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Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Meanderings of a Mature Helm

After I'd been drawing my old age pension for a few years I realized what everyone else had noticed, in that I'm not as nimble as I once was. Also, while I'm willing to take the boat out when there is a chance that I might capsize, I'll no longer go out when there is a certainty of it.

With this in mind I decided to just enjoy sailing at Yeadon and to h*** with being competitive.

So the race was on; I had a relatively stress-free start without too much "up-up-up!" and noticed a whole bunch of boats going left on starboard as is their wont. Plenty of room on the right – why get all the hassle and dirty wind from the crowd – tack off to the right and as the first mark is to port, I can approach it on starboard. I do, and find two or three of the original bunch have to tack off behind me – nice surprise!

A short leg, then a long (for Yeadon) port reach to the next starboard hand mark. My old rival Greg is just in front of me, and he's a dreadful luffer, so I sail deep, well below his wind shadow, and find I have water at the mark as I harden up and speed up over the last fifty metres.

Another windward leg comes up and I realize that by observing the boats in front of me I can deduce where the most favoured wind is, and anticipate the lifts and headers coming along. By this means I've gained another couple of places without doing anything brilliant.

Next leg's a run. I choose to sail it on starboard to claim right of way, even though it's a bit dodgy by the lee. Blanketing the boat in front, who's on port, he sees me coming. His panic gybe onto starboard is ill timed, and I'm up another place. After a reach that's too short for anyone to benefit, another beat.

Two boats in front of me are locked in mortal combat - so intense that they don't realize that whilst covering each other on port, three toppers having a nice reaching race on starboard are uncomfortably close and have right of way. I don't want to spoil the Toppers fun, so sail well clear, and find that I am in front of the discomforted and unseeing pair.

Another reach, and a different boat just in front of me. It's Tony, and I don't like being behind him. Nothing for it but to concentrate hard on boat trim, keep it dead upright, transom just out of the water, watch the sail like a hawk and respond to every flutter of luff, leach and telltales, and just manage that extra tiny percentage of speed to get water at the next mark.

A couple more legs and it’s the dead run again. All of us on starboard this time, so I try looping out to the right on port. I'm in clear wind as I close the mark I've gained enough over one boat to claim room for a starboard rounding – and enough for the gybe!

Another beat and I'm following old Stan on port – some ten/fifteen meters behind. But I get a lift and he doesn't – or maybe he's sailing for a bearing on a shore mark and not watching his sails. Anyway, when he tacks I can cross him, then tack and cover him to the next mark.

So it goes until I notice we've been racing for nearly an hour, we're on a long beat towards the clubhouse, surely the OOD is going to ring us off but to my surprise, there is only one boat in front of me.

He makes the fatal mistake of not covering me, and sails into a hole whilst I remain in respectable wind. I'm just crossing the finish line when the bell wakes me from my dream.

A fictional tale, with characters that are no way based on members (past or present) of Yeadon Sailing Club. I did, however, find some truth and advice in its content.

First Published Spring 2007

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