" at a poor, hapless Topper trying to duck around everybody suddenly in their way (sorry Hannah, the boy's an inconsiderate ass), and moving as best we could in the light air on starboard, closest to the committee boat end as the starting gun sounded, giving us a free choice as to when to tack off to port.

photo: ken elsey
I can't remember if we beat everybody to the windward mark, but it felt good and set the tone for the race to follow.

We sailed well together, the "practice" of the first race put firmly behind us. We broke out into the front of the fleet early enough, and stayed clear ahead of the Laser and Solo fleets throughout so they didn't foul our air. We lapped the Mirror and one of the three Toppers fairly early on, and inextricably drew away from the British Moths; by about halfway through we'd put the necessary three and a half minutes between us and them that we needed to beat them on handicap.

photo: ken elsey
In the end, we caught one of the two remaining Toppers, but the final Topper, with Sue at the helm, stayed teasingly ahead of us throughout to finally beat us on handicap with a little over 30 seconds of adjusted time to spare, leaving us in 2nd place out of the 7 boats racing in our fleet.

It was a good race though, and lovely to be out on the water with Ben.

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