Yesterday was our last race of the year. It's been a cracker. One of the highlights has definitely been the Hare and Hounds Series which concluded yesterday. After the 'regular' season ends the Emsworth clubs run a series on Springs weekends and invite Thorney Island Sailing Club members too. As well as Saturday and Sunday series, there is an overall split into fleets extracted from the results. And to add a little winter spice there is an inter-club event with the first 5 boats from each club counting towards a club score. It's well attended, never less than 30 entrants, and normally 35-40.
There is a really good mix of handicaps from a Musto Skiff to an RS Feva, with strong fleets of Lasers and 400s. It's been interesting to watch the RS Aeros and Devoti Zeros racing together. There have always been a few 2000s for us to race, and we've enjoyed racing two Stratos, effectively level rated (although they do shift when the wind blows and they can put all that water-line length to use). I love this sort of handicap racing: always a target boat to race against, focus on boatspeed and staying out of trouble, work on clear air and identify the right strategic calls. Racing in a narrow channel with tide and some 'tributaries' affecting wind and current make the latter particularly important. Then there is the fun factor of so many different boats and people and the inter-club rivalry. Gwen and Johnny have particularly enjoyed this last factor.
As you would expect for Autumn and Winter, conditions have been mixed. Sunny on the first weekend. Mainly mild but with breezes of a round F3-4. Then (very) light airs for a driftathon with thick ice on the boat before we started, and some (to Gwen's delight) on the bin lid even after we finished. The last two races saw a bit more breeze at F4-6. So the question was what to wear: I need to accept an increased risk of capsize when I'm sailing with the kids rather than Clare so I put a bit more on. An underlayer of Polypro Top, Leggings and Socks
was topped with my old Raceskin (which I will be replacing with a Thermaflex Longjohn
at Clare's recommendation early next season). On top of that my Hot Top
, an Aquafleece
, and Rooster Pro-hikers
. On the feet, wet socks
and Rooster Hiking Boots
- toasty warm despite a wait while Gwen wrestled the trolley back up the slipway. I wore my Semi-Dry Top
as my waterproof layer. I really love the front pocket. It has an easy to use but very waterproof zip, and I can fill it with all kinds of stuff: this week it had two packets of Haribo (very important for crew moral), a Rooster Polypro Headband
, a Rooster Aquafleece Beanie
in case my cap didn't keep me warm enough, a Polypro Balaclava
for Gwen if her face got cold, and an Aquafleece Neck Gaiter
. She popped the Neck Gaiter
on just before the start, enjoying the cosy feel, and extra neck warmth. On Sunday it was breezier so I wore the Aquafleece Beanie
and took my new Rooster Neoprene Beanie
in case I was cold in the extra wind. I wasn't while sailing but it was gorgeous while packing up after finishing.
Gwen has this season been just too small for the Thermaflex
and Supertherm Longjohns
. With the colder weather we've moved on from Polypro
under a normal wetsuit, with an Aquafleece
on top, and dug out a drysuit we had picked up in a children's gear sail at our club. The great thing is that we can still use her Polypro Top
which provides the technical layer to back up the less technical fleeces and thermals from her wardrobe. That means that face and feet are the only vulnerabilities. We used the Aquafleece Neck Gaiter
to keep the bottom half of the face and the neck toasty and Gwen tried out the Polypro Headband
to keep her ears warm. She was very happy and felt very cool! She has also just got big enough feet and hands (Size 1-2 and 16cm palms) to fit Junior Polypro Socks
and 3XS Hot Hands Glove Liners
and Polypro Glove Liners
. Cold hands and feet are a thing of the past, even with plenty of spray going on.
So how did we get on? We are absolutely delighted to have finished 8th in the Saturday Series (first Slow Handicap) and to win the Slow Handicap Class overall, counting 5 firsts, and discarding a second. Our best individual race result was a 2nd during one of the Sunday Races. But the best thing has been the fun we have had sailing together - the constant questions whether general sailing, racing specific or just environmental ('Was that a Heron Daddy?'). And for me it has been watching the kids grow in confidence and skill.