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Kit Guide

Snowflake Success

By Steve Cockerill 30th September 2020
A challenging forecast can sometimes put sailors off from sailing during the winter season. We were committed to going to Chichester to bring the boat home for the Stevie Nick weekend. But as usual the wind was not quite as forecast - and we were greeted with a steady 15 knots and lots of other sailors who had either not seen the 34 knots forecast or did not care for it and were intrepidly rigging. I was saddened to see so many parents rigging kids boats but then not sailing themselves. Don't you think its sad that squad sailing can turn great club sailors and even international superstars into drivers and boat riggers? Once caught up in the driver/boat-rigger syndrome perhaps they find it hard to put themselves back into the fray. Are they worried about being beaten by their kids? I used to sail every weekend through the winter at my home club - Tamworth and would race all the oldies. Club sailing was a social scene which included old and young mixing together on and off the water. Once hooked into this social scene it was pretty hard to part from it. I often wonder if squad sailors ever get the time to get hooked into club sailing as I did and so they miss out on its later benefits - as they often give up sailing at University age and are lost to the sport for good. Rant over - I'll get off my soap box! We checked over Harry's Topper Rigging and then I changed into my favourite super warm kit. I am conscious since my PUO in September, that cold really hurts my joints - something to do with a post viral rheumatological condition, so being warm is a must. So I wore poly pro legs and top - (I can't believe I saw sailors with Lycra rash vests on! Do they want to be colder?) I had taken my three year old pair of Pro Hikers (why have we just added Kevlar® to the knee of the new Pro Hikers to make them last even longer?) so I added a pair of hot legs between the poly pro and hikers. On top of my poly pro top, I wore my thermaflex (which are coincidently coming back into stock quite soon) and then Pro Aquafleece. By the time I had put on my Rooster Wet Socks and Rooster Hike Boots - I was so hot, I was about to pass out so rushed out of the changing rooms to the outdoors to finish dressing. Despite feeling too hot indoors my Aquafleece® beanie hat was definitely required as the wind chill was pretty extreme. We were ready for yet another battle at the Chichester Snowflake series.
©Benedict Goodwin

I am not sure what I like most about this series - perhaps its the line starts - perhaps the handicap nature of the fleet that makes for challenging racing all the time - or maybe its the friendly reception at the club with hot food and drink, just when you need it most. I recall this weekends best part was the hot showers that marked the end of a great race. What's also nice is that you can send your kids out on the water knowing that they are relatively safe inside the harbour.

There were less boats in the fast handicap fleet (perhaps they were the ones watching the forecast) but we had been joined by two very competitive Merlins from Hayling Island. The decisions at the start are crucial normally, but when you are not the fastest boat in the fleet - they become even more crucial. Having seriously mucked up the last start of the series, and watched John Tremlett lead by 100m in his Finn - I was keen to find out where he was going to start. John is well known for being the 'one who knows' inside the harbour and Chichester is one of his old haunts. (I hope the fast Merlins aren't reading this). John shaped up for a pin end start so we joined him and Mark Harper near the buoy. With a start that felt like we were over - (that usually means a good start) we raced for the first mark, we managed to lee bow the Merlin on our hip at first and climb on John, I was concentrating on keeping the boat very very upright which helped - rig as far forward as I could manage in 15 knots but back enough to give me the weather helm that acts as an encouragement to keeping it flat. With our safe lane to the tidal relief on the left of the course we had to decide when to tack for the layline. As John tacked on the layline, we opted to tack and duck the Merlin who was now on our hip - the Merlin tacked as we did and we sped into the first mark almost 3 abreast. The course was excellent with another short tight reach - another beat - then a long broad reach, a very very close reach and a beat back through the start line, so there were opportunities to make some gains on the asymmetric boats on the broader legs.
©Benedict Goodwin
The very very close reach is always a challenge when you have a boat as narrow as the Scorpion - and when the spinnaker is 11sqm - a gusty tight reach is a boat handling test. We pulled the main Cunningham on max - raked the rig, pulled the centreboard up, let the Vang go completely (inverting the main) eased the jib till it was almost flogging and hung hard. If we had borne away in the gusts - we would have ended up on the beach - and once you bear away in a Scorpion - there is really no way back to the close reach again - the only option to hold the tight reach lane is to dump the spinnaker - flatten the boat -and then re trim. Martin Jones showed us why he had been the 14 POW winner and led the race away but was overtaken by Jason Kirk with his heavyweight crew for the day, but as the wind moderated they were unable to pull the time out to be better than 5th. Martin still won on handicap but we were lucky to keep ahead on corrected time of Dave and Fiona Sayce in their Merlin - so we scored another 2nd in the series. The series is still wide open -specially if the Merlins come and play again! I can't wait until the 12th of Feb for the next two races.
©Benedict Goodwin

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