In one design racing clean wind is pretty much the thing to find, getting a clear lane as we say. Being on the line gives you the first oppotunity for a clean breeze. If you are buried then looking to find a way out into cleaner breeze can make the difference to your result.

Day 2 (Race 5, 6 & 7) of the Squib East Coast Champs came with bright sunshine and a gentle 10 knot breeze, the last of the ebb tide (ebbing to Edinburgh). We reckoned the tide would turn on the second race… Keep a watch for that.

More windward / leeward races, tide pushing the fleet over, Uniform flag (thats not allowed in the upwind triangle in the final minute pre start).

Race 5. windward / leeward 2 laps

The team decided on a mid line start with the right hand side which should be more favourable with the ebb tide, as the clock counted down we were early, time to push the boats to windward up hard to try to encourage a general recall; the good news about mid line is there are lots of boats to push up. If we are over, better make sure everyone else is too! Result? General recall.
To the none sailors a general recall is basically a restart. timer back to 5mins.

This time the Race officer used the Black Flag instead of the Uniform flag, the big difference here is if you are over the line in the last minute you don’t sail the race , you don’t get a result apart from BFD (Black Flag Disqualified). This tends to make the fleet nervous, leaving a good space to the line. Unfortunately for the local boat Hocus Pocus (sorry Martin) this time their transit was out and at the gun they were over.

Simon & Matt onboard ‘Blue Lady’ (742) found themselves in a bad place second row back (or worse!) nowhere near the line and with no speed, looking at the stern of lots of squibs is not something anyone needs to do…. This was an issue! if you want a top ten finish. Surrounded by squibs with no lanes the team struggled to find their mojo, tacking off into new pack, covering them they struggled to get to the right side of the track, rounding in 28th (yes it was a shocker) the first hoist continued the trend of Saturdays…. a small gain downwind (well ok, we lost no more places). The team rounded the last upwind leg and tried to play the shifts to claw back some places.

A few places gained the team rounded the top mark in 20th… a better hoist, Matt was working out the system, Simon was getting the boat to work downhill. no changes for a disappointing 20th. Not what we ordered?

The team gave themselves a pep talk, to get into the top ten they needed to get back on the line, clean breeze, don’t get sucked into battles that don’t matter.

Race 6. windward / leeward, 2 laps

The team saw the signs that the tide was on the turn, time to switch back to the local knowledge.

Dovercourt bay tides are pretty simple, not like your solent washing machines, however there is a deep water channel for the commercial shipping and this turns not far from the windward mark. Simples yes? following? no? ok put simply it means if you have good boatspeed, can pick a layline from a nautical mile or more away, go left, go left (yes i know it should be port; but, upwind legs are left or right!) go left to get out of the adverse tide running down the coast, go left to get the lift as you approach the deep water channel, go left. Clear? Think jezza corbyn…

All we needed was to nail the starts like we used….
The decison to go left makes the start line easier, be in the middle with about a minute to go and work your way to the pin for the gun. There’s generally less boats at the pin end as most fleets like to gather by the committee boat on starboard and so it was, but with 30seconds to go Simon and Matt found themselves late another second row start. this time looking straight upwind at the stern of Kinnard (local legend Mark Wincer) and squib hotshots team Groggan. Not Good, there were a few boats in our group all heading left; bugger! had the fleet worked out that the left really pays upwind? err nope. Strangely to us Mark Wincer tacked off into the middle of the track, we started to find our settings again and soon started to climb up on Nigel Grogan (905?). I’m not sure why but they too choose to tack off back towards the middle of the park…

As a general rule if you are in the middle you are going to be fairly safe, but if there is a significant advantage on one side….
the team trucked on, slowly but surely they were the only team out on the left. the compass still holding steady, then the numbers start to lift, 5 degrees, 10 degrees, 15 degrees. “two thirty” or chinese dentist time, Matt calls , the port tack layline is getting close. Time to start the calculations

laylines: these are the invisible lines sailors ‘see’ that on a certain tack (course) means they are ‘laying’ the mark. That means they will not have to change course or tack to go round the mark. Picking a layline from over a mile away when there is around 2 knots of tide without electronic devices is a skill….. ?some do, some don’t.
The team tacked; at this point the windward mark seems to be below us, Have we overstood the line? we sheet on hard and work the waves. There is no one to see, the whole fleet is miles away in the middle. As we draw towards the middle we get our first look at the those that tacked, Mark on Kinnard dropped (50 metres?) with a couple of hundred metres to the windward mark, we start the chat of which boats are going to be starboard tack to us at the mark. “one boats clear, then there’s couple more, miss one then dip and tack says Matt.

Tacking 5m shy of the Mark, the team rounded in 4th. Yes, this was good. reach to the spacer, gybing and hoisting was the call. Now can we hoist the kite nicely please? A good Hoist kite and the team settled down for the run to the leeward gate.

Now we thought that by early gybe we would get a bit more tidal help than the 5 or 6 boats in the top gaggle, this just didn’t work out for us, gybing for the righthand gate the team were scrappy on the kite drop.

Simple Rule for Sailors. Number 1! (have i done these before?)

Keep it simple, conservative. think Theresa (there thats evened up the politics). Give yourself and your team time to do the job list. At a kite drop there’s outhauls to set, the rig to bring back, there’s the pole to unclip, the kite to bag, theeirs sails to trim, travellers to trim, weight to move.

We just didn’t do this, we rounded with the kite being held in one hand, the jib flogging… finally packed , we settled and starter for ten? Yup headed left.

After the drop it looked horrible, boats, were inside us already, in the next lane up, boats were climbing over us, we dropped more places, we looked like 15th or 16th. dammit what is wrong? we looked at the rig “the main halyard is slipping!” . Matt drops into the boat, re hoists the main to the marks.

“RIG!” he shouts, in the frantic drop and rounding we had failed to pull the rig back for the beat! No wonder we were sucking. With the rig and mainsail back to our marks time to settle, work the waves and….

go LEFT! same thing, check the numbers on the compass 10 degrees header we tack, we sailed up the left hand side the compass flicked from 75 to 70, then back then 80, 90. The lift…Chinese dentist, you get the drift. Port tack layline, out in the wilds of the left. We tack for the mark, this time we have a couple of boats with us. but we are quicker through the waves. Rounding the mark in 8th (i know the photo said 6th – it’s not easy to count boats in front in a two man boat) we held our position downwind for another top ten finsh. The immortal team line of “that’ll do donkey” gets uttered and then the “bucket list.”

Scam Rules (of no significance but all sailors do it). Number 1.

  1. In a boat i’ve never sailed its good to know who to watch. At cowes week we get to know the top guys in the other fleets so we can watch where they start, see where they line up for the first beat. Same goes at a venue you don’t know, the local hotshots in the fleet — good to see where they go. The list can contain sailors we want to beat, sailors we should beat, sailors we hope to beat, boats to avoid can be on there too ?.

So it was that we had a list of boat numbers and sailors, Aquabat (Stu Rix), the Grogans, both Squib winners at major events. Mark Wincer a winner at Haven Ports, a winner at squib events (ok a few years back), a regular local racer. Andrew (wink) Moore a regular squibber and very quick too, winner of the squib easter egg countless times, fast and local. David Pinner, has won everything entered at Haven Ports and IRC, EOARA, melges. There were others but this was the list of sailor’s we knew, ones to beat (or try to!)

So for us on this list the only boats we really wanted to beat were those local guys, we had got in front of Pinner and Wincer but we just could not stay in front of Andrew and Pete in their new rocket squib. That race ticked Matts bucket list (well for one race it did). Beating Andrew and Pete was our result of the day, or was it?

Race 7. windward / leeward x 3 (whoop an extra lap)

The team now felt like they knew the boat, they had worked out the kite hoists, got the boat working downwind a little for them. So lets just do that again, but can we get a decent start?

By now a few of our fellow teams had spotted that this blue boat was coming from nowhere, sailing around the outside of the fleet, so we had a few more at ‘our’ end down by the pin for the start. at the gun still a bit late but a nice clear lane, just three boats on the list with us, Wincer, Pinner and Moore. Same as last time we say to each other (where did i leave my Jeremy Corbyn joke book?), like clock work the numbers started to dial up this time though Andrew & Pete on Ferry Boys had stuck with us all the way, but we were a little higher and maybe a smidge quicker.

“tooth hurty” says Matt

“ok, whats our numbers?” replies Simon

“90, still 90. mark nearly at quarter too” said Matt. “ok, we’re close, i want to tack before Andrew & Pete do. So let’s go now”. We tacked onto Port, a minute later Andrew & Pete tacked. We looked good, the fleet seemed to be on the horizon (that is either very good or very bad). As we closed in on the windward mark i ask Matt to watch for any starboard tackers i can’t see or might have missed. “None” comes the answer, then just one not sure, its’ close, then there’s a group of three a small gap between them.

Scam’s rules number 2.

When you find a helm or a crew you enjoy sailing with, start to work out who is good at what. for crews one of the best skills to have is stand on, dip, tack. Calling the upwind tactics and boat on boat pace. I have sailed with a few people who have the ability to do this, see a boat and tell the helm to stand on. what’s the benefit? If you are helming and not looking at where you are going, what the wind is doing, what waves are coming. you are slowing the boat, you might not notice it, but you are. Keep you head on speed, let the crew do the calls. (i know bruv, sometimes i have got one wrong!)

As we closed to twenty metres, it was clear we were not going to get to the mark first, not by much though, tacking to round in second a short reach to the spacer. “ok, well sailed, relax. Let’s enjoy this” a little pep talk, no pressure on us. A pretty good hoist for us, the kite set fairly quickly. As we ran down the left hand side of the run, we just couldn’t keep the speed up on the others going down the right, we rounded in 7th or 8th. Left hand gate, we’ll get cleaner breeze, lets just sail our standard course. Err? Left? yup.

We lost a couple of places on the roundings again, but we were squirreled away and set, early tack (keep up; right hand gate, that puts on port tack heading RIGHT – we no likey!) We’d let Andrew and Pete through, it seemed that all the rig fiddling they had done betweeen races was working, they were going fast.

This gang of 8 boats sailed the beat, two going hard left and the rest left middle, at the top for the second time we had gained back a couple places, 4th round (might have been 5th?). Sometimes we pray for a shortened course flag, but we were enjoying this (ok, i know its a squib, so technically it’s complicated but we were racing FFSC Vs FFSC, Andrew & pete Vs Simon & Matt. We’d let them slip through downwind, we wanted the drag race left to try to get the bucket list back. They were going hard left too and they were quick, we just couldn’t climb up to them, they rounded in 5th, us in 7th. Downwind it seemed that everyone was happy to settle for the places, we certainly were. Three top ten finishes, one 11th, one average race, one poor race, one swimming race (and still we were 26th)!

At prize giving we were surprised to find out that there were Bronze, Silver and Gold fleets….Surely we are bronze fleet, I’ve never helmed a squib, been in one once. if we are Bronze then we might be good for a prize as we were 13th overnight. Nope, no Bronze prizes.

Silver fleet results third Artemis “oooo” i thought we beat them, second…..Scammell! result…hang on, hang on. that means; First in Silver fleet? Mark Wincer. that must have been close, that first race and the poor show. One point first loser, well done Mark, think you said the last time you won a race in a squib it was ten years ago!

No mention of Aquabat? what to say? they didn’t go hard left (thankfully, otherwise no one would have seen them). They sailed so quickly and cleanly it was hard to keep up. Deserved winners… I’ll see you at Cowes week i guess, just i won’t be squibbing ?

My daughter (she’s 5), she’s not one for understatement. we go food shopping and play in the garden and at bedtime she will say (ok shout) “best day ever! dad”. I have quite a list of “best day ever”, surprisingly they are not all sailing, there’s the chief in charge – she’s pretty bloody special, the kids are pretty much in the top ten (i guess, i mean they are noisy). There’s a few sailing ones though – the first club race, the first open series win, the first yacht race, winning Cowes with big bruv,, the first.. you get the idea? Anyway i’ve always liked getting to the windward mark first, it’s a good sign. “but you didn’t!” i hear you say, well in the skewed sailmakers head, we discounted Aquabat, they were unassailable to us, they’ve been doing Squibs for years. So we’ll take that windward leg put in our own little private ‘Top ten’ sails and raise a glass.

2nd in silver fleet, 12th overall. Best local boat…. Andrew Moore and Pete Hallinan with a creditable 6th.

Top work team Harvey, Claire, the Makinsons to name a tiny few, all at Haven Ports Yacht Club. Thanks to the sponsers, Adnams for the beer (or was that a Haven ports thing?), Harken, ICOM / raymarine / Seapower, Allen, Surveyors and lastly thank you to the rivals for the new hats, new sailing bag and girls t – shirts! All though my daughter is convinced your logo is a 7…..?