It's been an amazing season for the Sargent family: Gwen and Johnny's training and racing in Opis and Teras; the fun at Thorney Island and Emsworth Sailing Clubs and our amazing season in the 2000 as a family. And with Autumn training and some ocean sailing and racing to come for Matt, there will no doubt be more tales to come. However with the 2000 Millennium Series ending last weekend I thought I'd start there.
Zooming to the finish at Thorney Island
We did our first local Open meeting two years ago, and travelled for the first time last year. We had such a good time at Broadstairs Sailing Club last year that as soon as we saw it on the Calendar we knew we would have to go again. The big sky and sea of the Dover Straits and the town falling steeply to the beach below remind me of some of my favourite Cornish venues, but with a very Kentish flavour. So does the Clubhouse, a narrow three-storey building off the road to the beach, with an incredibly friendly welcome, not least from Roy and Mary, friends we had made the previous year, who put us up again.
Thankfully winter racing and an early start to the season had prepared Gwen and Johnny for a challenging forecast of force 4 to low end force 6. We arrived to a stiff but sunny Easterly, and some fairly big waves rolling in, but were relaxed about launching due to the shelter of the harbour wall - it can be one of the more challenging things about sailing with small children. Gwen was first up as crew, and a little nervous, but snuggled into layers of polypro
, Supertherm Longjohn
and an Aquafleece
she was cosy and happy. That was nearly undone by the world's biggest sea-gull which swooped and stole her lunch roll (the situation was recovered and Mummy Clare went hungry!) We had a fantastic time in the waves, holding on up wind, and flying downhill, when we were able to go lower and faster than all but the race winner. Gwen was fairly tired after giving her all in the first two races - two second places scored. Knowing that the Race Officer was going to run the fourth race on the first day, Clare sent out Johnny for a swap (one of the great things about the 2000 Class is the way it encourages family sailing by allowing such changes). Unfortunately the Patrol Boat arrived with him just 1 minute 20 seconds to the start, so Johnny enjoyed the show while Gwen earned another second place. Her comment on getting ashore was, 'Daddy said "Hike harder than you've ever hiked before." So I did and we got another second.' With a little less weight and Force 6 gusts out at the windward mark (and perhaps a tiring Matt?) the last race result with Johnny was a third.
Overnight conditions had changed. The wind was mainly Force 6 from the South with leftover swell from the East making for a confused sea state. The sky was a threatening grey and a sparkly Cornish style blue sea had been replaced with brown. There was a distinct reluctance to get changed, but thankfully three boats were up for it and prepared to let Clare swap in, those seas were too much for the kids. I've not experienced full on close-hauled surfing in the 2000 before, but this we did as we closed with the cliffs on port tack. I was really pleased with some fantastic boat-handling from Clare which twice got us into first place on the beat to the finish line. One event down, one second place.
Next up was Chichester. Definitely a relief not to travel, and a very familiar venue. A force 2-4 should have favoured us a bit more but it was a pretty frustrating weekend. There does seem to be a fashion for overdoing port bias on the line, combine that with tide holding you off and it makes it hard for more than a few boats to get away cleanly. Add the round the ends penalty and the situation is worse, since you have to be at the end to have a chance of bailing out! Anyway I managed to get that wrong and gave us an OCS in the first race - even more annoyingly I had done it while racking up with 40 seconds to go. Then another race was abandoned due to a windshift on the the second lap when we were doing well, and we waited while the course was relaid to chase the wind. Johnny was very patient, if frustrated, through all of this. Thankfully a variety of headwear options including the Polypro headband
kept his temperature just right as the wind rose and dropped. We also had plenty of snacks and sweets in the pocket of my Rooster semi-dry top.
With Gwen crewing on Sunday we had some good results but I managed to mess up while running third by missing the upwind gate. It was quite a hairy spinnaker run back to the mark! Gwen forgave me and worked really hard and we recovered to eighth - even more frustrating that we missed fourth place by 5 points overall. For the kids it was more frustrating that they were beaten into eighth by their main rivals, Max (9) and Alex (6) Sydenham, sailing with their Dad, Lee.
We had found that we suffered for boat handling when short tacking against the tide, because I need to pull the jib in to get it tight enough. We have a good drill for this, but it could be quicker. Steve suggested a 2:1 jib sheeting system and I'm pleased to say that the Class Association is now going to trial this.
Our plans for the fourth event had to change when Johnny broke his arm. He was very forlorn as we arrived at Weston Sailing Club, and worried about how Gwen would manage her first whole weekend of racing. The breeze was up again, F4 gusting to 5, and we shared a race course with the 4000s. Gwen especially enjoyed seeing Steve and Sarah in action and showing them how well her Team Rooster Rash Vest
fitted (Thanks - that was the perfect boost). Tactically it was tricky, with some fairly large shifts, some gusts and some major lulls, and a confused tidal situation with a race course just off the corner where the main flow and a tributary met. And then we had to add to that the effect of the container ships which passed close to the windward mark and killed the breeze completely. We had a 4,5,5,6, only to find the next morning that the last race had been cancelled after a request for redress. So it was to be a seven race weekend for Gwen. We hadn't anticipated 5 and half hours on the water, and had left off Gwen's Aquafleece, but the day was saved as the wind and spray increased in the last race by the Neoprene Beanie
I had in my semi-dry top. I was able to stuff it on Gwen's head while we were racing and she was returned to a toasty warm condition. The family nature of the 2000 was emphasised in the last race when Lee and Max Sydenham, Gwen and I, and Richard and Ian Hudson rounded the second mark in a 1,2,3. If we had paid more attention to the rest of the fleet rather then being caught up in inter-family rivalry then we might have held on to that!
Gwen said, 'Daddy said, 'hike harder than you've ever hiked before,' so I did'.
Next up was a pretty special event for us: a Millenium Series event at our home club, Thorney Island. This was the first open the Club had hosted for at least 25 years, and with the support of the Army Sailing Association all were determined to put on a great event. Clare ran shore side, Johnny helped with trolleys with his good arm, and Gwen and I raced. The harbour put on a great show for us. A solid Force 4+ from the sea breeze direction, and bright sunshine. There were unusual numbers of jellyfish in the harbour, and no-one went completely without a heart stopping thud. It was classic harbour racing beating into the flood for the most part, and it was great to have some local knowledge to fall back on. There was just enough South in the breeze that East Head spit was pulling the breeze left. The left hand side was then further favoured because Stocker Bank was just inside the port layline, and invisible! So our strategy was dominated by the need to go left upwind and gybe early on the run. I really felt that we were getting it together now. Tacks were faster, and we were quick downwind. Must have been the local waves. We got our first win at an Open and finished Saturday 3,1,3, one point off second.
3rd it is!
Sunday was much the same, only with a little more wind. A 5th in the first race looked to have spoilt our chances of second, but a second in race five to our rivals' fourth gave us a sniff in the last race. We just needed a win!
Perhaps inevitably Gwen said, 'Daddy said, 'hike harder than you've ever hiked before,' so I did'. And it really did work.
Hike harder Daddy!
We rounded in a close second at the last windward mark and then had an amazing two mile planing run back to a finish off the Thorney Club line. We snuck ahead by going low and fast in a gust gybing ahead and right on the line of the second placed boat. And then hung on, dodging the tide and protecting our windward side with the shallows. The boat behind had three goes at gybing off and coming back hot and high to break through to leeward: the last one ended at the finish line. We were ahead by a foot, and secured second for the open! With a busy training session running in front of the Club it was a great advertisement for the 2000 and open meeting sailing.
That left us in second overall in the Millenium Series. We couldn't sail the fifth and sixth events. Although we discussed the seventh event the kids worked out that the chances of us winning with our opposition in third or worst were not worth missing out on rigging and race training in their latest Optimist, nor missing the last race and losing first in a Club Race Series. They were massively relieved that we held onto second! It's been a great season - many thanks to the Class Association.