Summer Points Racing

Summer points racing started last night at Ballyholme Yacht Club. The forecast looked promising after all the gales we have had over the past few months.

Forecast Ballyholme 230413

Hmm… well, the wind speeds were fairly accurate even if the direction was completely wrong. The great news is that I came in first place in the Laser Radial fleet (soon to be renamed the Kirby Torch Radial fleet?).

BYC Results 230413

The results don’t lie 🙂 Maybe I should quit while I am ahead… go out on a high!

First Laser Sail of 2013

I have been a bit busy playing on big boats recently to sail a Laser and so have missed the start of the Icebreaker series in 2013. 3 races in fact. Hoping to rectify that today I ventured down to the club to see if I remembered how to rig a Laser. The sun was shining and the sky was blue – it looked almost like summer out of the window.

The wind forecast was for 16 knots of breeze, gusting 25 knots, from the south. The wind direction was important as with a southerly breeze, the sea state is flat and the wind is warm; from the north, in these wind speeds the sea would be decidedly ‘lumpy’. And cold. The were quite a few sailors looking a bit nervous before rigging their boats, but all decided it was too nice a day to miss sailing.

There had been a change to the sailing instructions since I last raced – all boats now had to display a bow number on the port side to aid the recording of finishing positions. The battery crew have difficulty reading the Laser sail numbers when there are up to 60 Lasers racing at a time and the top of the fleet is very close. My finishing position of late has not been high enough to trouble the battery, but with the amendment stating that boats not displaying a bow number would not be given a finish, I duely attached the numbers.

Having not sailed a dinghy for two months, my race plan for the day was to sail the course and keep the boat upright. Usually I would be one of the first to launch, but as there were some big gusts coming through and lots of boats capsizing on launching I was procrastinating and was one of the last to leave the shore. There was another Laser sailor launching at the same time, who kindly tied the tiller onto the rudder for me as I was holding both boats.

After launching, it was a fast reach to the other side of the bay where the committee boat was stationed. I gybed to avoid sailing the Laser on a dead run – I wanted to stay dry and minimize the chances of a capsize before the race started. CLUNK. The mainsheet blocks caught on the tiller. After trying to pull the blocks over the tiller without success I took a closer look. Lesson 1 for today – if you don’t rig your boat, check how it has been rigged; someone may rig your tiller underneath the traveller. A few minutes later, the tiller was rigged correctly and I had made it to the start line with about a minute to spare.

My start line strategy – to start behind everyone and keep out of everyone elses way. The Laser I have borrowed is rigged very differently to how mine was rigged previously; I need to go out on a day when there is no racing and sort it out properly. I actually managed to get a reasonable start next to the committee boat and then tacked away from the fleet and headed to clearer space in the centre of the bay. There was no tacking on the shifts, just one tack to take me back to the mark. Expecting to be at the back of the fleet, I was surprised to find my self about to round the mark mid-fleet. Do you ever find the times you aren’t trying are the times you actually do better? Strange.

After rounding and avoiding three upturned Lasers, there was a screaming reach back across the bay followed by another beat back up towards the turning mark. This area of the bay is always really shifty, and today was no exception. I was hiked out hard in a strong gust when the wind died away. To nothing. I was still hiked out, and now the Laser was starting to come over on top of me. Not good. And right in front of the battery and any spectator on the shore.

What followed was a bit of a stand off between me and the Laser. The Laser was quite happily sat head to wind; I was still over the side, praying for a gust to help me back up into the boat. After what seemed like an age, the Laser wasn’t budging. So, it was up to me to drop myself down into the water – it was either that or wait until the Laser decided to roll over on top of me. At least this way, the Laser was still upright and I could provide some more entertainment for the battery crew. Again. I’m surprised I didn’t get a mark out of ten for artistic impression.

Remember my comment before that I wasn’t planning on racing hard? I have a little bit of a competitive streak (just a little one, honest) and after this unplanned entry into the water, I decided I should at least try and catch up the Lasers that had passed me while I was involved in the standoff. What followed was a really fast reach, when I managed to overtake one full rig Laser and catch up two Radial rigs. Woo hoo!

The rest of the race passed off without incident; I managed to avoid the lobster pots in the bay and I didn’t even finish last! Looking at the results in the club bar later on, I realised that I got a better result for NOT sailing two weeks ago than I got today. And that todays result equalled that of last week – when I didn’t race either. Maybe next week I should go back to not sailing – it seems to be the way to improve my results at the moment!

Bon Voyage Tinkertoo

Last week, I sold my Laser Radial, Tinkertoo. It was a tough decision to make, and I had thought about keeping my Laser until next summer when I start the Clipper Race. However, a friend offered me the use of her Laser to sail over the winter Icebreaker series and into next summer, so whilst I am no longer a boat owner, I can keep on sailing and racing a Radial which is really important to me.

Laser Radial Tinkertoo Belfast LoughWith the sale of my Laser, I can now continue my Clipper Race to South Africa… which is only a stones throw away from Australia! If I don’t get all the way around the world, wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to sail all the way from the UK to Australia?

Laser Radial Tinkertoo Ballyholme BayTinkertoo has gone to a great new home; from Ballyholme Bay and Belfast Lough, she will now be sailed and raced in Dublin Bay. Thanks to Diane for the loan of ‘Scousefast’ for the next few months, I promise to take great care of her!

A Laser Sailor’s Proverb

So, I was sat out on my Laser in the bay this afternoon, the first time I have sailed in the past two months since I injured my ankle during my Level 1 training. The skies were blue, the sun was shining, and, with a southerly breeze coming off the land, the sea was flat. At 5 degrees Centigrade (41F) it was a bit on the chilly side, but I had all my winter sailing gear on so was feeling quite toasty.

Having just spent the past hour reaching back and forth across the bay in winds of 15 knots, gusting 23 knots, throwing in a few tacks and gybes as well as hiking out just for the fun of it, I was watching a group of the club’s cadets being put through their paces around the club marks. A few of them were being overpowered in their toppers and picos in the gusts, resulting in a few capsizes. ‘Well’, I was thinking, ‘at least I have kept my gear dry and so I won’t struggle to get it washed and dried before racing tomorrow’. As any sailor knows, it is quite unpleasant to put cold, wet gear on before you go out sailing, so it was a bonus that I wasn’t going to have to sort that out this evening.

Another Laser sailor came alongside me and we set off on a reach across the bay together. I got most of the way across when a gust hit and before I knew it I had death rolled the boat. If you don’t know what a death roll looks like in a Laser, it looks exactly like this:

Did I mention it was 5 degrees and this was the Irish sea? I managed to get thrown clear of the boat during the capsize, so was having to swim back to my boat as my other mistake was to not to keep hold of the main sheet. It was at this point I realised that whilst pride may come before a fall on land, in Laser sailing “Smugness comes before a swim”.

Sailing with Percy

Last week, I went sailing with Percy. No, not Iain Percy, who was otherwise occupied competing in the Star class for Team GB at Weymouth in the London 2012 Olympics (although I have spent a morning on a RIB with Iain Percy, but that is another story), but Percy… an inflatable hippopotamus.

It all started innocently enough with a try-a-sail for one of the local arts groups. I was asked to take a group out for a ‘bit of a jaunt’ in the bay; I realised this would not be a straightforward assignment when one of the guys came out with his buoyancy aid on… and an additional rubber ring shaped as a hippo.

Percy makes an appearanceWhat ensued turned out to be one of the best evenings I have ever had sailing. There were water fights, water bombs being thrown, races between the boats – all the things you expect to do with a bunch of ten year olds, not fully grown adults. Somehow, Percy ended up helming the boat…

Helming with Percy… and even took part in a capsize drill!

Capsizing with PercyI’m not overly sure it was an RYA approved capsize recovery technique, but Percy certainly ensured that the dagger board was slightly easier to reach. All that was left after righting the boat was to bring Percy ashore for a well earned drink; I’m sure Percy will be out for more sailing before too long.