It was good to be back on the water at Chipstead but feeling slightly tired after watching lots of late night/early morning TV of what was has been an incredible Rio 2016 Paralympics. Team GB having broken through 100 medals today!! An amazing performance by all the 4000+ competitors and their supporters which will create a marvellous legacy of inclusivity and accessibility in Brazil and throughout both South and North America. STOP PRESS: If you haven’t seen it, do watch a recording of the final of the Men’s Doubles Wheelchair Tennis, just A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!
Whilst we had lots of hot sunshine today, Wind Guru’s forecast for Chipstead – which I checked just before leaving home – turned out to be rather optimistic. At 9am there was a reasonable NE breeze but it soon dropped and veered around, first to the East by the start of race at 11.30 and then weakened further and veered to the South during the after lunch session. This meant that, throughout the day, every sailor had to put in a lot of work to make the best of what little wind there was – and if possible try to anticipate shifts or at least react to the shifts quickly enough to keep their boats moving. Very tough conditions, requiring patience and concentration as can be seen from the following gallery…
But 13 WS Racers (plus a ringer in a spare 2.4) were prepared to take on these conditions and our special reporter was there…let’s read what he made of what went on….
Farmer has returned from terrorising Mexico and the two of us set out on time from sunny Orpington. We had a number of things to catch up on including the corruption scandal, dark side editing, drug testing, Russian military weapons and, last but not least, Captain Bligh’s birthday celebration. I never mentioned it to Farmer but I had hoped he would bring me back a sombrero; it would have been useful today. On arrival at Chipstead, I was frisked down by an over eager Trustee in a very smart, jaune (yellow) outfit. Whilst it was good to feel that our safety came premiere, I couldn’t help noticing that some clients were excluded from the frisking, whilst others got two goes! (What’s that all about? Ed.)
Out of the corner of my eye I could see the Red Torpedo being readied. I couldn’t see any obvious signs of mechanical devices or salt water mammals, but more on that later. The usual suspects had gathered and were busy discussing how to sabotage each other. Mike Blatchford admitted he had lead me astray about the spinnaker on Kermit, but assured me I should try the one on the Martin. “Yeah right Mike. Think I am silly enough to look, huh?” Bligh was there, looking for her latest Fletcher Christian, and Fay arrived in good voice just in time to berate me for my last blogg.
As we made our way down to the pontoon, you could have cut the tension with a knife. I was first up and yet again Kermit was offered up for the third time in succession. I could sense a number of volunteers smiling at me (and each other) with the benefit of insider knowledge. Hmmm, I thought, the dark-side editor and one or two others have probably placed discreet holes in some of the peppermint rockets water-tight compartments. No doubt hoping I would do a Leonardo DiCaprio, a la Titanic. Therefore I did something galant …. “Steve why don’t you have a go in the famous Kermit. She always wins”. Roughly translated, that means “Sucker, hope you can swim!” Next up was Keelover (previously known as McKee Lover). She looked to be a sound beast, so off we went.
As I started to go about my business on the water, three strange events occurred: 1) Kim appeared out of the reeds in The Red Rocket. Now the Rocket has been hidden for the past few weeks and, given Kermit’s demise (sabotage), the RR is definitely the number one boat. I tried my very best not to say anything but I just blurted out: “How are you feeling Kim?”. “Terrible !” she replied. That was that then, I thought: the Red Torpedo back in the lake and Kim feeling terrible. There was absolutely no doubt that Fay was already relaying this latest information to Karen to restate the odds for their betting scoop. 2) The Red Torpedo shot past me and I couldn’t help noticing its skipper was looking very relaxed and listening to the theme tune (da-dah, da-dah. etc) from Jaws. Though so very hard to believe, I keep coming back to the dolphin theory to explain the Red Torpedo’s extraordinary turn of speed (even when there is NO WIND!). Its skipper was almost asleep as the Torpedo tacked back and forth with no obvious sign of effort. 3) A short while later another 2.4 shot by me – with the dark-side editor at the helm! (The ringer. Ed.) I looked again at him and began to wonder how a human being could fit in a 2.4? I came to the conclusion that the helm’s legs must be dangling through the bottom of the boat and he was either running along Fred Flintstone style or just riding on the back of a dolphin. This would explain the speed he was travelling at and why he looked so sweaty.
Anyway enough of these theories and back to the race. Bligh set off at a reasonable pace, followed 5 minutes later by a number of double handed 303’s. I guess the double handed 303’s get the extra minute because of the extra weight. Hang on a moment I thought what about us solo helms who are a pound or two overweight, such as Farmer and yours truly. Surely we should get some sort of weight allowance? (Is this an official request? Ed.) Anyway, off we went and I found myself following Kim and Mark C (and his crew, James) on a starboard tack, while the majority of vessels were heading the other way. The order of the day seemed to be multiple shorter tacks and by the time I reached the windward Mark D, I was in third place behind Bligh and Kim!! Unfortunately the wind was non-existent as I was trying to round Mark D and a number of dinghies, myself included, just floated around struggling for wind-power to give them some direction. By now I was expecting to come across the wreckage of Kermit and wondered if I would offer Steve assistance. A bit like the Carpathian steaming to aid the Titanic… “nah let him sink, I think he can swim.”
Eventually a very laid back Skipper Gregory flew past, but no sign of Fred Flintstone and David Mason in the 2.4s or Mike Blatchford in his spinnaker-powered Martin.
As we rounded Mark B on the second lap, I was surprised to see Brian, seemingly at anchor, enjoying the sunshine. The Red Torpedo was long gone, Kim and Bligh remained just within sight and, with a good wind, I felt I had a chance of finishing with the leaders. Suddenly, I realised my fears that Keelover had been got at were spot-on. She refused to steer to port, I know not why, and one by one a number of other Racers sailed by, leaving me slipping back towards a mid-fleet finish. Arrrh.
But once again I found myself in position to be first back to the pontoon. When suddenly Kim came hurtling in desperate for the loo. I gallantly (Again? Ed.) stood aside, to ensure I wasn’t rammed by her boat. Sorry to mention this Kim, but it is relevant. An imaginative thought popped into my head at this time. I would like to propose that in future, races are extended by 10 minutes, with pit stops allowed. This would make our races more akin to F1 Grand Prix racing (and might give me a chance)!! (Is this another official request – for the rules to be bent in your favour? Ed.)
I didn’t see the final results (See below. Ed.) but I suspect normal service was resumed. It then dawned on me that I forgot about Farmer, who was probably at the bottom of Davy Jones Locker. I realised that I would have the difficult task of breaking the news to his friend (that’s me) and family. But even worse, I didn’t know where he had put my lunch-box. Fortunately (for me) Kermit limped home and Farmer declared he was still on holiday.
Being first on the pontoon, I was happy to assist a number of vessels to come alongside. I think Fay showed how much she enjoys sailing because, having half-left her vessel, she changed her mind and sat down again. Only kidding Fay, I hope the bruise isn’t too big.
A good crowd of clients and volunteers gathered afterwards on the patio and lawn outside the clubhouse and, after singing Happy Birthday to Ann, were treated to cake and sparkling wine to toast Ann on her 80th birthday. A nice occasion for a very special lady!! (Well said, Bob – and here’s a reminder. Ed.)
In summary a beautiful day with interesting wind conditions. As always many thanks to the volunteers who not only ensure our safety (excluding Kermit) but also have a great sense of humour.
It was truly a great occasion being able to mark Ann’s significant anniversary. And to recognise her not just for being a very good sailor but also an accomplished painter and a published author – as well as a genial and generous human being!
Final Result: 1. Peter G; 2. Mike B; 3. Kim; 4. Paul/Peter; 5. Ann; 6. Fay/Douglas; 7. Bob; 8. Stewart/Tony; 9. Brian Mac; 10. David Mason; 11. Mark/James; 12. Steve; 13. Andy.