This week saw a weather phenomena which Britain sees only once every 40 years. It was called summer. In my case I spent a good deal of it in the hands of our National Rail network. The free bottles of water were a nice touch to make up for endless delays and breakdowns due to the wrong kind of heat. Likewise, the same heat wave impacted les consequences of "Brexite" as referred to by French foreign Minister: British refugees camped out on the M20 in Kent.
Still unable to compete, I found myself promoted from chief vexillogist to Race Officer. Judging by my recent performance this is the only way I will ever achieve average points and made a lot easier since the introduction of the WSC standard courses. Although these days there is little for the Race Officer to plan, there remains that other pitfall, the Race Officer's briefing. This is where the unfortunate soul is supposed to make intelligent and relevant remarks concerning matters about which, in my experience, he has very little control or in my case, knowledge. Personally, I always find it useful to have a few jokes in my back pocket as it calms my nerves especially if people laugh at the parts which are supposed to be funny.
I had arrived by bicycle wearing a bright day-glow yellow T shirt, by chance, matching the shape finish. The colour led nicely to my one and only joke - that of being hoisted by a flag halyard controlled by Lynda Wright in the event of an unsatisfactory performance. Following a few puzzled smiles, my legs no longer feeling like jelly, I began "In the case of July Series 5, 6 and 7 the forecast is very much like last week, viz. South Westerly with gusts to 20 Kts. I have, therefore, selected an L shape course allowing for that great broad reach which is such a thrill to you all on the catamarans. Equally, given there is no trophy and therefore, no constraint on monos sailing a different course, I have reinstated the figure of eight pattern at the windward mark." Then, as my stage fright subsided, becoming emboldened by the sound of my own voice, I went on to add that I was concerned about the tide and the potential for a shore break at finish time. Having confidently used the first person singular as if I had thought it all up myself, I then proceeded to ask "Are there any questions?"
At this point my heart sank as Mel Jupp spoke up. Mel's questions have a habit of resembling the combined interrogation of Brain of Britain, Master Mind and University Challenge. Fortunately, I knew the answer as to “what call to make when two conflicting boats have right of way on the same tack.” However, before I could smugly demonstrate the prowess of my encyclopedic, nautical knowledge, someone else piped up with the right answer. One thing I did keep to myself was my intention to bias the start line in such a way as to prevent the likes of Jerry ( Kamikaze ) Robinson attempting a starboard start. In the event this was about the only thing that went to plan on a day when nothing else seemed to.
I have to admit that, since the arrival of the Bros. McBoatface, I have not had the opportunity to drive either. Neither, apparently, had Helm Neil Sutherland or Crew, David Morril whose task it was to lay the course for the 1200 start. I am led to understand there are some significant differences with the kill-cord arrangements compared with the old patrol boats. During the launch sequence therefore, I found myself about as useful as a chocolate fire guard in being able to advise Neil by radio as to why he was unable to start the engine. Sorting out this not insignificant issue took the best part of 20 minutes. Looking on the assembly of 21 boats I began to experience delay flag blues as we all know the tide waits for no man.
In any systems management, I believe a debriefing a useful method of understanding where things could have been done better. With hindsight, therefore, I feel I could have done a better job in ensuring the safety boat crew understood the operation of the buoy anchoring system. I say this especially following the first occasion when the windward mark apparently dragged several hundred meters following initial deployment. In mitigation, in pleading mea culpa, all I can do now is to caution future Race Officers to beware of this trap because it not only lead to a further start delay, but also the abandonment of the first start after about 5 minutes.
It was, therefore, with some relief that, after some 70 minutes, we finally completed a 30 minute, uninterrupted, July Series event whilst keeping a close eye on the shore break. The latter had the potential to be a significant hazard on a 6.2 high tide scheduled for 1520. As usual Dart 18s dominated the line up and they soon spread out into the now almost predictable procession. It's only my opinion but, for what it is worth, measured by the lack of capsizes, the standard of Dart 18 sailing has improved in our Club. As for the monos, all Picos, Lynda has asked me to say the Pico results cannot be guaranteed due to the near impossibility of determining who was who at the range in question. The start line length had been determined by the original tide height at 1200 and only plucky Gail Young was a certainty sailing her yellow hull.
The second race produced a First Aid casualty when Steve Cuming had an argument with his boom. He certainly looked a mess when I got to him on the beach albeit he was still smiling. I understand from Chris Halfknight who saw him later he was “alright” although he left the club before the end of the session. May I use the page of this report for all us to wish him well. I doubt there are many of us who sail who have not had a similar experience at some time or other. Certainly although the Spanish word for Pico might seem innocuous, its boom still packs a puñetazo when its hits you on the head.
Ladies and Gentleman, in spite of the delay and abandoned start, it had been my intention to provide a third race for you. Regrettably, my method of communicating with you, the safety boat, was silenced by the need for a rescue when Anne Cook took to the water just at the very moment the second race ended. It was, however, a marginal decision because the original buoy deployment delay would have involved a race starting an hour and a half before high tide. With hindsight, I was quite pleased that you elected to finish when you did. Amongst the sequels was a potential protest meeting. This suffered the same fate as the first start when one party withdrew. The results should reflect this.
Thanks to all of you. I hope next time to be able to write from the perspective of looking at your bows albeit, more realistically, your sterns, but at least on the water. May I wish those of you who are attending the best of luck in the Dart 18 Worlds.