Making a splash in the RS200 circuits
Photos courtesy of Roger Mant. There was a small yelp, and then a splash, and I realised I was alone in the boat, kite up, hurtling towards the leeward mark in 25kts of breeze. Glancing back I saw Sophie bobbing in the water looking quite surprised, with the second placed team bearing down on her, their vision obscured by the spinnaker.
It was a warm, sunny, blustery Saturday, day 1 of the Burnham RS200 open at the Royal Corinthian YC, located at the mouth of the river Crouch in Essex. While the weather was perfect, we felt far from it, both of us suffering from some nasty start-of-term bug that was going around Cambridge. The Burnham open was the last of the Fox's Marine & Country Great Eastern circuit, so despite our condition we were determined to put in a decent showing.
The race course was set with a brilliant windward-leeward in the confluence of the rivers Roach and Crouch, with the startline spanning the channel and the fleet evenly split on which riverbank to choose as we raced against the tide. We picked the left bank and led the pack around the windward mark and back down to the leeward mark, which was located much closer to the other bank, leaving us with the dilemma of whether to cross the channel to get to the favoured left bank, or stick to the right on the second beat. We chose to stay right, and predictably the bunch behind split from us and went left. We pulled away initially while they crossed the stream, then nervously watched them close the gap as we tacked up opposite banks, unable to put a cover on them. Fortunately it seemed we'd chosen the right side again, and we took the bullet. The second race was more of the same, except we had kite issues which cost us the lead which we were unable to reclaim.
The wind picked up substantially for the final race, with gusts of 25kts+ coming down the course and plenty of fierce planing. Having dragged ourselves around two races coughing up phlegm, we were thoroughly shattered for this race, and our boat handling became quite clumsy. There were nervous moments downwind as we had to pull off multiple gybes in big gusts to get down the narrow river; by the final lap we'd pulled out a comfortable lead so settled into 'safe mode' to bring the boat home. Approaching the leeward mark for the last time, we threw in one final gybe... the sails crossed, the boat settled, we were safe! Then Sophie fell out of the boat.
There was a small yelp, and then a splash, and I realised I was alone in the boat, kite up, hurtling towards the leeward mark in 25kts of breeze. Glancing back I saw Sophie bobbing in the water looking quite surprised, with the second placed team bearing down on her, their vision obscured by the spinnaker. Fortunately this was the full extent of the drama; Sophie was safely plucked from the river, I was able to drop the kite and return to her, and we laughed. There was nothing amiss with the toestraps, so the brief excursion was put down to my insufferable company causing her to abandon ship.
The wind was in a different direction on day 2, so we raced in the Crouch instead. We were still feeling pretty ropey, but managed to do enough to win the event, and with it, the Eastern Circuit. We returned home for an early night, and spent the next week on antibiotics trying to get healthy for the next event!
The next event was Burghfield, a favourite of mine due to the snakes and ladders style racing and strong fleet that it (and Ellie Sharps' baking) attracts. With a patchy 0-12kt wind, "Classic Burghfield" racing took place, with epic comebacks and heartbreaking losses being the order of the day. Locals Ellie and Emma sailed a near-perfect series to take the win, and we were happy to take best-of-the-rest on a difficult day.
This put us in contention for the SEAS (South Eastern Area Series) win - we just needed a good result in the final event at Island Barn. Unfortunately Sophie was occupied elsewhere, but happily Rheanna Pavey offered to sail with me in what ended up being a tense, closely-fought 4-way battle in light to drifting conditions. Perhaps it was 'two helms in a boat' syndrome, or perhaps it was something in our setup, but we were near-unbeatable upwind, and infuriatingly slow downwind. We couldn't hold the kite as low as those around us, and were repeatedly rolled and out-soaked, and we still don't really know why. I have a working theory that we had tried to put too much spacing at the head of the kite to lift it away from the mast, but in the very light wind it caused it to hang lower, so the foot dragged in the water and didn't lift. Anyway, going into the final race we had 3 points, and three other boats had 4 points, and we all rounded the final windward mark in a bunch, and the wind died to nothing. We decided to drop the kite and 2-sail down the run, which allowed us to sneak past Mark Heather and Nicola Groves to take second overall, while Ben Palmer and Amy Seabright found their own private wind to keep their kite flying the whole run to take the victory.
Second in the event was enough for us to take the SEAS title for the second time, so we're delighted to have won two circuits this year. We have a couple more events left this season (the EoS at Rutland and the Winter Champs at WPNSA), then this winter will be largely spent turning my moth boat handling from a major liability into (hopefully) less of a liability. Thanks to Rooster for the support this year, looking forward to next season!