Autumn Sundays

Every time I step out to winterise the garden, another rain shower comes in, and so, cosy at my desk, I can think of nothing more productive to do than write up a report of last Sunday’s racing.  I think those of us who went, felt the urgency for one last blast before the season’s end. 

I know there is another Sunday, but everyone expects the weather to be fickle in the Autumn series.

Blue sky and a gentle breeze, saw eight boats rigged on the beach.  The sea was deceptive, with waves breaking around your knees, before the occasional set came through, breaking around your chest.  We helped Paul and Kelvin off, but due to the looseness of the beach grit, we found ourselves floundering, just at the moment one of those sets came through, leaving Paul looking like an unhappy toddler, sitting in the swash.  Jan and I opted for a Royle launching.  Thanks guys.  We drifted into an almost windless bay.  I guess we should have taken more notice of the size of the dark anvil clouds, and maybe given the BBC weather forecast more than a perfunctory glance, but with a want to make the start line on time, we upped the spinnaker, just as the first blow came through.  The gust lifted from a gentle breeze to at least twenty miles an hour.  Luckily, we were pretty broad to the wind and Kessy set off at a good pace.  Unfortunately, Jan listened to me when I suggested “If we harden round a few degrees, we will really take off”.  Luckily, we are both good swimmers.  Jan did heroics, releasing the spinnaker lines and holding the nose of the boat head to wind, while I hung onto the centreplate, determined she would not go turtle.  Once righted, spinnaker down, a quick hug and health check and we headed for the start line, and by fortune, more than skill, got a good start.  The first beat saw us vying for position with Jeremy and Suzanne and the two Blazes sailed by Alan and Stacey; that is, until we entered the doldrums of shifty winds around the beach marks.  Nevertheless, two spinnaker reaches, we felt, would put us back in contention.  Not so, the blue sky and gentle breeze was back, and our soggy spinnaker hung in what is best described as a flaccid manner, although once around the gybe mark, we were hanging on by our wet boots, trying to sail towards Charlestown NCI, rather than Polkerris.  We did notice Bruce and Tom, followed by Pete and Izzy and Paul and Kelvin closing us down.  It seemed to Jan and me, with the wind so shifty it wouldn’t be wise to bang the corners, and we managed to claw back a bit by tacking on the shifts. 

I felt for Nigel and Kay in the rescue boat; no sooner than the wind eased and the sun came out to warm them, than the next rain band came through, and at one point the rain was so strong it was painful on your face.  They are changing times, for in the past, men went to sea with sou’westers, now it’s builders’ buckets which afford complete protection from the elements, as Kay, sitting like an inverted flower-pot man, will attest to.  It was in that rain squall; I think Pete and Izzy took a swim.  You can call me an old romantic, but twenty years of marriage could surely be better celebrated than sloshing around an upturned chip dish. 

The second race was much as the first, with squalls and calms, and if anything, even shiftier winds.  Bruce and Tom were never far behind us, close enough to see Tom busting a gut to keep the boat flat.  As usual, Jeremy and Suzanne were ahead by a good margin, discussing world politics and how pretty the rainbow they always sail under was.  They were followed by the Blazes, who surprisingly, took their own routes upwind, but always remained within cursing distance by the beach marks.  It must be great to have such close boat on boat racing.  The 59er, after early disasters, came hissing past us on a reach.  It is a pretty spectacular sight to see 359 square foot of sail being harnessed by sheer grunt and balance.  It must be like the best fairground ride ever.  Paul and Kelvin had a bit of a lonely race, but a first in the slow fleet is a first, despite not having Andrew and Jenny to chase. 

I shall sign off now with another big thanks to the rib crew (duty beyond the call, chaps), and also a big thanks to Andrew and Keith for staying warm in the race box and manfully manning the galley.  There was not a burnt bit of pastry in sight.  Thanks guys Pete B

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