Autumn Series

How many ways are there to describe the start of a catamaran race? A pre-prescribed routine followed religiously by clubs the world over. I would say the ways are infinite (hope so anyway). The wide range of weather conditions, sea states, helms, crews, boats, and race officers not to mention the various methods employed to ensure a prime position on the line. There are the vagaries of interpreting a two-dimensional set of rules applied to a very three-dimensional activity. (Four-dimensional if you include Help-Dee-Aged). There are so many permutations and nuances and always a different perspective.

It was a very grey day, the sort that is encoded in the Briton’s genes as the norm for our climate. Having enjoyed prolonged daylight and some warmth during the summer months, we now accepted the damp searching chill in the wind as the first portent of winter. There was wind, but not a lot. Regardless of the length of start line there are only a few optimum positions to aim for. Like piglets approaching the sow with the promise of warm succour; the cosy satisfying feeling you get when you cross on the gun at speed with clean air and a good lay for the mark. This is usually superseded in my case by the hot breath of the baying pack intent on my demise. Guaranteed to render all cognitive capabilities inactive and reduce me to a gibbering wreck. As we jostled thrusting and focused on our chosen nipple, I was totally determined not to be the ninth piglet. I had a good slot on starboard, a little too near I slowed a little when I heard a cry from James “PUP! PUP! PUP!” clearly suggesting that I was a juvenile descendent of questionable canine lineage. I was obliged for reasons of good form to yield putting me closer to the black starting mark than I had intended. I could still make it, just. Then blow me! “PUP! PUP! PUP!” again, now Tom was having a go. My options were closed, stuck between a porphyry and a hard place, I could not tack without hitting the mark so I held my course. The fracas was sufficient to ensure I missed my chosen nipple and we all know only too well how that feels.

Despite the foul, I plodded on not at the back of the fleet, but with a penalty to serve. I did my 360 then my trusty crew announced that it looked as if Pete S was ahead of James (making this observation rather than pointing out the obvious fact that I had once again skilfully secured last place). The race was not over so we set to catching the pack. Simon S was solo. I’m sure he had crew when we left the shore but with the softening wind had possibly taken the decision to pitch ballast overboard. In the finish Pete lost his first to James with Will and Amy third. A joust between Tom and Simon M had opened a window and allowed us through to fifth just behind Tom and just ahead of Simon M, Simon S just behind us. Chris without the benefit of his higher authority on board cruised home to close the race.

The second race starting promptly, the wind fading as the light began its greyscale countdown. The clever money was on a port flier, needless to say Deesire and one other Dart chose starboard. We failed spectacularly to close down the port fleet and enjoyed the vista of Darts as they sailed past our bows. Close pack rounding the first mark and the fleet broke up like a slow motion roman candle to explore the options inshore and offshore. The wind by now was down to an asthmatic wheeze. We were soon overhauled by a solo Nacra 17. He failed to disguise the wirr of the hidden electric motors that propelled it at an unmatchable rate downwind. The fleet closed back up to round mark 6 and we all followed the Nacra like sheep to an uncharted destination towards West Kirby in the vain hope of locating the ‘Buoy formerly known as Lime Wharf’. Tom and Mike spotted ‘B’ first and changed course; the fleet promptly followed suit like a school of herring avoiding a predator. For once being at the back had the bonus of not compounding the error. It was now a race for the line with increasing tide to beat and failing wind. Deesire had fluked back some places. It was a close finish in distance if not in time with James first, Simon S. a well deserved second and Tom third. Deesire had managed to fluke back into last place.

By now the wind could barely lift the flags on the Ark. The third start was a confused affair with boats drifting and tacking across the line. Deesire had another late start but managed to carry our speed using the kinetics of ballast to stay in contention. The protracted first leg dragged on and I swear that we were reeling James in inch by inexorable inch. Then to my total disbelief and no doubt intimidated by our blistering drifting speed James cut and ran for shore to retire. He may claim that he was just being considerate to his lady crew with regard to the cold, but as all helms know, crews are expendable. Tom and Simon S. heading towards Chester leaving Simon M. with a strong position rounding 3 at the front. The OOD had taken pity on us and mercifully brought the finish up to mark 2. Pete sailed away under us and for all it looked as if Simon M. would finish a strong first and Deesire could be second! I’m sure though that I could hear Pete mumbling a disruptive incantation in the failing light. Simon should have nailed the finish by now as we approached the line. He tacked again to avoid being washed away and I swear that he stood frozen in time as Pete appeared from down wind to steal first, I know this because as Pete safely crossed the line Permanent Waves reanimated just in time to take second and Deesire third. Will teach me to count my chickens…. Pigs, dogs, herrings and hens, whatever next?

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