Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cerebro Pedo

Thursday in the Advanced Laser Class at Minorca Sailing was all about starting practice in the morning and the weekly regatta in the afternoon.

It was blowing perros off cadenas as they say around here. Our instructor recommended that everyone in the class - even fine upstanding fit young men like my friend and I (who have a combined years of Laser sailing experience exceeding our instructors age by a factor of two) - should trade down a rig so we could concentrate on boat-handling rather than survival. So we went out in Radials.

The starting practice was probably the most useful drill of the week. God knows I suck at starting. Anything I can do to improve my starting skills is worthwhile. We did starts on port bias lines and starboard bias lines and rolling starts and starts with short races and mystery starts and other similar tortures. My friend and I agreed that it would be good practice for us to be mean to each other for a change so I luffed him up to windward before the start and blew him away at the gun and he repaid the compliment. We shouted things like, "Don't come in there!" and, "Up up up!" a lot. It was almost like racing in the Newport frostbite fleet except it was about 50 degrees warmer and there weren't any icebergs.

In the afternoon it was not only blowing perros off cadenas even more, the air was full of flying perros. So we decided to race in Radial rigs again. The instructor asked if we wanted to sail triangular courses as he envisaged too much death roll mayhem if he ran the usual alternating sausage and triangle races and the majority of the sailors agreed with him, so that was decided upon. We would race round and round a triangle an indeterminate number of times, crossing the start-finish line each leg, until the RC boat put up a red flag when the leading boat rounded the leeward mark meaning that it was the final lap.

In the first race I made a good start near the boat end of a starboard biased line and led everyone by a considerable margin at the windward mark.  The Radial took off on the first reach like a bat out of hell even before I had had a chance to ease the outhaul and downhaul. What a blast! "Win the start and extend your lead." Isn't that what all those rock star sailors write in their books? One win to the Tillerman.

Or maybe not. There were also a bunch of little people racing in Laser 4.7 rigs (even smaller than the Radial) and we were handicap racing under Portsmouth Yardstick. One of the 4.7 sailors was a very fast woman who is a member of the sailing team  at Cambridge, which is the best university in the world. So it was entirely possible that the aforementioned very fast woman had beaten me even though I was first across the finish line. What the hell. I hate handicap racing.

Best university in the world

The second race was somewhat more ugly. The line still had a starboard bias and I got to the line a bit too early and ended up drifting down towards the pin, with most of the fleet starting to the right of me. Not good. My friend had an excellent race and crossed the line first, but I did manage to beat all the little people and cross second. But who knew how the very fast woman from the best university in the world would correct out on handicap? I hate handicap racing.

The third race will forever be embedded in my memory banks in indelible ink, and I don't mean that in a good way. First of all my friend decided to pull a repeat of the silly games we had been doing in the morning starting practice and with some aggressive luffing and much screaming of, "UP UP UP UP UP!" he managed to force us both over the start line and we were called OCS. By the time we had both returned to restart I was dead last.

But I remembered what it said in all those rock stars' sailing books. Put a bad experience on the race course out of your mind and just sail fast.

"Imitate the action of the tiger. Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood. Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage." No, that's not from one of Stuart Walker's books. I think Shakespeare said that.

A tiger

And did I mention it was still blowing perros off cadenas?

So I stiffened the sinews and hiked hard and gradually started grinding down the rest of the fleet. Round and round the triangle we went. On the final reach I passed the leading 4.7 sailor, rounded the leeward mark, crossed the finish line in first place (but who knows who would beat me on handicap), eased the sheets, eased the vang, thanked the race committee for an excellent afternoon's racing, and waited to congratulate my fellow sailors as they crossed the line too.

I wasn't watching too closely what they all did after crossing the line, but after they had all finished, the last sailor looked back at me as she continued upwind and shouted back at me, "We haven't finished!"

What? I looked upwind. Everyone else was still racing upwind towards the windward mark. I looked at the committee boat. No red flag. Oh no! We still had one more lap to go! I did briefly consider joining the race and trying (again) to catch a few of the tail-enders but I wasn't feeling very tiger-like. Hey, this can be my throwout. So I sailed back to the beach and waited for the others to finish and join me so we could all have a good laugh at my stupid mental error. Duh!

At the awards ceremony I was amazed to find that my first and second places on the water had survived the handicapper's mathematical magic and that was enough to make me the winner of the regatta, at least among those in our morning Advanced Laser Class. The very fast woman from the sailing team at the best university in the world apparently won the regatta overall and in the group of "ringers who don't even bother to take the Advanced Laser Class but just go off and do windsurfing or asymmetric boat sailing in the mornings and then come and beat up the sailors from  the Advanced Laser Class in the Laser races in the afternoon." Good luck to her. She was very fast.

And then I took the beautiful Tillerwoman out to dinner where I enjoyed Menorcan tomato soup and fillet steak kebabs along with a glass or two of red wine. I really can't remember what she had.

A glass of red wine

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