This weekend marked the start of our 200 season with the first South Eastern Area Series (SEAS) on Island Barn Reservoir. The warning signs were all there on the drive up the A3 with snow storms, slushy roads and a few bumped up cars, but in the end we made it with boat intact. As it turned out another 14 boats had turned up including our two team racing team mates from Itchenor.
The conditions were as perfect as they could be (if you ignore the sub zero temperatures), 12-20 knots and a nice shifting northerly to keep everyone on their toes. Now lake sailing has always been something Sophie and I needed to work on. We have always focused on boat speed and not so much on the shifts and after our last day win at the CYC Snowflake, Steve had very kindly given us his thoughts on how to tackle the shifts and gusts. Using his insight and putting a bit of our own spin on things we set about the first couple of races. Winning the pin end turned out to be key and luckily we manged it both times blasting into the first header and crossing the fleet in both races. From then on we set about trying to make sure we sailed our own race and keep heads out the boat to stay in the breeze and on the lifts. This to our surprise (as we did about 2-3 times as many tacks as we would have done) worked wonders and we held a healthy lead at mark 1 and having done quite a bit of training over the winter our downwind speed meant we weren't really challenged again.
After lunch there were 3 more races scheduled and the wind had died off a touch. This meant that we weren't planing downwind which led to much closer racing. With the pin end still being favored and a few more people picking up on it meant that it became even more tough to come of it at pace but we managed it, just about, each time. Again we played the shifts and used our boat speed in the gusts and were at the front round the first windward. The tricky bit now was with the wind filling in from behind some people were coming planing in from the downwind and before we could do anything about it we found ourselves being sailed around. The key was to stay patient and know that our opportunity would come as long as we stay positive and stay conservative. In race 3 we fought our way back through the shifts to have a healthy lead at the finish inspired by an immaculate spinnaker drop from Sophie on the last leeward mark that would make a TP52 team proud. In race 4 we had a bit of good luck when Rob & Tim tried to lead the rest of the race to the finish a lap early and we rounded the opposite gate, tacked on the header and crossed by a mile. Race 5 was one of our more straight forward races where our selves and Rob & Tim chased each other round the course and had a close last run with them nearly rolling us as they came flying in on a gust and we just positioned ourselves well enough that the distance to get around us was just just too much and we finished within a few boat lengths of each other.
All in all a good start to our season and showing some promising progress towards becoming better all round sailors. It was nice to see so many people brave the weather and get a really epic days sailing for the effort put in and an Itchenor 1,2,3, what more could you want?!! Full report and results can be found here: http://www.islandbarn.org.uk/index.php/uncategorised/666-2013seasprelim