Monday, 2 March 2020

SCSC: fifteen

I finally got back out on the water on Sunday.

John races a Flying Fifteen called "Silkworm" at South Cerney, and his regular crew was poorly, so our mutual friend Dave, seeing that my own boat still had work to be done before she was fit to relaunch, volunteered me.

The Fifteen is a keel boat, about 20' long; the biggest and heaviest boat raced at South Cerney. Despite being a keel boat, she essentially sails like a big dinghy, complete with toe-straps to hike out on. With the wind gusting up into the high twenties or more, the reaches were very fast and very wet; as the gusts hit we'd slide our weight aft, I'd hike out hard to help keep her flat, and Silkworm would climb up onto the plane in an exultant ball of spray and adrenaline.

John, whom I'm sure he wouldn't mind me saying, is in his early eighties, is clearly a bit of a speed freak. On more than one occasion as we tore down the reach we were both whooping like teenagers with the exhilaration.

The Fifteen is a muscular boat that seems to love heavy weather. And John is a deft helm around the race course. Out of the thirteen boats racing, we took a very creditable third place.

Three didn't finish. My usual crew Amanda sailed with my mate Mark in a borrowed Albacore. They're just off our port bow in the picture above, having just caught and passed us. They would've had a very good result, except on the penultimate lap they wiped out in a big gust on the second gybe mark. Mark slipped and the boom got him on the head as it came over, giving him a good smack that ended their race.

Nothing broken thankfully, although he spend most of the rest of Sunday in an A&E department in Bristol strapped to a spine board waiting for them to run a CT scan to double check. But he's now got four stitches in his scalp that are going to slow him down for a week or two.

Our Albacore made it back to the club on Sunday, most of the work done, but some splicing of the shroud control lines still needs to be finished, and the patched up centreboard needs to be refitted. Because it was blowing a hoolie, we secured her back in her berth and postponed the mast raising until next Wednesday.

The splice work means the mast is going to have to stand un-stayed whilst the lines get cut to length and spiced. Not a problem ordinarily as the mast is keel-stepped, but with the wind gusting up to the 30's, patience and discretion were the better part of valour on Sunday.

However, once we're finished, the Albacore's rig will have been fully modernised: adjustable shroud and forestay tension plus independent adjustment of the port and starboard shrouds, mast ram and prebend controls, all led back to the helm. We've also replaced the kicker, jib sheets, main sheet, and toe-straps, resealed and refinished the cockpit floor and patched a chunk that was missing out of the trailing edge of the centreboard.

We now need to refit the board, put the mast up and finish splicing the shroud lines. Then, once we've tuned and calibrated her controls, she'll be race-ready.

By which time Mark will hopefully have had his stitches out and we can get back to chasing each other around the lake.

Rather than attempting all this myself, Paul at CS Boats has been doing the work for us. Dealing with tradesman can often be a bit of a nightmare, especially if it's got anything to do with boats. But dealing with Paul has been an absolute pleasure.

Aside from his huge, infectious enthusiasm, it helps that what he doesn't know about Albacores isn't worth knowing.

He's also kind to dogs.

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