Back in the 12 - North West Norfolk Sailing Week
I was missing the sea. The Wayfarer Worlds were on a lake in the Netherlands and I'd been river sailing all year apart from one 12 open at Ely SC that we made a brief appearance at. However, my last experience of the sea was the National 12 National Championships at Herne Bay SC in 2015, with 30+ knots of breeze. Not the type of conditions I wanted to introduce Lucy, my crew, into sea sailing with. To prepare for this year's Nationals and also to race against more National 12s, we decided to participate in the first 3 days of North West Norfolk Sailing Week.
The week involves sailing at different venues along the North West Norfolk coast, but the majority of the racing is early or late, allowing participants to have a holiday and explore parts of Norfolk. The week started at Hunstanton SC and with our own 12 start, 11 other boats joined us.
Saturday got off to a slow start in the light breeze, unfortunately we rounded the top mark in last place! As the wind decreased further, we were able to slip past a few boats off the wind and by making a quick gybe at the bottom mark of the triangular course, we were not swept so far inshore by the tide. When the feeble breeze returned, we had less distance to sail to finish the first lap so continued to overtake a few boats. We kept our position upwind and managed to overtake another National 12 of our design but with a t-foil rudder on the final run. It was a brilliant day, finishing mid-fleet in our first sea 12 open together.
The sun was out and the breeze was slowly building for the sailing on Sunday. A few white horses appeared before the start, but that didn't put us off. We had a reasonable start and sailed around the first mark in 5th place, a position we held until the end. With some exciting surfing down the highly unpredictable waves and a few strong gusts, we sailed quite conservatively including tacking round the gybe mark, but it paid off as we saw our competition fall in whilst gybing behind us!
Our outhaul had become extremely difficult to adjust before the start of the 2nd race, so we had to hike really hard to keep the boat flat, especially in the waves. We changed a few places occasionally up the beat as we figured out the correct way to go (not into the tide!) and were constantly chasing N 2403 around the course. As we decided to tack round instead of gybe on the final lap, they had just enough distance to maintain a lead until the finish. However, with 4 N12s racing close behind it was better to come 6th than 10th!
Lucy was well washed by the spray and the waves but enjoyed her first weekend on the sea.
However, the fun didn't stop there! We stayed on for the 3rd day of North West Norfolk Week, sailing at Ouse Amateur Sailing Club on the Monday. OASC is located on the river in Kings Lynn and only host one race per year - the race in Norfolk Week. We arrived in the morning, dropping the car and boat off in a local car park, where a gate opens onto the slipway! After spending the day in Kings Lynn, we returned to rig and watch the tide flood in - like we'd never seen it before.
Luckily the breeze picked up just before the Race Officer thought of abandoning the sailing and we all launched. Only four National 12s had arrived to compete for the Great Ouse National 12 trophy. We started well, with only one National 12 getting ahead from us and we spent the whole race in line with N 2403 again, just like the previous day!
Local knowledge was crucial with the tide and constant shifts, but despite us never sailing at Kings Lynn before, we managed to hold off the other two National 12s to come 2nd overall! We were delighted, especially as we had been told the sailing wasn't the best, but we couldn't complain at all, especially when we were awarded a bottle of wine and two mugs for our 2nd place - our first glassware from an open in the National 12!
Even though we only did 3 days of North West Norfolk Week, we had such a brilliant time and we can't wait to go back and do the whole week next year! We met some great people, had a short holiday and got some vital preparation in for the 12 Nationals....more on that soon!