Tuesday, October 23, 2012
It was an odd day in several respects.
First of all, the Fat Boys Regatta at Bristol YC has been a regular event on the local Laser regatta schedule for many years now. But, although I frequently sail in Bristol and although it's probably the Laser regatta that is closest to my current home where I have lived since 2007, I have never sailed the Fat Boys before. Indeed I've never set foot in Bristol YC before.
I'm not sure why. My son and I were planning to do the Fat Boys in 2008 but went off to play at the waves in Third Beach instead. See Fat Boy and Little Man.
Second of all, the weather was seriously weird. It was foggy in the morning and there was still a light drizzle when we launched from the club around 11am. There was a decent breeze, 8-13 knots say, at the scheduled start time, but as soon as the sun came out it died off to more like 3-6 knots for most of the time. Then, almost like someone suddenly turned a switch on, the wind went right and increased to about 15-20 knots at about 2:45.
Very weird day.
My results were mainly nothing to write home about. So I'll write home about them.
There were 22 boats. In the light winds I was usually finishing around 15th. Not good. But not totally humiliating.
It was obvious after a while that the right usually paid. The guys who went hard right immediately after the start and sailed almost into the shore usually came out ahead. But not always.
I was getting great starts. That's the third weird thing. I think I might finally have overcome my mental barrier to getting up in the first row at starts and fighting for a good hole to accelerate into.
But I never really made the commitment to go hard right in the light winds. There were always lots of shifts that tempted me to tack on headers and sail on lifts instead of continuing to go right. For a while being in the middle looked really good. I was ahead of boats to right and left. Until those fat bastards on the right came roaring in on a huge lift.
But there was one bright spot. After a few races I noticed that after rounding the leeward mark on to the final beat for the finish, there was a band of stronger wind near the layline to the finish line on the left side of the course. I went for it in the last couple of light air races and probably picked up five places each time I did, as everyone else seemed to go right. I don't know why they did that. Maybe they just figured that as it paid on the first beat, it would work again? Anyway, it was good to pass a lot of boats approaching the finish and I think I may have even made the top ten in one of those races. Children can be so cruel at my age.
And then they switched on the wind!
What a contrast. Now it was gut-busting hiking-hard upwind and ohmigod please don't let me capsize downwind. People were capsizing all over the place. I saw one broken mast. I saw one sailor repairing her boat with a screwdriver. I saw one boat that seemed to be on its side for ages being helped by the safety boat.
So I hit the hiking straps and went hard right and was in the top three or four boats at the windward mark in the first heavy air race. Woo hoo! How did that happen? I gybed on to port, headed straight for the leeward mark and just tried to keep the long pointy thing aiming at the sky. The boats near me headed further left but I grimly hung on to my rhumb line course and, out of the corner of my eye, I saw one of my competitors capsize. Ha! I was second at the leeward mark and should have come second in the race but I was so excited to be doing so well that I had a brain freeze about which end to go for on the highly biased finish line, and I was passed at the finish by the young guy who eventually won the regatta.
Hey, third is pretty good for me in this company.
In the second heavy air race I was strictly in survival mode. Just keep the boat going. Don't capsize. Don't capsize. And I somehow scored a fifth! Not too shabby.
I was having so much fun and was looking forward to some more heavy air racing, but the race officer waved for us all to sail back to the club. I discovered later that the safety boat (which was also serving as the mark boat) had somehow got itself literally tangled up with one of the capsized Lasers and so was unable to reset the marks to run some more races.
Oh well. A great day, nevertheless.
I was on such a high that I was still babbling to anyone who would listen about what a great time I had had as we derigged our boats and enjoyed beer and pizza at the awards ceremony.
After the awards (no podium for me - I ended up 12th) one of my friends, who also reads my blog, pointed out that I must have been having fun because I didn't quit this regatta early. He was right. In fact, if you don't count the one day masters regatta at Cabarete in January, this was the first regatta all year in which I had completed all the races.
For a while, early in the year, I was using my back injury as an excuse for quitting before the end of all the races.
Then I was using the excuse that I only do this for fun, and if I wasn't having fun I would quit early. Although this was, of course, really just another way of saying that I wasn't fit enough to be able to have fun sailing all day.
Maybe my 14 consecutive days of Laser sailing in Menorca really has built up my stamina to where it used to be?
Or maybe my problem was all in my head all along, and I have finally snapped out of my funk?
What an odd day. But in a good way.
I'm all fired up for the start of the frostbiting season now. Bring it on!