Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Laser: sanguin grit

photo: roger gribble

There were two races over the Christmas break at Frampton. The John Sanguin Cup on Boxing Day, and the True Grit Trophy on New Year's Day. I've done both most years, in a variety of boats, but with the Albacore at South Cerney, and nothing going on there until the first weekend of January, Christmas became strictly Laser season.

There was a little more wind for the John Sanguin, though both days were light. Despite that, I still managed to capsize the Laser on Boxing Day. It was all going well, until I followed a Solo and another Laser around the windward mark of the course. They both cleared the mark, but went wide and, somehow, the Solo infringed on the Laser.

Seeing the michief, I came in to the mark behind them and bore away hard to exit nice and tight, intending to pass them both. The Solo then decided to take his penalty turns, turning his boat straight into me. I dodged the collision, but in doing so, found myself hiked out on the wrong side of my now involuntarily gybed boat, and the thing fell on top of me, dumping me unceremoniously in.

The weather wasn't cold. But the water damned well was.

photo: roger gribble

I pulled myself up on to the dagger-board, boom now vertical in the air and sail full of pressure, the boat powering away with me downwind on it's side. I pushed the boom down, righted the boat still pointing downwind, vaulted aboard as she came back up and the boom gybed over. Despite expecting that to happen, I foolishly didn't duck quick enough and it smacked me full in the head, sweeping me back out of the boat and toppling the Laser back over, on top of me again, now on the other side.

Not my most glorious of moments. But funny, looking back at it now.

The second capsize recovery was quicker; practice makes perfect and I've got a hard head, with not much up there to damage, so I was soon back in the race. But with half the time gone and needing to claw my up from the rear of the fleet. To my satisfaction I eventually caught and passed the miscreant Solo in the last minutes of the course.

New Year's Day was an absolute drift, the lake surface for the most part mirror smooth and undisturbed by the slightest rustle of air on the water.

It's a continual source of amazement to me how little an amount of wind it takes to move a sailboat. And if a boat can move, it can race. Although I know of a few people that would disagree with me, despise such light weather and would argue that the race should be called off.

I accept it's not exciting to watch, and understand that many folks find it very, very frustrating, but I actually really enjoy the challenge of racing in a drift. It helps that I'm usually quite good at it. If you're going to abandon a race because the wind has dropped to a whisper, unless there's a safety element at play, then you should also abandon a race if the wind builds above a F3, because once I'm fully hiked in the heavier winds, much as I love the sailing, the bigger, heavier guys have a clear advantage over me.

And I'm not saying a race should be cancelled if the wind creeps above a F3. That would be silly. What I am saying is that you shouldn't call off a race just because the conditions don't suit some of the competitors. If a boat can move under sail, it can race.

But I digress.

They rarely ever call off a race at Frampton for anything except the lake being frozen solid. We did abandon a previous year's True Grit race because the winds were hitting 45 knots or more. Once you're looking at gusts up in to F10 then things start to break, even on a small lake. But I don't think they've ever abandoned a race at Frampton for lack of wind.

So the True Grit went ahead.

photo: roger gribble

I had an indifferent start, so spent the first half of the race trying to climb back past the other two Lasers. Once clear of them, the Byte and the Solo fell behind as a matter of course.

Pete and his Comet were initially a fair way clear ahead, but with clean air once I was through the rest of the fleet, I slowly closed the gap across the remainder of the race, and eventually passed him in the last couple of minutes before the end.

photo: roger gribble

My first trophy of the year, and after more that a decade of trying for it, sometimes getting very close, the first time I've actually won the True Grit for myself.

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