Matt: “We’re putting the band back together.”

Simon: “Forget it. No way.”

Matt: “We’re on a mission from God.”

And so it was that after returning from Cowes victorious Simon found himself at the back of Matt’s Merlin Rocket ‘Deception’ for the second race of the late summer series at FFSC (cripes that means just 2 more Wednesday night sails??) The old team, like an old glove or old boot. comfortable but a bit worn out?

The superforecast was the perfect sailors forecast, 15 knots building to 20+, lets start off gentle and then light the touch paper. Neap tides (so only 3.5 knots to fight!) we do like our challenges at FFSC.

Course: Line, oystercatcher (P), Tug (P), Deben (S), Oystercatcher (P), Line.

A downwind start against the tide, the breeze filling quickly to a more steady 18 knots with some nice big puffs. Team 49er had failed to rig the halyard back on the boat so decided that a team display of synchronised laser swimming was called for and duly pulled out some show stopping gybeswims… good job the gun hadn’t gone yet.
Rog ‘the splodge’ and Debbie ‘did you really ask for a bright pink kite rog?’ had a practise hoist and gybe but were struggling to get the pink shocker back in the hole…If at first you don’t succeed try and try again. Second practise and wallop Debbie done good! Simon and Matt had a test fire of all systems, except the outhaul so a quick beach session at Bawdsey saw the outhaul attached to mainsail and they were ready.

Timing a downwind start with a 3.5knot foul tide is not easy when the wind is close to twenty knots, you are constricted by riverbanks (100m?) Simon and Matt chose Port tack mid river, Rog & Debbie Starboard crossing with 5 to go like a red arrows river version. A neat hoist on both saw them lead the singlehanders away downriver. Simon &  Matt with a small lead over Rog & Debbie, Ian Jones and the 49er display team not far behind.
With Rog & Debbie being forced to gybe their pink shocker they let Matt & Simon gain an advantage as they squared Deception downwind towards Oystercatcher, on the return gybe Rog & Debbie picked a great layline and were ‘coming in hot’ Simon & Matt luffed to protect the inside line at Oystercatcher and Rog & Debbie were forced to leeward.
The reach to Tug was tight; Matt ” do you think we’ll hold the kite?” Simon “yeah it’s close but if Rog flies then we can hold him”.

So it was, with not quite enough grunt in the RS or space to gap of Rog & Debbie were forced to follow Simon & Matt on the tight reach (it was a beauty, 3 sail reach right on the limit). Rog & Debbie decided to drop as the breeze got up and the gusts were forcing them low of the mark (straight lines is a good tactic!). Simon & Matt held the kite just short of tug before dropping and led Rog & Debbie round Tug and back downriver to  Deben.

At this point Simon decieded to clarify the course; its always good to talk on the boat, clear concise instructions, game plan etc.

Simon: ” is it back to Oystercatcher?”

Matt: “err, i’m not sure. I don’t think so”

Simon: “it was two loops?”

Matt: “err yes but second was round Deben?”

So the team decided to round Oystercatcher just to be sure, no one followed (Simon: “bugger!”) (Matt: “bugger!”). For once Rog & Debbie played the ‘Nav’ card and had closed right up on the leaders, rounding Deben just behind Simon & Matt.
Could the team hang on against the quicker RS? how were the display doing? I can only answer one of those questions and it might not be the one the crowd wants.
More navigational worries on Deception (Simon:”where’s Horse Sands?” Matt: ” I hope you are going to bear away!”) saw Rog & Debbie take the lead at Oystercatcher a few lengths in front of Simon & Matt. one last beat to the line, surely it was over? Never quit, never give up (see the Cowes week blogs for how fortunes change quickly racing boats).
The Merlin Rocket is infamous for it’s ability to go upwind, especially on flat water and so it was on the last leg, pointing a bit higher and with a bit more lead in the boat (sorry Debbie but you are a racing snake compared to Simon & Matt), Simon & Matt started to climb the ladder on the RS. Rog & Debbie tacked short of Bawdsey and cleared in front of Simon & Matt. The boys weren’t going to hit the line in one and timing the tack for max tide the tacked 50m further up the shore, the next cross saw Rog & Debbie just 5 lengths in front. “are they making the line?” no. Ok shortest distance to finish then it would be close. Simultaneous tacks saw Rog & debbie cross just 8 seconds in front of Simon & Matt.
A truly champagne sail, amazing conditions. c’mon everybody it’s mid August – get your fix whilst you can!

A line honours win for Rog & debbie

A handicap win for Simon & Matt

Swim trophy: Dan Smith, Harley Barkes