The Last Race of the Season.
Well it didn’t happen, nobody turned up. Bar the race officer, who loyally turned up to cancel the race. I got hired as replacement crew for the CYC snowflake series.
The Brighton Surf and the regular crew's reticence should have warned me. But at Chichester Ychat Club the new clubhouse (not finished) provided a deceptive area of calm. A calm that vanished as we left the slipway and the first gust hit. The jib flapped and banged like a Trafalgar broadside and as the gust tried to pick up most of Chichester harbour and drop it into Surrey. We careered off across Bridham Pool, Simon keeping us up right while I feverishly de-powered everything. We managed to stay upright till the start, we were in the minority. A couple of F7 gusts convinced us we were in what’s referred to in tuning guides as “Survival Conditions”. Bit breezy. Our first dip came on what was 99% of a perfect gybe. We went in. That one of the things about gybes, they’re binary either you do it right or you don’t in 25-30 knots 99% perfect is still a dip. We took ages to retrieve the kite. Enough to lose us the race. Not that plenty of others didn’t go in on the way down wind. Lasers are just easier to right. We get it up right, hoist again. Kite sets, boat accelerates like the Space Shuttle. Unfortunately Simon stays still, and the boat sails out from under him. In we go again.
Massive overconfidence, coupled with a slight lull made us carry on for a second lap. As we crossed the start finish line we saw a gp14* get knocked flat by a gust. We survived it by hiking, letting fly both main and jib, pinching and clinging on till it dropped a bit. Jib batten has now flogged its self out. So I stick it down my spray top. Further up the course a Merlin righted its self. Both sails flogging in 30 knots of breeze. A beautiful cloud of white spray flew off her rig, streaming hundreds of yards down wind showing no sign of falling back into the water.
A couple of swims latter we make the windward mark. Simon pulls the Dip stick, while telling me to ease the kicker. A more sensible order would have been ease the kicker then try the bear away. Capsize was messy. I kept trying to unhook a non existent trapeze – force of habit. Simon does an impressive back flip off the gunwale. Takes ages to right the boat. Jib batten pops out of neck of spray top an attempts to pick my nose.
After the we get up the right way we do a bit of sorting. Simon ended up as sharpender holding the jib, I’m driving – takes a long time to sort out, longer with a batten in your left nostril. We decide to go to do a long way around tack then hoist to avoid the gybe. A force 7-8 gust comes through and we take off. When Moses parted the red sea he didn’t cut half the watery trench we made at god knows how many knots. Wind relents for our extremely by-the-lee run to the bottom mark. We manage to survive to cross the finish line. As we do the sky goes black and the sea goes white. The horizontal rain comes down. And the wind hits gale force if I’m any judge. I look at my watch – 13:40. According to the attached graph of wind speed, from a buoy just around the corner from Birdham pool that was when the average hit 30knots and the Guts went though 40knots – D**n near f9.
All in all you all missed cracker – mind you there’s at least one Merlin out there with out a mast now, and I saw a Pico with no stick being towed itn too, but that might have been deliberate.
Tom, Batten nostril, Griffiths
*under powered overweight, kiteless, bathtub for OAP's capsizing one of these is quite challenge.