Wednesday 25 April 2012

BCYC Enterprise Open

BCYC, Axbridge Reservoir
Funny old beast, our Enterprise "Penny". After Dad sold the Wanderer and traded up to the Drascombe I really missed the ready access to a relatively nimble double-hander (relative to a Drascombe Lugger that is) if only for want of a 'social' boat to sail with any friends and the
occasional guests I might bring to the Club.

So when H suggested they had the same problem and so we went halves on an old Enterprise it seemed like the perfect solution. Neither of us planned to race her much, let alone travel away with her.

We only sailed the one race for the fun of it, just for a taste. Seemed the perfect way of trying the boat out to see how well she floated. Didn't actually place very well, but discovered that we had a blast sailing together. And that's pretty much when the addiction took hold.

My poor old single-handed Europe has languished under cover ever since as we've compulsively raced the Enterprise at every opportunity and every weekend we could, to the point that I'm seriously considering selling the Europe, previously my pride and joy. And last Sunday even saw us travel away to Bristol Corinthian Yacht Club on Axbridge Reservoir for an Open event, the first of a campaign of about half a dozen such trips we have planned for this season.

We didn't fare too well. 9th place out of about 11 boats, and no worse mainly because the deteriorating conditions saw retirements in the second and third races, else we'd likely have ended last. We only actually beat one boat on the water, finishing the first race in 10th, and that was by the skin of our teeth in the first race, catching them on the last mark rounding and just scraping ahead over the line with mere seconds to spare.

But beat them we did and a win is a win.

The second race was absolute carnage. The conditions had deteriorated with heavy rain and a gusting 35kt wind kicking up a breaking swell on the mile wide Axbridge reservoir. We capsized twice before the start, the second time in the critical thirty seconds before the final starting gun, so that set the scene with us late to the line and firmly at the back of the back of the fleet with little to no chance of catching up.

The beats were brutal, and with all but two exceptions, saw all of our many, many capsizes as we were frequently overpowered and flattened. On the second lap, one of the boats ahead capsized at the windward mark, giving us the briefest of chances to catch up and restore a little of our battered dignity. But in vain, as a clumsy attempt to bear away between them and the mark saw us bowled over in similar style and despite my making the centreboard and leaning back for all I was worth,
the wind pushed us into a total inversion.

As she rolled over, H popped out from underneath the upturning hull with bare seconds and mere inches to spare, face bedraggled, eyes wide and breath spluttering as she valiently fought to master the panic that must have come with the experience of her first inversion. I managed to stop the centreboard from dropping into its case by scrabbling at it with my fingernails. With the board up for leverage and me on top of the upturned hull, we slowly pulled her back up, literally swam into the swamped cockpit, untangled the sheets, released the transom flaps and kicked the bailers down, bearing away on to the previously planned run and back into the race.

Although I'm not certain, I think the other Enterprise retired after recovering from her own capsize. I think that's what secured our 9th place finish overall.

If the beats were brutal however, the reaches were to die for, with Penny screaming along on the plane, the spray so thick in my face that I could barely see the foredeck let alone the mark we were aiming for.

We endured; by the third lap I'd lost count of how many times we'd been knocked down and bowled over, but each time we recovered and pressed on, and just managed to avoid getting lapped by leading boat in the fleet.

The finishing line came as quite the relief, four retirements from the fleet leaving us in 7th place despite being last over the line. However, exhausted and reaching the end of our physical and emotional limits we retired from the third race prior to the start.

So we were beaten in the end, by both the boat, the wind, the water and most of the rest of the fleet. But it was a fantastic day out and a terrific experience to race Penny against such a competative fleet on a water so much larger and more exposed than our own. I think we both learnt loads, and whilst the experience may have gotten the better of us this time, we'll definitely be back for more.

The next Open Meeting is in just over a week's time, but this time on home territory at Frampton, so we'll have to see how we do there. Can't wait.

Carlyon Bay, Cornwall 2012

We've been back home now for almost two and a half weeks, have since returned to racing at Frampton, dived head-long into the start of the Sail Training season and even been away again with H and Penny for a day to race at our first Enterprise Open at Bristol Corrinthian last weekend.

Not having the Lugger kept on a mooring within walking distance really does cut down your sailing time when you've (a non-sailing but eternally patient) wife and family in tow, so whilst next year I think I need to redouble my efforts to find somewhere on a waterfront that accomodates both boat, dogs and the usual eight souls (I'm thinking Helford maybe), I think the little bungalow in Crinis Close, Carlyon Bay did us just fine for our Easter break in Cornwall this year and we did, admittedly, have some fine weather to enjoy.

Despite the need to keep the boat on her trailer on the drive for the week, Dad, H and I did manage to slip away for a couple of days on the water in between day trips to Padistow, Tintagel and what I'm sure was lots of other fun stuff we did whilst we were not sailing. It does all kind of blur into one however, a kind of pleasant gauzey, background haze against which the two days out on the water sit like paintings.

The Caffa Mill slip in Fowey proved the most accessible launch, being twenty minutes from our front door, with easy, easy access by road, and very quiet this early in the year with loads of parking for car and trailer.

Our first day out was on Monday the 2nd, a couple of days into our holiday. It was bright and sunny, with a gentle southeasterly blowing, so we motored out of the harbour, set the sails and aimed for Charlestown. In the conditions, it took about two and a half hours to get there, a good part of that with me silently cursing the fact that I'd forgotten to remind Dad to bring the boom, as once around Gribbin Head it was a meditative run, with the jib goosewinged and the main ineligantly poled out with the boat-hook.

The more we take her to sea and the more we tramp around the turbulent waters of the Severn Estuary with her the fonder I'm growing of the boat, but whichever way you look at it, Drascombe Luggers are horrid dead down wind unless you break with catechism and fit a boom.

We crossed St Austell Bay under sail in a genteel drift with H on the helm, yours truely sunning himself on the foredeck and Dad muttering "Are we there yet?" and "She motor-sails really well" and "There's no wind, I should start the outboard now".

On making Charlestown just before high tide, we motored into the harbour and put in alongside some steps, but the wall was unforgiving in even the gentle swell we had, so we retreated back outside and anchored off the beach just beyond the surf. By easing the boat in astern on the anchor warp we were able to briefly plant the transom on the sandy lee shore so that Dad could step aground and go hunt down some pasties for his two crew mates.

There was nowhere in Charlestown that did take-away food this early in the year, but the pub seemed so amused that we'd arrived by sea that they made an exception and hunted around for a Tesco's carrier bag so Dad could carry lunch down to us. We subsequently feasted on Cornish pasties and tuna and sweetcorn sandwiches, just beyond the surf line off Charlestown beach, in lunchtime sunshine that felt sublimely tropical.

Friday 6th was the next day we were able to secure our release release to go play on the water again, and so we decided that we wanted to land at Polkeris.This time we had broken sunshine with a slightly stiffer, northerly wind and more of a swell. Once around Gribbin Head, staying clear of the off-lying Cannis Rock, now much more obvious with the tide well on the ebb, laying Polkeris became a series of long beats to windward.

On reaching Polkeris twenty minutes before bottom of tide, we furled the sails to motor in, but concerned about just how shallow the exceptionally clear water was getting, killed the outboard and lifted the rudder quite a fair way out, poling the rest of the way in on the oars. In hindsight it might have been more elegant to have actually rowed in, and we were certainly premature in stowing the outboard, but it worked and with the wind in the north, in the lee of the high ground behind Polkeris the beach was exceptionally sheltered and the sea mirror smooth with no more than a gentle lapping on the shore.

I walked the anchor some way up the beach, then returned to the boat to offer Hs a piggyback to the sand. Brave of her to accept, I thought, especially as the last time I did this for somebody I fell backwards with the inevitable consequences, but I managing not to drop her, and we all headed up to the pub for a lunch time drink and a bag of crisps on the patio from where we could watch and admire Ondine bobbing up and down in the gentle surf of the shoreline.

With H once more at the helm, the sail back was an enjoyably broad reach with just enough of a sea to occasionally throw a bit of spray over the foredeck, and then, with me taking over, a beat back into the mouth of the Fowey to land once again at Caffa Mill; a somewhat busier place with Good Friday traffic than we'd left it that morning, but entirely amiable.

I love Fowey, especially out of season, and can't wait to go back.

On previous visits with the Lugger we've been confined to the harbour and river above by the weather, so before this my only exposure to the sea beyond the harbour mouth was a race around the cans in a British Moth (chasing a procession of Fowey Rivers and their gorgeously coloured sails) and, a year later, a bash out to the Cannis Rock cardinal and back for the fun of it in the same boat with a couple of other moths for company.


The moth isn't exactly a sea going boat, so the intention of actually going somewhere in the Lugger gives an entirely different perspective.

Really can't wait to go back, and plans are being hatched to do so. Seriously considering a weekend trip later in the year with the idea of launching in Fowey and sailing across the bay to overnight in Mevagissy before returning to recover back in Fowey.

Thursday 5 April 2012

Tomorrow's Plan

Two more sleeps and we head home. It's been a fine week, fair weather, Cornish sun and sand and sea aplenty.

Had hoped to sail today, but the weather forecast warned Dad off. As it's turned out, it was cold with a stiff northeasterly and grey skies, but the sea state was slight, so we'd have been fine.

No matter. Last chance to sail tomorrow, so we're planning to sail out of Fowey, around Gribben Head to Polkeris and back.

A sorter trip than the jaunt to Charlestown the other day, but this one's going to be a beat all the way there, so should be a more interesting sail.

Quite looking forward to it.

Then home Saturday in time to race Sunday.

Looking forward to that as well.

Monday 2 April 2012


Launched at Fowey, sailed to Charlestown, landed on the beach and bought pasties for lunch. Sailed back to Fowey. Light winds, slight seas, blue skies. About five hours out and sixteen miles there and back. A lovely day.