Laser Nationals - Weymouth 2016
So I've finally had opportunity to write for Rooster - well it's either that or spend the evenings watching the sun go down over Chesil beach....
Having arrived the day before, the organisers were considerate enough to give us a lazy morning with a 12 o'clock schedule for the first race, however the afternoon turned out to be anything but. Racing at the far end of Portland harbour, the Radial fleet had a beautiful 25 plus knots of breeze in full sun - conditions I normally revel in as I'm usually the first one planing being well underweight for the radial. However when it comes to being competitive, being a featherweight turns out to be a drawback and so I found myself hanging around the back of the fleet with seemingly twice the amount of Cunningham and kicker on than anybody else (doesn't help that I'm normally a puddle sailor, so not used to white horses and big chop). Oh well, at least I enjoyed a blast, and with the forecast set to drop for the rest of the week, hopes are still running high after stocking up on lasagne!
Monday, and the fleet went hunting out across Weymouth bay for a good 20kts to race in, not particularly what I had hoped for, however definitely more manageable to race in than previously. Fuelled up on a hearty cooked breakfast, I managed small improvements in the first race. Next up, an abandoned start, and two general recalls on black flag - suffice to say, just under a third of the fleet had a BFD, plenty of opportunity to make up lost ground with my best race yet, well into what was left of the fleet with a 41st! By this time though, the only reason my legs are still intact are down to the Rooster Pro Hikers, which thankfully make the walk up to the B&B still possible at the end of each day. So after over an hour of beating upwind from the finish line, across Weymouth bay and then Portland harbour, I was eager to see where a solid race result had put me overall. Disappointment. Turns out the punishment for failing to realise you had been black flagged is a DNE and big points to add to your overall score. That made the walk home a bit longer, however after deep reflection over a bowl of pasta, I decided I still have 4 more days to put this right...
And improvements did come, still not stunning results, but a 51 and 55 at least give me a fighting chance to jump some positions later on in the week! Coming from puddle sailing at my home club in the Cotswolds (Whitefriars SC), I may be starting to get the hang of waves and chop, I'm by no means a stranger to it; however this is the first time I have entered a national competition other than the inlands. Racing was postponed this morning waiting for the wind to fill in more reliably. In place there was the UKLA AGM, which had been cancelled last night in favour of watching Nick and Alison in Rio. Once on the water, there were still a few big shifts out there, with first the left side of the course paying, then the right hand side in the second race where the windward mark was moved by about 500 right across the harbour mid race, but otherwise champagne conditions, 15 knots and protected from the blue skies and sun with Rooster's Supertherm Longjohn and Rash Top.
So we spent a good 6 hours on the water today, perhaps I should have packed more than a couple of brunch bars and energy gels into my Rooster Black Diamond Buoyancy Aid - plenty of room in there for all the food, safety knife, spare ropes, keys, and anything else you can think of. The initial decision was to head out into Weymouth bay, however with the Radials being the third fleet to start, we ended up doing more chatting than sailing, as for the next 3 hours, each start was followed by wind shift, restart, course change, etc. etc. The other two fleets did manage to get a race in each, however we only managed to get half way up the first beat before abandonment - somewhat disappointing as courtesy of my lake sailing I was doing quite well in the patchy winds. Back to Portland harbour where more reliable wind was found and right on cue the radials managed a general recall under black flag once more! Staying out of trouble, that left me with a 46 and 54 at the end of the day. N.B. is it normal for my leg muscles to be throbbing as I write this?
Penultimate day then, so just in case we hadn't had enough already, the wind picked back up - peak gusts at 25kts according to the weather station on the harbour wall. Thankfully we weren't out for 6 hours this time, with two races cleanly underway, it was home in time for lunch with results of 52 and 56 - showing my improvement compared to the start of the week in the wind and waves. Cunningham and kicker were both cranked on to the full again, resulting in a nicely bent mast, though nothing that bending it backwards over a fence can't fix! (And admittedly it is quite entertaining watching some of the others death role on the run) The conditions did however make for some good photography, with at least one camera spotted on a rib, the matching rooster gear and stickers on the hull looking very snazzy on the reach. The day was rounded off by a BBQ and further prize draws. The Weymouth weather pulled out all the stops for the final day of racing, following the trend of the entire week - blue skies all round with a 15knt wind gusting into the low 20's by the time we finished. Yet again it paid to sail to the left of the course and I decided to go all out on the hiking to finish my muscles off (not regretting that at all now) which gave me a couple of very nice results to round off the week off in 49 and 55. This left me 61st overall in the standings, just one point behind the Irish placed in 60th - the DNE and high results at the start of the week starting to bite back! However, I feel the results speak for themselves in that I learnt so much, from my first experience of a week-long regatta, and first competition in waves - definitely happy I was able to finish on a high, improve my sailing and have an amazing 6 days of sailing along the way.
Definitely back again next year for more!