Friday 26 April 2024

SCSC: hotdogs & trophy races

I had my first swim of the year last Sunday. It was a trophy race at South Cerney, so four races in total, two back to back in the morning followed by two back to back in the afternoon. The forecast was for around 10 to 15 knots across the day, but gusty. A partially cloudy day, with a bit of sun breaking through, the temperature was around 10°c but the northerly wind was decidedly chill.

I chose to sail the Laser's standard rig. 

The first capsize came in race 2. I rounded the leeward mark, and hardened up just as a big gust slammed through. Before I could react to spill the wind, the boom had hit the water. It was a painfully gradual affair, but, hiked out as hard as I could be at the start of proceedings, it was easy to roll over the gunwale and straight onto the dagger-board, and so stayed dry and recovered quite quickly. 

Not without losing about five places though, as the rest of the fleet sailed past.

The second capsize, later that day came in race 4, and was a much wetter affair. Rounding the same mark  as before and hardening up onto the beat all seemed to be going well. Tack to starboard to get out into the clearer air away from the shore, a header, tacked back to port. A gust, hike out hard. 

And the wind simply stopped.

Taken somewhat by surprise I was a little slow to pull my weight back in, so the boat toppled back on top of me. Knowing we were past the point of no return I slid out into the water, then tried to kick my way back aboard, putting as little weight onto the boat as possible, but over she came.

It was as gradual and as inevitable a capsize as the previous one, but this time I was left to ignominiously swim around the aft of the toppled craft and pull myself up out of the water and onto the dagger-board to right her.

If there was any consolation, it was that the water was probably warmed that the wind-chill.

Wednesday evening's Hotdog was a much more civilised affair. Amanda and I raced the Albacore. Despite the light conditions of the evening, northerly at 5 knots, it was a very good turnout, with a fleet of 26 boats on the start-line. 

A downwind start, we managed it beautifully, albeit not over the line too soon only by the skin of our teeth and more luck than judgement. We cleared the first mark easily ahead of everybody else, but three downwind legs followed by a very starboard biased single beat back through the following fleet to windward meant that everybody else sat on our wind for three quarters of the course meant that we couldn't escape the lighter, smaller boats, so finished 7th after handicap.

Still, it was a lovely evening in good company. And we cleanly beat all my friends in the Laser fleet, and most of the Solos.

On the home-front, Tash was discharged from hospital on Wednesday, whilst the twins still have a few weeks to go. She came home for a few hours, but they found her a room in the neo-natal unit that's looking after the boys, so she was able to move straight back to them and will be able to stay until they're ready to come home too.

They've had a very rough couple of days, both not keeping their food down and both losing a little weight, along with jaundice and concerns about their potassium levels that the doctors seem unable to explain but are working to address. They're in the best place, being well looked after, and their mum is with them.

Saturday 20 April 2024


I met my grandchildren today. Briefly, and only through the Perspex of their respective incubators as they slept. I understand they're both doing well, both growing; Charlie now 3lbs 11oz, his brother Harry 3lbs 9oz. Their mum is feeling understandably beat up, but whilst she might not believe it, I can see in her face that she's healing more as each day passes. 

I have to confess, I found myself surprised at quite how small they actually are. I shouldn't have been, but there you go. In the photos Nik and Tash had shared with me that, until today, had been my only acquaintance with them, they both seemed somehow bigger.

Thursday 18 April 2024

Charlie & Harry (b. Thursday 18/04/2024)

Meet the new crew. Arrived little earlier than expected, but mum and babies all doing well. Seems I'm now a grandad. I am, admittedly, biased, but I think they're both adorable.

Monday 15 April 2024

Petrella: around the Breakwater

Took a day trip down to Plymouth with Dad on Sunday. Forecast for the morning anticipated cloudy but dry, wind in the west, light in the morning but building to around 18 knots by late afternoon.

After an early start, we arrived at the boat for 0945. The wind had started to pick up by the time we got the cockpit tent down and stowed, the engine started and all the lines shortened ready to leave. The shelter of the cockpit tent is a wonderful luxury to have, but taking it down and putting it back up again does suck up time at the beginning and end of the day. We're getting quicker, but it was still 1125 before we were set and ready to cast off.

The close manoeuvring involved in leaving or returning to our berth is still proving to be a bit of a challenge. Leaving was helped by the fact that our neighbour's berth to starboard was empty, giving me plenty of room to swing as I reversed out, but it still took three or four attempts of shuffling backwards and forwards before I got Petrella lined up to reverse down of the aisle and into open water.

The prop walk to port when she goes astern is only slight, but it seems to take quite a bit of water to be running over the rudder before it bites enough to provide any steerage. Out into the Sound, we headed over to Jennycliff Bay where we practiced for half an hour under power, manoeuvring around a yellow buoy that we used as a reference point, experimenting with how she turned and how much room was needed both forward and astern. It helped. But it's still going to be a while before I'm completely confident with this.

Practice over, we left the shelter of the bay, put the sails up, stilled the engine, and spent the next couple of hours enjoying the weather and 10 to 12 knots of nice, steady wind. We beat over towards the western shore before tacking and laying the eastern entrance. Out into the open sea, we held our course until we neared the Shag Stone, before tacking again to round the outside of the Breakwater and lay the western entrance.

Back into the Sound, we ran downwind towards Drake Island, the wind shifting as we headed further into the Sound to lift us nicely up onto a course back to QAB. Finally, approaching Jennycliff once again, we rolled the genoa away, started the engine and turned into wind to drop the main. Fenders out and lines set, we headed back to QAB.

Our neighbour's berth was still empty when we arrived back at the marina. Dad stood ready with the bow line, whilst I nursed her in, aiming to drop the midships spring onto the end cleat of the finger pontoon. I initially misjudged the effect of the crosswind and came in too wide to reach, with the wind blowing us off the finger. Dad judiciously held off throwing his line, so I reversed back out and made another approach. 

Still too wide for me to reach the end cleat of the finger, but Dad managed to lasso the far horn of the front cleat with his line. 36' is a long distance to communicate over however, and clearly pleased with his throw, he then held the line rather than securing it to Petrella's bow cleat. 36' of boat is a lot of weight to hold in your hands, so although the line served to stop the bow blowing back off, I couldn't motor astern against it. I should add, all this wasn't Dad's fault, but the fault of a crummy briefing from his skipper. This was his first time on the bow line in a very long time.

In any case, I nudged her astern just enough for the prop walk to bite then took the way straight off with a gentle nudge ahead. I did this a few times, slowly edging her stern back in. Meanwhile a kind gentleman off a neighbouring boat came over to get Dad's line fully onto the pontoon cleat. Before the gentleman was able to take my stern line I'd already walked the stern of the boat back in enough to get the midship's spring hooked over the end cleat, and we were back home and safe.

So leaving and returning were far from textbook perfect, but we achieved both without any undue panic, and without hitting anyone or anything in the process of doing so. And we had a lovely couple of hours sailing out and around the Breakwater. My ambition is to get my boat handling competent enough to be confident of handling her in and out on my own if needs be. We've still got a way to go with that, but for now I was happy with the day's work.

9.2 nautical miles covered over 2 hours and 40 minutes underway, 1 hour and 16 minutes of that under power (funny enough, 38 minutes to get out, play on engine then put the sails up, and 38 minutes to drop sail, set lines and fenders and come back in).

Wednesday 10 April 2024


As previously mentioned, it was suggested to me by my eldest son that I'd missed a couple of key lines out of the song we played for his first dance with his new wife a couple of weeks ago. I can't say I've been exactly beating myself up over it, a live performance is a live performance, and by it's very nature, there is always the chance that something will go amiss in the pressure of the moment. The trick is to deal with it as smoothly as possible and move on.

Consummate professional that I am, I dealt with it so smoothly I didn't even realise the mistake had been made until my son mentioned it, with some mocking amusement, the following day. Along the lines of "You had one job, Dad. Just ONE job . . . "

So I didn't beat myself up over it, but it has been a very small weight on my mind, a tiny regret. I don't like screwing things up. Especially not important things.

Turns out my daughter recorded the entirety of their first dance on her phone. She finally shared it with me yesterday, and I finally got around to watching it through just now. Have to admit, watching the two of them dance was lovely. Yeah, I was there on the night, but I was distracted, trying not to mess up the song they were dancing too.

It wasn't until I'd got to the end of the recording, and wiped away a (rhetorical) sentimental tear or two, that the realisation struck me. So I went back and listened through again. And confirmed that yes, the song was word perfect and entire, not a syllable or a note out of place, even less half a verse dropped, as had been so egregiously alleged.

For somebody that so consciously didn't beat himself up over the apparent, alleged mistake, I feel curiously relieved. And a little amused.    

Off to the lake to race this evening. Amanda is recovered, so we shall hopefully sail the Albacore. Aside from the pleasure of her company, that has the added advantage of being significantly drier to sail than the Laser.  

Thursday 4 April 2024

of a wedding and three birthdays

The clocks have gone forward, without me noticing until I got into the car and noticed its clock was suddenly an hour slow. Every other clock (I should add, our oven doesn't have one) updates itself automatically these days. 

So spring is here, at last. The snowdrops are pretty much done, bluebells are out and daffodils threatening. Trees have blossomed and shed and catkins presage the imminent budding of leaves. There is even a hint of warmth in the sun, when it isn't raining.

It's been a busy season so far. On Saturday, my son Ben married his lovely Hannah. I really enjoyed the wedding, despite not being a fan of crowds or social occasions in general. The venue was delightful, and the bride's family fantastic company, warm and welcoming and very easy to spend time with. 

My band played on the evening. Evidently, I forgot half a verse to their choice of first dance, which is hilarious as it's a song I've been performing for the best part of eighteen years. But nobody noticed, except the bride and groom, who had apparently choreographed their dance to the lyrics, but they covered it elegantly and live music is, after all, all about spontaneity.

Monday I had a birthday. I've had a few of them by now, so I didn't really mind Ben and Hannah upstaging me with their weekend's festivities. Nonetheless, I had a pleasant day; the high point being lunch in town with my wife Nikki and the kids.

Tuesday was the second birthday of the month, as my favourite furry idiot Lottie turned two. I'm not sure she understood the reason, but she was certainly grateful for the extra treats and fuss. 

With the clocks having finally leapt forward, Wednesday evening racing has started up again at the lake. The plan for this season is to race the Albacore with Amanda, as I'm expecting my Sundays this year to be quite distracted and disrupted by Petrella. However, Amanda's come down with a bug of some sort, so I dug the Laser out from the weeds and rigged that.

I haven't sailed the Laser since late last year, and we performed appallingly, not quite coming last, but close. I didn't really care, as I'd only gone out to have some fun, but was a little perplexed that both the other Lasers out on the water pretty much left me for dust. It wasn't until about halfway through that I noticed that I'd actually rigged my old Mk1 sail, which is old and blown and of not much more use than rigging a dishcloth might have been.

It's not been out of its back since I replaced it with a Mk2 some eight years ago, and I'm on my second Mk2 since then. I can't in all honesty lay the entire blame for my socking performance on that old rag of a sail, there were plenty of other unforced errors, including some penalty turns from hitting a mark of the course, despite there being no other boats close. But it won't have helped.

This coming weekend I have gigs Friday and Saturday, and then, to make it a hat trick, Nikki's birthday is on Sunday. Another excuse to head out for lunch somewhere I think, especially as there's not a hope I'll have any chance to go sailing. Which is fine, the wind is supposed to be gusting close to 40 knots by Sunday lunchtime, so the afternoon will be much better spent in a pub or restaurant somewhere.