Saturday, May 21, 2005

Idiot Wind

The part of the reservoir that we sail in on Wednesday nights is at the center of a big Y shape. To the SE is the main area of the reservoir near the dam where we sail on Sundays. To the NW is the bay where our clubhouse is. And to the N is a long bay where one of the streams that feeds the reservoir enters.

Sometimes we get good steady winds for racing on a Wednesday evening. Sometimes we don't. This week we didn't.

I launched and sailed out to our race area just after 5pm. The wind immediately died. It filled in for a few minutes from the S. Then from the W. Then from the NE. Then it died again. Nick, who was race officer came out in the 14 foot skiff we use as a RC boat on Wednesdays. "What's the wind doing?" he asked. I told him.

My friend Ray and I lounged in our boats and watched to see if the wind would settle down from any particular direction. Nick started driving round, testing the wind direction and hopefully dropping buoys. Every time he set a windward mark the wind either died or changed direction. Ray decided it was hopeless and went home.

Just before 6pm the rest of the fleet started sailing out to the race area. At 6pm, when racing should start, there was no wind in the normal area but I could see some ripples on the water in the cove up to the N and so more or less decided to forget about racing and just go and sail up there in the cove for fun.

After a while it looked like Nick was about to start running a race having set a course in what he thought was a westerly. So I started heading back towards him. I arrived at the start area just in time to get a perfect start at the wrong end of the line. First lesson for racing in light airs - never stray far from the line. It was one of those races where the wind very cleverly shifted so that, although we sailed a triangular course, not a single leg was a beat. The last leg was one of those excruciating sails in hardly a breath of air where you just sit still and hope that the remnants of the wind will somehow nudge you across the finish line. Sometimes on Wednesday evenings you have to take what you can get.

By the time of the second race the wind had shifted 180 degrees from the original direction so we raced the same course the opposite way round. Made a great start. Again every leg was a reach. Finished third just ahead of Who is that guy?

By now the wind seemed to have strengthened to 5 or 6 knots and settled in to come out of the NW. Nick quickly reacted and motored off to set a new windward mark up towards the clubhouse. In order to keep things moving he called for a windward leeward race twice around. The wind went right making the first leg a close reach again and I nailed the start, winning the committee boat end of the line. Rest of the race was a disaster - couldn't point - was slow on the runs - got caught on the outside of a pinwheel at a leeward mark - fouled somebody - but hey I'm just doing this to practice starts.

The sun was almost setting behind the hill when Nick started the final race - another windward leeward race to the NW. I couldn't believe it - the wind finally stayed in same direction for 5 minutes and we had the first beat of the night. Got another great start and then was progressively passed by most of the fleet.

It was getting dark by the time we got back to the launch area. Nick received heartfelt congratulations from one and all for making the best of a bad job. Then off to the Sunset for beer and pizza. Which is what some of us really come for anyway.

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