RS Aero Nationals, by The Golden Snitch aka “Snitchy”.
We set off last Wednesday and I was allowed to travel on the roof. It’s a great view from up there and frankly I enjoy 60 knots of wind up my nose. I get it, you dogs out there.
We pulled in to Hayling some 5 hours later and there in front of us were some 40 Aeros, all in identical grey pyjamas. I was unloaded, cleaned up, rigged and taken for a delightful sail around the harbour. The water was clear, the sands golden and the sunset almost as good as our own over Hilbre Island.
Next morning, there were some 70 Aeros, all in identical grey pyjamas. I was a little concerned in case Owner took the wrong one. The Owner was in a huddle with other Owners, looking at an Aero that had been rigged for the training session. Some trainer humans were tweaking sails and showing Owners what an Aero smile looks like and then how to wipe that smile off its face. The demo Aero was beginning to look a tad grumpy and had slapped the trainer round the back of his head a few times, but the guy carried on. Next trainer was the Class Association Manager, Peter Barton, who is a fleet legend in the Aero World. He works very hard to organise our play days and he started to talk about capsizing. I strained to hear some gems of wisdom from him but all I heard was something about turtles. I asked some of the older wiser boats around me and got some interesting information which will become apparent later.
68 Aeros left the beach for the on-water training session before the RS Aero Challenge Cup. This was a handicap pre-Nationals event where all 3 rig sizes would race off the same start. The World Champion Aero and its Owner Steve Cockerill (confusingly named after a chicken) came to seek me out on the start line, probably due to my fame in the athletic tricks department. I was about to show the Chicken Boat some stuff to try, but it’s Owner was keen to get away. The race did get away after 2 recalls owing to a very short line. The wind also increased to around 20 knots at the start and there were crazy Aeros hopping, popping and capsizing all over. We took off on a trapezoidal course, rounding the first mark in the 30’s. I took off downwind, surfing in the lovely waves like a loon. We carved through the capsized Aero debris on the second reach and were flipped over by a massive wave.
I remembered the earlier lesson on capsizing and stuck my mast underwater, pointing towards the seabed as instructed, to look for turtles. It was so cool down there and I was holding Owner’s foot in my mainsheet so she could come too. She seemed reluctant to open her eyes and wriggled out of my grip, gasping and spluttering. She then set about separating me from the fish I’d befriended down there. Once I was upright and she’d done a beached whale impersonation getting back on board, we set off on more glorious surfing waves to finish 44th. Around a third of the fleet had retired when the wind kicked in, so Owner was happy to finish and get back home upright with nothing broken.
Friday morning dawned bright and sunny. There were 109 Aeros, all in identical grey pyjamas.
The wind was from the North West and hardly tickled my tell-tales, but they made us leave the beach anyway. The 5m and 9m rig boats were started and limped upwind towards the shore. As our 7m rig start was about to set off, all races were abandoned and we then faced a 3 hour wait for the sea breeze to fill in. The wind did change direction but was super light and fickle. We were super slow and went the wrong way, finishing a meagre 66 in Race 1 and 64 in Race 2.
The following morning there were…. 109 Aeros, some in grey pyjamas, some dishevelled and some lying naked with damp wetsuits hoisted up their masts. I’m so grateful that Owner takes good care of me. There was a postponement for lack of wind. This allowed my Chicken Man Steve Cockerill to give me a well-earned makeover, starting with my kicker. Chicken Hen (Sarah Cockerill) cleverly spotted that my traveller was loose, which would have affected my lack of speed in the drifters. So, with Team Rooster in the operating theatre, I finally had some speed inducing surgery.
By the time they were done, my wings were buffed, my halo was bent and my horns were showing.
Next in the line for Snitchy makeover was RS, who came to inspect my lower mast section, where I’d had a few problems with my Crocs that I wear on my mast foot. This had cracked open. RS spotted that my kicker sleeve also rotated when it shouldn’t (too much rubber necking at other boats…) so they gave me a brand new bottom section. Fab. Thanks guys!!
We left the beach soon after, as the 10-14 knots of sea breeze filled in. I clocked my best result in that next race, with a 32. I also clocked another capsize in Race 4, trying to avoid a rude boat that tried to punch my nose on port, which put us back to 50th. Race 5 and 6 gave us 49th and 46th, which meant we finished the day 51st overall.
At the Championship Dinner, I was awarded the improver’s prize – a pair of super cool shades by Harken. These are obviously special, magical glasses, with turtle spotting properties. Hand them over at once.
The fabulous amazing Ken Fowler, who sailed his Aero from Land’s End to John O’Groats, raising £35K for charity, was also at the dinner. Owner was swooning at his feet in a totally embarrassing way. No smart ideas Lady. Mostyn’s my limit. Unless, of course it’s a reach…
The final day was forecast for 30 knots of wind and it didn’t disappoint. The Race Team made a wise decision to run the last two races inside the Harbour, to everyone’s relief. Nevertheless, only 49 boats went out. They left the beach on a wild run towards the Committee Boat in a plume of spray and some of the ruder ones even did some bottoms up. We started the race with more kicker than I’ve ever had on. So much so that she jammed under the boom with her lifejacket on the first tack. We had a little swim, but stayed gloriously upright thereafter. The Race Team set a reaching finish off the leeward mark, so to celebrate I lurched into a huge wave to give it a high five with my gooseneck before crossing in 41st place. I’m glad Owner kept a firm grip on sheet and rudder, or we would have impaled the finish boat. That would have been awkward.
A line of boats peeled off towards home before the final race. The wind continued to gust strongly and the tide was dropping to reduce our sailing options in the harbour. We whizzed around, coming 34th. This now meant we could discard the first day’s results, which gave us a 48th place at the end of the series.
What an adventure we’ve had;
I’ve nosedived, turtled and worn some lovely seaweed jewellery on my rudder. I’ve won Shades, acquired stickers and a new mast section. I’ve been re-modelled, conditioned and undergone speed therapy with a World Champion.
Meanwhile Owner had colonic irrigation (more than once), head injuries (my boom – oops), whiplash (the nosedive – oops), dehydration, disorientation, asphyxiation and knee pronation.
I think we’ve had a good time.
You should try it yourselves, Snitchy