Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Buffy: a comedy of errors

Wednesday evening racing at Frampton saw me clueless. Sorry, I mean crewless. Or perhaps both? Hadn't heard from Hels again; she's been, understandably, very preoccupied of late with things both domestic and professional away from the lake. And Ben had, regretfully, informed me he'd already made other promises.

I suspect after having checked the forecast first. Beginning light, then fading further as the evening drew in. Not his kind of weather, especially if I'm asking him to crew in the front of the boat whilst I helm.

Undeterred, I turned up anyway and got the boat out. It's far from impossible to race an Enterprise single-handed, just not as much fun and decidedly uncomfortable in a drift; it's next to impossible to get the balance and trim right and still sit somewhere where you can see what's going on.

First lesson of the evening: even if you don't have a crew, find somebody else to help before you try and tension the jib with the highfield lever.

The highfield puts about 400lbs of tension into the rig, which is a lot to pull on with a six inch lever. You achieve this by getting the crew to hang on the forestay with their body-weight, pulling the mast forwards to absorb the initial tension whilst you pull the lever on.

Crewless, I figured I'd be clever and push back on the forestay myself with my foot whilst pulling the lever on with my right hand, left hand braced against the mast for balance. Seemed a simple enough stretch.

Of course, the lever, which moves through 180 degrees, initially pulls out towards the stern of the boat and then continues to push down and forwards towards the bow. By this point, it's got a fair bit of energy in it. And at this point of reversal, my hand slipped and the lever sprung back up, abrading a six inch long scratch up my wrist towards my hand.

Belatedly realising the error of my ways, I grabbed a handy Laser sailor to hang off the forestay temporarily and continued rigging the boat, trying my best not to get blood on the sails.

It would be good to say the foolishness ended there, but of course it didn't.

On the water I got a more than acceptable start. The line was horrifically port biased, which everybody else seemed intent on ignoring, so I tried a port flier and, typically, mistimed it and had to duck the leading starboard boat.

But I recovered well, the boat moving quicker than the other four Enterprises on the water, a combination of clean hull, shiny foils and just my weight in it, I suspect. I reached the windward mark just ahead of "Ghost" and just behind Charles in the lead boat, "Boldly Go". I tacked on to port behind him but clear ahead of the rest of the fleet and followed Boldly around the mark, leaving it to starboard.

At which point we found ourselves facing the rest of the now closing fleet. They pointed out to us it was supposed to be a port rounding. The Enterprise "To Boldly Go" had boldly went. The wrong way. And I, like a lemming, and boldly followed.

In trying to unwind my course and tack the mark on the correct, port side, I inadvertently caught Alan's Enterprise on its forestay with the end of my boom. Everybody was moving slow enough for the contact to be fleeting and no damage to occur, I'm not even sure Alan noticed. However, concluding my 720 degree penalty turn, I lost track of the windward mark and soundly thumped into it.

Another 360 degrees penalty turn complete, and I was finally on my way again, with only Henry in the rear most Enterprise now for company.

Over the course of the following hour, I slowly climbed back through the fleet until I was back on the tail of the lead Enterprise, Ghost. I then rather enthusiastically rounded up around a leeward mark in pursuit, lost track of it and misjudged it in the by then very fading drift, and heard another unmistakable, resounding thump on the hull.

More turns.

I finally finished second. Which was more than I deserved. Well ahead of the rest of the fleet, but significantly behind Ghost. It turns out that the function of a crew-mate in an Enterprise is not, as I'd previously thought, to balance the boat, to trim the foresail, to position the centreboard or operate the flyaway pole.

The function of the crew is to keep me from being stupid so I actually have a chance of winning the race.

It was however, my own idiocy not withstanding nor the occasionally frustratingly light conditions, a lovely evening to be out on the water however. I'm already looking forward to next week, crew available or not.

On a more serious note, I guess I'll see how this season goes. It's complicated by the joint ownership of the boat; Hels owns half of her, so I can't just go out and promise the crew's seat to anybody as she rightfully has first call on it. So if she can't make it then any backup crew is always going to be at short notice. But if I continue to be frustrated on the crewing side of things, I guess that's telling me the time has come to sell my half on and go get a single-hander; inevitably a Laser, I suppose.

We shall see. I love double-handed racing, but for it to work, it needs a crew-mate that's as reliably committed and as obsessed with the whole thing as you.

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