Is That It For 2016? N12 Inlands
Why go sailing in August when you can wait until it's barely above freezing?! We've just returned from the National 12 Inlands at Northampton Sailing Club. The OKs joined us for a fantastic, if cold, weekend of racing combined with the Club's bonfire and fireworks on the Saturday evening.
We arrived at the Club and to our surprise, the sun was out and the wind was nothing like the forecast was predicting! We uncovered the boat before heading into the clubhouse for a coffee and some cake to keep ourselves warm. It was great to be back on the 12 scene again - for various reasons we had missed one or two events since the Nationals.
We were both kept warm by accessorising our kit Hot Socks and our 'his & hers' Neck Gaiters. Lucy also had her Hot Hands on - yet another fantastic product that enables our sailing to continue into the winter!
We ventured out into the start area and quickly got back into sailing the boat. The wind had risen slightly and the gusts were now stronger. We held back slightly at the start but we had good boat speed and kept our position of 2nd non-foiler for the whole race. The second race was very similar to the first, with the same figure of eight course (involving no gybes luckily as we didn't want to swim with it being so cold!). With some snake and ladder shifts upwind, we slipped down a place in the second race. The race team at Northampton were fantastic at turning the races around - we really didn't want to hang about inbetween races and we didn't have too. My hands did become cold though, must invest in some Hot Hands for more winter sailing!
When it came to the third and final race of the day, seeing as we had already had two practices at starting, we really went for it and with some fantastic time keeping from Lucy, we had good speed on the line as the gun went. The wind had begun to decrease on the first beat and I began to play with the kicker more whilst keeping the boat flat. Whatever I was doing had worked, as we rounded the first mark in 8th place and held that position down the first run, only to be over taken by the newer National 12s with T-Foil rudders. Our position slowly began to slip back to the low teens as we grew colder and more tired, but we finished in 12th place, with the boats behind us over a leg behind. Finally, it felt like we were improving! I hadn't been at the top end of the 12 fleet before - oh my is it competitive - but more of that to come....
After coming ashore, we were able to warm up in the clubhouse before checking into our B&B just 10 minutes away from the sailing club. We returned for the N12 Circuit Prize Giving along with the bonfire and fireworks - that did warm us up (even if an old boat was having a viking funeral, but luckily not a National 12!!)
Waking up on the Sunday to see the car windscreen frozen, we didn't envy the hardy sailors who decided to camp and enjoy a frosty sunrise! (Thanks to David Copse for the photo).
We started the Sunday with a full English breakfast before heading to the sailing club with the first race due to start at 10:00. We arrived with 40 minutes to go before the start, but to our surprise no-one had rigged. It soon became clear that all the sailors had decided to change before venturing into the frosty dinghy park! We rigged the boat, complete with frozen jib and mainsheets, and then launched. I noticed some ice in the front of the boat but thought I shouldn't point this out to Lucy as she'd certainly say it was too cold to sail! (As it turns out, she did notice!)Looks like a perfect summer day - apart from the temperature!!
We arrived in the start area, had a little upwind sail to ensure the rig was setup correctly and then turned around to the start - only to see we'd missed the 5 minute gun! Lucy caught the 4 minutes perfectly and I quickly formed a plan to be near the pin-end at the start, further away from the shore so less chance of the evil shifts! Once again the timing worked well and with speed from the start, we hiked like mad and sailed fast, seeing boats behind get further and further away.
We tacked quickly on the first header and went right for a while, ducking behind a number of boats. We then played a few more shifts and as we tacked onto the starboard layline, to our amazement, there was no one underneath or in front of us! I couldn't believe it as we just slipped around the first mark in 1st place! We were leading a race at the National 12 Inlands! We kept fighting on the first downwind leg, only letting one boat pass us and on the second beat, managed to keep our position too, rounding the third mark in 2nd place! I played the third mark rounding too safe and allowed a boat to slip through as we began the reach towards mark 4. Unfortunately for us, the boats with a t-foil rudder had much more pace while we felt like we'd stopped - I did however jump onto the stern wave of one passing by, so we were able to hitch a ride and head into lap 2 in 5th place, with a number of foiling boats behind us.
As lap 2 progressed, we began to fall back slightly into 8th place and by lap 3 our luck had run out with the wind shifts. As we were heading to the windward mark for the final time, 3 boats managed to pass us as we struggled with the shifts. We held our position from here to the finish and were ecstatic to finish 11th out of over 20 boats - especially when at least 11 of the boats at the event had t-foil rudders. We opted to end our National 12 sailing season for 2016 on a high and headed for the shore.
Overall we came 14/21 boats - reflecting on our improvement from 16/19 last year. Due to discards, we would have gained a place had we not retired before the final race, but we didn't mind after such a great race for us.
We have learnt so much by sailing the National 12 this year and it was fantastic to finish on such a high, proving to ourselves that when we get things right, we can start to fight up at the top. We hadn't felt that not having a t-foil rudder was holding us back in the 12 fleet, until those last two races where on the reaches we just couldn't keep the speed up. However, we were happy to have been able to experience this in our first season of proper 12 sailing and are both looking forward to more National 12 adventures in 2017.