This season has been punctuated with some interesting Solo racing. We developed our MXL load path
sail in the spring which has proved very fast. Originally I thought I would be a Zeta
sailor, but despite many class racing successes against the likes of Nick Peters and Ross Harvey, I was always concerned that my downwind performance was slightly lacking despite my determination to never take the sheet from the boom. On that subject, I still feel that anyone taking the sheet from the boom is already in the amber sector and has got to be very very diligent to not trim the sail illegally. I eventually opted to race with a Sleeved D+
with no cut out.
I have raced at HISC against the fleet in the harbour, but rarely got to experience waves or chop that is associated with Brightlingsea. I was concerned that the chop might be too much for a 77Kg, 51 year old, and that the youngsters might take me apart upwind. But as the week progressed it became apparent that this chop was my friend, not my enemy. A little technique and an effective rig put me near the top of the fleet in any of the conditions that were dealt to me.
My favourite moment was giving water to 42 boats - well here is the picture. Race 5
Water for 42
Oh dear Steve
But I remembered a lesson I learned from a former Star World Champion - that I should treat every race as if it will count. So pulling back to 14th was a result of a sort. That 14 might still be important.
Still with two discards there was always hope. Many of the top guys had already suffered a big score in the light and shifty winds of the start of the week. A couple more adjustments to the forestay tension and we were firing on all cylinders.
A good day on Thursday put the scores pretty close at the top. I got a 1,2.
Leading Race 9
In fact I had sailed myself into a slightly scary second. Scary because Charlie Cumbley could sail me out of a race to convert 5 points. (his discard was 5 better than mine) I might still yet loose second to Andy (Taxi) Davis. However my second discard was better than Charlie's so he could not risk the reverse happening as I could do the same to him.
Taxi too close for comfort
So armed with the important numbers I took to the water for the now crucial race 11.
I took my camera out on the water - hoping to capture some exciting last day action. It was an ideal time to show how the MXL load path sail looked on the way out to the start. I was very confident with my speed.
With the current on the left side of the course at 90 degrees to that on the right - and that on the right was more lee bowed on starboard - I planned to race to the right hand side as soon as possible. My plan was to make a risk free start and then tack to take advantage of the right tidal shift on the right. It was progressing to plan when -
Oh bugger! I guess that's what happens in yacht racing. I know that Chris was not at fault, but the sailor who sailed into him and caused the situation did not appear to sail a 720.
I guess it was time to pass lots of boats -
My camera was still working now - tucked into my buoyancy aid s0 you can see me moving my body and rudder to make the best course over the waves. If this is all beyond you - its time to buy a Boatwhisperer Upwind DVD
Thankfully the right hand side was the one to take. As I sailed down the first run in about 10th place, I noticed that Charlie had capsized and stuck his mast in the mud. There was a moment when I thought this regatta might be going my way. I pulled back to 4th from last off the start line but Charlie also managed to make it back to 8th.
So my points were now 22 and Charlie's were 19. However, he still had the 5 point discard advantage to sail me out in the last race.
Race 12 started to get fruity. After an individual recall flag was raised after the start, Charlie felt he had to camp on my wind just in case he was OCS. I was also unsure, as I finally got a great start as well.
With the yellow jersey a blur directly to windward for most of the race, I managed to hang onto 4th. If I was OCS - then Taxi would take second. Relief when I learned I was not so I was a 51 year old Bridesmaid! Second at the Solo Nationals for a third time. Once in 1992, once in 2008 and now again in 2014. Perhaps this one will always escape me.
Brightlingsea is a fantastic venue both ashore and on the water:
Of the shore team there appeared to be a 'Mr Ben' who in the morning was cooking breakfasts in white, then on the water in neoprene was acting as safety coordinator. Thanks Shaun. The ladies in the kitchen had a great sense of humour and made some great value and tasty food throughout the week.
On the water, Brightlingsea offers some potential terrific sea breezes from the South East, but even when they were not evident, the race area was testing for both current and wave pattern. I shall be keen to come back to Brightlingsea again.