“IT’S a warm wind, the west wind, full of birds’ cries;
I never hear the west wind but tears are in my eyes”
I’m sure Peter Gordon knows exactly how John Masefield felt, after enduring a night of mishap and misadventure; but more of that later!
It was a night for the fit or the young or the skilful. 11 intrepid Laser sailors felt they fitted into one or other of these categories as they left the shore in 25+ knots of breeze that threatened to build rather than ease as forecasted. There had been much deliberation amongst the assembled sailors until the late arrival of Colston who proceeded to express astonishment that anyone could doubt the wisdom of putting to sail in a force 6/7, with the prospect of wind over tide and low water only having passed an hour earlier. As events turned out, he and Donald were in the right of it, and those who survived were thoroughly (and deservedly) impressed with themselves.
29 knots over the course just before the first start led to a couple of boats having to deal with capsize issues. This compromised the path of the Gate Boat and caused moments of anxiety throughout the fleet. However, in the scheme of following things, this had little impact on the final outcome of the race. Most boats seemed to handle the windward leg quite well, although a few had tales to tell in the bar, afterwards, of going into irons and the consequent rush of adrenalin fuelled action that normally ensues. It was the next leg and gybe that was to prove the literal and metaphorical turning point of the race.
Watching from the safety of the Tower, (you remember those three categories I mentioned – well, I don’t fit into any of them), the next few moments were almost comical, as one boat after another failed to negotiate the corner. Peter Gordon’s capsize was perhaps the most spectacular – it certainly took him the longest to get up. If only he’d known what was to come, he might have packed it in then! The first two boats to emerge from the carnage were Chris Guy and Colston Nichols and these two went on serenely to finish in 2nd and 1st places respectively. Slightly farther down the fleet, actually almost as far down the fleet as you can get, came Shaun Kerwick, in a Radial sail, who after his pre-start capsize, managed to complete the whole race without any further inversions. He was pleased with this, and rightly so; I take my hat off to him. Richard Strang had his normal eventful race but took such strong conditions in his stride as only a man of his character and proportions can. But, arguably, the sailor of the first race was Mark Scott, finishing, as he did, in third place. Becoming Gate Boat by finishing third is a prize not many of us win, and to do it in such challenging conditions was a creditable performance to say the least.
My observation of the second race was less complete as I had duties to perform on the slipway, welcoming the arrival of early returning warriors. However, I did see enough of the race to watch Peter Gordon destroy the fleet on the first beat and head towards the gybe mark with a healthy lead. Leaders of races don’t ‘wear round’ do they, so Peter headed straight into a gybe. A more generous God would have helped him out here but sadly Neptune had other ideas, and, once again, Peter was having a conversation with the fishes! At least this meant he didn’t have to watch the entire fleet pass him by – actually this was achieved in an impressively short space of time. Having got himself back into the boat, he had caught up the back markers as they approached the leeward mark only to suffer another dunking.
This was more than enough for him (and me watching) and he became one of the early returners I spoke of previously.
This 2nd race was sailed in slightly easier conditions, although tiring sailors may well wish to disagree with this opinion. Colston sailed the course majestically, never appearing (from a distance!) to be in any discomfort and went on to win. Ann and Roberta, in Radials, continued their usual battle. Previously Roberta pipped Ann (4th and 5th) but in this race Ann managed to repay the compliment (2nd and 3rd). So Roberta wins the prize of Gate Boat for the next race.
Tired sailors managed the tricky task of getting ashore with varying degrees of skill. I watched Colston prostrate across his boat- was he thanking the gods for their kindness? Just when we thought the entertainment for the evening was over, Gary Hind appeared at the entrance to the cut. Watching a windward capsize is a bit like watching an Alfred Hitchcock film – you’re hoping for the best but you know to expect the worst, and so it turned out for Gary as he vainly tried to ride the rails. It was a cruel end to his evening but it takes more than that to defeat his spirit.
The race team, led by Donald did a great job. I expect emotions on the rib were polarised with Donald rueing the fact that he had to organise the races rather than sail them and Kay thoroughly happy to watch the action from the safety of the rib! Hopefully she will pass on the tips she must have gained.
I wasn’t the only one to default on sailing but I was the only one to stick around, albeit mostly in the bar. I just need to work out how I’m going to get into one of those three categories. It’s a bit late to do anything about failing youth. So, that just leaves me with fitness or skill to improve. Oh well, better have another pint whilst I decide which of the two it’s going to be!