The low pressures of last weekend continued to dominate the early part of the week. Indeed with the Jetstream much further south than normal for the season, this unstable pattern seemed likely to continue. It's a sobering thought that 2016 Evening Series 4 is the last one before the Summer Solstice and by the time of Evening Series 5 the hours of daylight will becoming shorter. On the face of it the South West wind forecast was comfortably within limits although by 1500, it looked as if a significant sea breeze was augmenting the pressure pattern. With high water at 2045, this begged that regular question to Race Officer, Rob Garcka, of predicting a shore break around finishing time and the associated difficulty of recovering the safety boat.
By 1700 there were several windsurfers on the water, indeed I myself had taken advantage of the sunshine to try my own luck in this related skill. Windsurf boards, however, are a lot lighter to handle in swell and strong winds than catamarans. My own judgement was that, at the very least, if a race were to take place, it would be challenging.
I am not quite sure what influenced Rob to give things a go. Certainly the assembled group were mostly the hard core brigade, a list of names which the reader can see in the results. In addition, Alan Legget had invited a guest, Kevin Story, leading to musical catamarans with crews. Thus Debs Waters crewed for MattCooper and to give us some practice for the Worthing Open, Jerry Robinson had foolishly agreed to crew for the author. With visions of BOGOF, I was asking myself the question "is this a good idea?" in lending Caleb Cooper and Chloe Millward my other boat. Finally there was the unusual sight of the Garcka brothers taking to the water together. "A good pair to beat" I wryly remarked to Jerry.
For me the most notable feature of the conditions was the inshore swell. It just seemed to be the right size and wavelength to be able to surf. The course was very simple upwind- downwind marks to starboard. Upwind you really needed some weight outboard in wave conditions which challenged the balancing ability of the crew. As usual Debs was demonstrating how to do it although, at one point, I thought she and Matt had over cooked things when Debs took what looked like a head butt at the shroud. Poor Jerry who had not crewed regularly since the days he sailed the Dart 16 Nationals with Frank Riddle, was finding the trapeze a bit of a shock. His first return from the wire was not only brutal but jammed the hook. We thus sailed off in the direction of Cherbourg trying to wrestle the offending device loose before we could tack. I learned later that Dave Goodwin's footstrap snapped whilst hiking upwind. Hanging on to the mainsheet, Dave had somehow saved himself from going AWOL, an occurrence which would undoubtedly have been interesting as, at the time, Neil Young was on the wire. Alan Legget snapped his downhaul necessitating a stop for repairs. This improved things for the author who narrowly avoided being lapped by his own boat.
Suddenly it was all over. Another exciting series of individual stories to enjoy in the bar. In spite of the weather, nobody capsized and in spite of the shore break, all successfully circumnavigated the groynes (as opposed to groins) Mea culpa for my mis spelling of these navigation hazards in last week's report and thanks to my last year's proof reader, Hawkeye Jerry, for pointing out this foolish mistake.
June Series 4, 5 and 6.
By Sunday the sea level pressure had risen to 1022 although a further frontal system was approaching to the West of Land's End, the forecast for Sussex was for a lightish South West wind, some sunshine and therefore the consequent chance of an augmenting sea breeze. As a matter of interest the SI unit referred to above is the Hectopascal or the Millibar for those of you who prefer your Imperial. The relation between the two is the once times table - no calculators please.
With a race time of 1300, the turnout was quite promising for three Series Races numbers 4, 5 and 6. There were familiar competitors some in different combinations together with a few new faces and a couple of unfamiliar names to add to the entertainment. To give you a flavour Jonas Cooper was crewing for his brother Matt. Steve Wilburn and Darren Reeves were a Dart 18 combination I haven't seen before and my erstwhile sailing partner, Giacomo Bacci, was crewing for Patrick Palmer. Keith Shah showed up for the first time in 2016 taking Leo Armold as crew. The aforementioned flotilla was under control of Race Officer, Richard Shirley, with Tracey Parker assisting timing.
I would describe the course as L shaped upwind with a series of downwind reaches some of them designed to sweep the cobwebs in what turned out to be near perfect catamaran conditions by the time of the 1300 start. Although there were waves, in general the sea had calmed down a lot since the Evening Series of a few days earlier.
I have to say I had some difficulty with my timing. Alizee and I had launched early for a little practice before cruising towards the start area only to discover, to our consternation, that the start countdown was already underway and lay somewhere between 4 and 1 minute taking account of the vexillology above the race box. Although we were able to re synchronise at T minus 60 this left insufficient time to manoeuvre into any sort of tactical position before blast off.
No sooner had the first race got going when the trapezing style contest got underway. First and foremost was Debs Waters, with her hallmark, now familiar,Aphrodite outline pose. Being Italian, Giamcomo was not to be outdone with his Apollo version of the Statue of Liberty. As for the author, Quasi Modo could have done a better job but still once out there the view was fabulous. In total 4 competitors chose to disappear overboard during the afternoon's entertainment, with one notable pair from the same boat although, fortunately, not at the same time. Keith Shah went AWOL yet managed to self rescue via the main sheet shortly before leaving plucky Leo to demonstrate the International Rescue signal hanging on to a convenient buoy. Other swimmers included Debs and Jonas who was apparently enjoying his baptism of fire up to that moment.
Timing also proved to be a SNAFU for Race 5 when the time the period between the 5 minute Class flag and the 4 minute "Blue Peter" made use of the 70 second minute. The chief problem with this is that you can never be sure which one the RO is going to apply at the actual start. However, general recalls were apparently not on Richard's agenda and although, not for the first time, I was mystified as to what was happening, only 3 boats were ahead of the start line on the gong.
By Race 6 there were quite a few absentees. Not so Izzie Gee and Holly Winrow who finished all three races in the solitary Hobie Dragoon with no capsize. Indeed only one capsize took place when Caleb Cooper and Chloe Millward decided to stack their solitary F18 due to the wind. Nigel and Mel Jupp scored a first place in Race 6, their first in their new boat. Well done everyone.
As usual, the bar was awash with individual stories of heroics and incidents, there seemed general agreement the conditions had been the best all season.