“Catch the wind, see us spin
Sail away leave today
Way up high in the sky, hey, whoa
But the wind won’t blow
You really shouldn’t go
It only goes to show
That you will be mine
By takin’ our time, ooh” do doo doobie dooo, ….oooooh the post match beer was going to be good! Arriving at FFSC with What is and What should never* on the car stereo was a good omen!
Late spring 3.
Martello (S), Kingsfleet (P), Quay (S), Kingsfleet (P), Quay (S), Line
Well the wind did blow… and we really did go and It only goes to show… that if you spend too long near people who sail ultimately you will hear the immortal words of “a bad day on the water is better than a good day in the office”. True.
These days there’s a type of sailor; yes we have genus and sub – varieties of sailors from skiffies, carbonista’s, to restoration nerds, vintage lovers, zhik wearing RYA trained killers, racers, cruisers, drinkers (ok we are all pirates at heart) with everything in between. How many reasons do you need to know that sailing is the ultimate sport?
Well maybe the worst type for race organisers is the windguru sailor. The sailor who looks at the forecast and sees the wind sub 10 knots, or a drop of rain in the sky, no sunshine and they think to themselves “nah, it’s not worth rigging”. We all check the forecast these days, it’s just that to the experienced sailor who will arrive to see the conditions for themselves and decides valour is the better part of bravery, maybe its a new boat to them, maybe its the first race of the season, maybe a new crew, they decide that it’s top of the range and decide to stay ashore. If the wind is at the upper end of the scale, then hopefully the Race office sets a course protected from the worst of the wind and water. Some of the best racing has been in drifters, eeking out of drop of wind to finish the race, maybe not the biggest speed grins on the planet but more rewarding.
Heavy weather sailing is a different skill, when the wind is light we shape the sails to give maximum power, ease the out haul, straighten the mast, as the wind increases to ‘design’ strength – that’s the wind speed where the crew are hiking and not having to move crew weight in, they are on the edge of being over powered, we shape the sails to their maximum power. A few more knots of wind and we start the process of losing power from the sails / rig, bending the mast, raking more, using the kicker and cunningham, lifting the centreboard. The basic rule is to set the boat up for the lull, in heavy weather sailing keeping the boat upright (stick in the air) is the key! the less the crew have to move the faster the boat is. Crew jumping around changes the dynamics on the hull and slows the boat rapidly, using a bit of rudder and sheet to keep the boat flat in the gusts and then sheeting on in the lulls to keep the weight static makes all the difference in straight line speed.
For most sailors when the wind is dumping 20+knots on you off the shoreline getting round the track with the stick pointing up all the time is the win, and, that should be the primary task.
Scam Rule 4: to finish first, you first have to finish. Otherwise known as never quit, if you quit, either by retiring by the race goes bad or quit never launching because of rain, not enough wind, too much wind (skills dependant). what you are doing there is telling yourself subconsciously that in those conditions its not for you, so you won’t bother. When the wind is sub 10 knots ‘oh i’m always rubbish in this, i won’t win’ you are setting up for a retirement. If you don’t launch the boat because its raining, the next time it is poor weather you might not even turn up. Keep putting the boat on the water, keep hoisting the kite, keep gybing. If you are getting beaten up by the boat ask one of the ‘masters’ how they do it (ok google it and watch youtube). There’s some hard learning to do in sailing especially if you want to sail the really fast boats, that means swimming (trust me i’ve done plenty of that in the past). capsize, hoist, gybe, capsize, hoist, capsize. painful to watch, painful for the race office / safety boat / other competitors to wait for ‘that’ team to finish. Each finish is gain in knowledge of how to sail your boat quicker.
Back in the aeons of time when i used to travel the country racing we had a simple team forecast we used to say to each other as encouragement, bright sunshine = force 2, overcast = force 2, horizontal rain = force 3 simple always the perfect sailing forecast ?, never too light, never too windy…
Why do so many boats sit unused in dinghy parks? there’s a topic for post race beering.
So it was on Wednesday that the forecast 20 knots and a smidge of rain turning to horizontal rain combined with half term holidays depleted the fleet to a just 5 hardy sailors. A flood tide meant plenty of water in the river so sensibly the Race Officer set a river course (20 knots of wind over water in the North sea for a club race is a little ‘heady’). First mark was laid mark ‘Martello’ giving a short beat from the line, then a long blast upriver to Kingsfleet.
With the clock ticking aboard Storm cloud Scammell / Read discussed start preferences, in strong winds it is not quite so critical to be exactly at the right place. “anywhere on the line, as long as we are on the line, prefer the Bawdsey side for less tide but if we are all in there tacking then we will bail”. Finding the fleet split at the gun with Scammell / Read in the Merlin being led off the line by John Daniels who was closest to the Bawdsey shore, at the first cross Scammell / Read had caught Daniels and forced him to dip their stern. Over on the club side Lewis / Hawkins , Ed Swain and Captain of the FFSC swim club Dan Smith, Smith led the charge up to Martello but the advantage was over on the Bawdsey side.
With clear wind Scammell / Read stretched away, a couple of tacks inshore to the port layline and they rounded Martello with Daniels pursuing. A quick hoist saw the Merlin Rocket light up and blast off towards the horse sands, it was going to be tight to hold the kite all the way to Kingsfleet. A quick look back saw Smith lead Swain then Lewis / Hawkins, eventually Lewis Hawkins set the big pink joby and set off like a rocket, but like Scammell / Read turning the corner made the kite a tight reach. As the fleet cleared the ferry boatyard and the wind gets a cleaner run at the river the increase in windspeed saw the spinnaker boats planing away from the lasers, however it just wasn’t in the right direction. Scammell / Read dropped their kite quickly and headed up to get back on course for Kingsfleet, Daniels in the laser was sailing fast and a much more direct route.
Rounding Kingsfleet for the first time Scammell / Read headed up the Felixstowe side of the river to Quay, this was a leg that was not quite a beat, not quite a reach. Otherwise known as a workout for helm with constant trimming of the main as the puffs come off the land (we are sailing only a boat length or two from the shore). There’s not much time to read the water, hard work trimming in and out, also for the crews constantly shifting weight keeping the boat flat. Next round Kingsfleet Daniels followed the same course as the Merlin of Scammell / Read up the felixstowe shore line, then cross to round Quay.
Rounding quay, Scammell / Read choose direct ‘no kite’ option, a risk when the lasers are planing, the merlin can feel underpowered on reaches with out the kite. There was plenty of wind though! By now Lewis / Hawkins had recovered from a bad drop / sea anchor moment and had caught up Smith and Swain and were reeling in Daniels, was there enough track left for Lewis / Hawkins to overhaul Daniels?
Rounding quay for the last time Scammell / Read short tacked up the Bawdsey side to take line and handicap honours from Daniels who was also second on corrected finishing a few seconds in front of Lewis / Hawkins, with Swain pipping Smith on the line to take third on corrected.
A no swimming night for the fleet, see Time, thats all you need and practise and if you don’t put the boat in the water how are you going to practise?
A non vintage champagne sort of sail, 30 mins of on, off, on, off wind, blast reaching, heavy weather beating. No sunshine but ‘it don’t matter’ because…. yep folks all together now ” a bad day on the water….”. We’ll make salty adnams drinkers out of you all yet. ? and yes folks that post match beer was sweet. Don’t you know the Adnams tastes even better after a sail?
For those without a music education, What is and what should never be is one of the all time great Led Zeppelin songs…you know back when music was on 12 ” black frisbees…what’s an inch grandad? (still with us Debbie? or did we zzzzz you way back up there…..?)
Check the race on race qs raceqs.com/tv-beta/tv.htm
Sailed: 3, Discards: 1, To count: 2, Rating system: PY, Entries: 14, Scoring system: Appendix A