What a fantastic day we had for racing on Thursday, with lots of sunshine, and for a change lots of wind too..!! The forecast for the wind (which seemed to be quite accurate this time!) was 16mph, gusting into the 20’s….that’s force-4, gusting force-5, maybe even force-6..!!
But, throughout the morning, just to show how tough they were, we had 12 racers turn up keen to challenge themselves against the elements..!!
At this point I should give you a blow by blow report of how the days race unfolded. But we now have a resident roving reporter, so I’ll hand over to him for the full ‘SP’. Not sure how accurate his report will be, but what the hell!!
Well this was the race that had everything. Tactical battles, drunkenness (definitely NOT on the race control boat!! Ed.), boat fixing, collisions, course changes in mid race and that was just in the club house trying to get a coffee and a biscuit.
On arrival at Chipstead a scantily clad trustee appeared in the midst of changing his clothes, he told me he would look better in rouge (sorry red).
It was fairly gusty today and most of the boats were being reefed. Now in my very amateur opinion reeling is for sissies (I agree! Ed). How can I possibly achieve my ultimate aim of crossing the Atlantic solo, when I am being reefed on Chipstead lake? But more of that later.
My first sight on the jetty was a volunteer who shall remain nameless staggering about and falling onto the jetty. Now this particular volunteer has been very helpful to me in the past in pit crew duties, so I shall protect his anonymity. Incidentally the half drunk bottle of navy rum slipped into the murky waters of Chipstead lake, or did I see Fay discreetly loading it aboard Red Robin?!? Having given me my weekly telling off, Fay assured me that her sister Karen was not participating in the off course betting scandal this week, because she was attending a cookery class. I suspect tonight’s dinner may have a slightly alcoholic taste!
Next to arrive on the jetty was a very pale looking Peter Gregory, or maybe it was just the lack of reflection from the absent Red Torpedo? Peter informed me that the torpedo had been due to race on a reservoir, but because of excessive drinking from London’s nightlife, the water level had dropped (water???). Having been excluded from the elite 2.4 squad Peter had been thrown off the VIP jetty and forced to join the working class on the public jetty.. It seemed a little unfair on the great man, but nevertheless we couldn’t help suggest he be allocated Bligh’s bathtub. I didn’t see the payment change hand, but Peter somehow got a business class upgrade to a Liberty. This will be interesting I thought to myself, now we will see if he really can sail (for those still wondering…yes he can! Ed.)
Now it was my turn and I must admit I was surprised to once again see Kermit sliding into position. I sensed the volunteers smiling amongst themselves as I was boarded on the Spearmint steed. I checked her over carefully and was not surprised to see the starboard sheet had been discreetly tampered with. Now it just so happened that Steve was helping with boarding, so I pointed out the sabotage to him and felt confident in his repair. Surely no one was more trustworthy? (Naive mistake! Ed.)
Having been on a run of mediocre form recently I had decided a change of tactics might change my luck. The course was set to start at a gap between K and a buoy, followed by some tacking up to Mark-A, across to Mark-C and return back via D. I had decided like a long distance runner I would conserve energy for a couple of laps and then let Kermit loose in a sprint finish as we passed between K and the buoy.
(Note to racers. K and the small flag buoy were only used for the start of the race, they were NOT part of the course after then!! Ed.)
As usual Kim slid quietly into the field (how does she do that?) and I made a conscious decision not to ask her how she was. I think this was one of the biggest fields I have seen (there were actually 12 boats in all. Ed) and just before the start it got very gusty. Now as I mentioned earlier I wasn’t impressed by sissy reefing. However suddenly Kermit’s twin turbines leapt into action and I found myself hurtling forward and taking on water at an alarming rate. I could hear a voice shouting “reef, reef”. And in retrospect suspect the voice was mine. Anyway suffice to say I got my wish and found myself aground on the reef in front of a packed clubhouse. Bribery money changed hands and once again the half sunken Kermit, shot across the lake. Then something very suspect occurred. My starboard jib sheet mysteriously came adrift. But hold on wasn’t this the very sheet that Steve had tied only recently ???? Surely Steve wasn’t involved in the scandal? (What did I tell you? Ed.) If so the scandal is much bigger than we ever imagined. Once again the safety boat came to my rescue, but it was with a heavy heart and six gallons of Chipstead lake that Kermit and I set off again.
I started to make some headway on the twin helmed 303’s. And had an interesting, hair raising and very sporting battle with a number of crews (particularly Kevin and his Skipper Kelly) who I crossed swords with on multiple occasions. It wasn’t long before the Liberties swept by inclusive of Peter Gregory (rumours about him only being successful with mechanical assistance are now history). Despite the difficult conditions, my plan was holding up well. The evil 2.4’s were still trailing and I could just about make out Kim and Peter in the Liberties a mile or two ahead. Mike Blatchford had recently told me that some of the vessels carried a spinnaker and I decided to let loose Kermit’s spinnaker accordingly. But hold on could I find it? I suspect that Mike had led me astray on this and have to say a little unsporting. (None of the 303’s has a spinnaker!?!? Ed.) Much has been said recently about Mike’s underhand tactics and I feel that an apology is due. I have attached photographic evidence which undoubtedly clears his name.
Anyway back to the race. As we turned around D for the second time I was preparing for my sprint. As I passed the buoy next to K, I would unleash Kermit’s full capabilities. Kermit was straining at the leash, history was about to be made. But hold on the buoy had mysteriously disappeared. I looked across to starboard and saw Brian towing the buoy to the far side of the lake, with a safety boat in hot pursuit!. This completely disrupted my plan and allowed the evil 2.4 fleet to cruise by.
As we approached A for the final time, I could hear Kim laughing behind me. This meant I was going to be lapped. Suddenly a brilliant gust filled Kermit’s sails (with the exception of the spinnaker) and she shot by two or three double handed 303’s just before the whistle.
As usual I have no idea of the final position, although I suspect Peter and Kim were there or thereabouts, with Kermit sadly near the back of the pack. I was pleased to see Brian was rescued and once again everyone seemed to have a great day.
Sorry to see that Bligh didn’t make it today. According to Wikipedia, he/she celebrates his 262nd birthday tomorrow. Ann you are looking very good for it.
For those who are interested, the final result was:
1. Peter Gregory; 2. Kim Sparkes; 3. David Mason; 4. Mike Blatchford; 5. Dalgit Sandhu; 6. Kelly Tripp; 7. Mark Cayzer; 8. Fay Watson; 9. Bob Fisher; 10. Brian Mac; 11. Ben; 12. Andy Wallace;