It’s time for some more Dangles from “Bojangles.” Contender 2523
I have just returned from a truly wonderful week having epic adventures with my Owner and friends.
What started as a seed of an idea last Christmas, turned into a collaborative expedition involving the Three Musketeers; Tony Brooks, Carl Tagoe and my Owner, Liz Potter. Tony bought a double trailer, turning it into a triple using his engineering talent and welding skills. Carl brought his architectural skills and added an aesthetically pleasing bicycle attachment and Liz made tea, held masts and stuck a lot of tape everywhere, talking all the time.
The initial boat loading ceremony was very simple. I got to ride on the top like the cherry on the cake; Carl’s boat bounced on its architectural suspension springs below me and Tony’s boat made up the sandwich below. Between us, the masts were cleverly slotted at angles specially arranged to harpoon cyclists, motorbikes or ferry staff should they stray out of their place whilst we turned corners.
So, by Wednesday late morning, we headed off for the first challenge which was to board the steep ferry ramp. The second challenge was for the Owners to avoid the Ferry’s on-board wine-tasting session. With the former successfully negotiated and the boxes of wine successfully loaded, we arrived in Caen late in the evening. There, me and my bunk mates were chained to a lamppost to stop us wandering off for a few bottles of McLube whilst two Owners slept in their cosy hotel rooms and one architectural Owner blew the hotel first floor electrics after plugging in his kettle.
The next leg of the journey on Friday morning was a whistle stop tour of French back roads to Quiberon, courtesy of Monsieur Garmine. We arrived in time to unpack and discover that the Measurement Hangar was ouvert for anyone who was quick to strip off. Owner quickly whipped off all of my stringy and dangly pieces; my underwater furniture and carbon accessories. My sails were measured and stamped, and I was hung naked on a giant scale like an embarrassed foodaholic at a weight watchers session. Really – so undignified.
This left Saturday free for the most excellent sail of the week in 18-20 knots of warm breeze in Quiberon Bay.
Sunday was practice race day and I went out to re-learn a few sharp lessons about big fleet sailing. One was not to approach the windward mark directly on a layline behind 20 other boats. The other was not to approach the finish at the pin end with a huge amount of tide pushing you on to it. We had a couple of goes at the finish.
By Monday, there was much talk about the forthcoming Championships in the boat park. I believe that the Contender Class moto should be “Mistakes will be forgiven but widely publicized”. The first errors were already unfolding. Stuart Jones, our previous world champion, had been hasty and careless on his electronic entry form and registered under the pseudonym Mr Jonex. This would be his racing name for the week, up to, including and possibly beyond the prizegiving. Peter Dives sailing in his final championships after 35 years in the class, had misread the GBR on the dropdown country menu on his entry form and registered as a boat coming from Gabon. Thus, with the Gaboneze and the Jonex, we set off for the first start after a four-hour postponement due to a lack of wind.
The fleet had been divided into 4 and each were designated a colour. I had a yellow ribbon fluttering from my boom and raced with other yellows and blue on the first start. In the light, almost trapezable winds, we set off towards the shore and rounded the first mark mid-fleet, finishing 30th. Next up, we raced against red. More marginal trapezing and then; Bang, – Owner’s trapeze harness spreader bar sheared on the bottom and one side. She hung like a drunk limpet for a moment and gingerly worked her way back in the cockpit. On the next downwind leg, she untied a centreboard downhaul line to jury rig some sort of support for what was left of the bar, whilst steering me in a straightish line and waving and exchanging pleasantries with fellow competitors (not really). We lost a number of places to finish 40th.
A borrowed spreader bar from fellow Brit, Alan Mollatt, allowed us to have another go on Tuesday. Another postponement left us baking onshore til 2pm, when the wind blew up to around 18 knots to get the fleet out, before dying to a trickle for the start. Another tack inshore favoured us upwind and we had a long tussle with a Danish and German, who both crossed us on port as we motored to the finish line on starboard. I had to duck hard to avoid them both and sacre-bleu’d them with threats of protest and strong words worthy of a Brexit politician.
There followed the most lengthy and drawn out hearing possible, in which the German claimed I (on starboard) had waived him through to pass in front of me and finish before me!?? Fortunately, the finish boat provided an excellent witness and both boats were disqualified by 9:30pm, long after the kitchen and bar had closed for business. It was to be our best result at 24th.
Wednesday dawned hot and sunny and Owner was grumpy and hungry. There was not a zephyr on the still waters and the postponement pennant hung limply on its flagstaff until 3pm, when the racing was abandoned for the day. This meant that there would be no discard in the qualifying series, and we had made the Gold Fleet!
On Thursday morning, Owner proudly put the yellow (Gold) ribbon on my boom and we set off looking for wind. Wherever we went that day, the wind wasn’t, and the racecourse was holey enough to rate as a Swiss cheese, with bends and shifts thrown in for good measure. We counted a few yellow ribbons behind us and hoped for a better last day.
The first task on Friday morning was to head to the beach for Owner to re-thread my trapeze retainer line on the spreaders, as it had pinged off in a vacuum the day before. We debated on how to proceed. She was all up for the old circus trick of climbing onto my boom at the gooseneck and reaching up to re-tie the knot. As this was obviously a trick she hadn’t performed for many, many years (when she was younger, more nimble and ah-hum lighter), I argued against it. I was all up for a beachside capsize and gentle soak in the warm tub, whilst she tended to my fittings. Luckily, the Broadstairs crew came to the rescue and tipped me on my trolley where the matter was dealt with in an instant. Once on the water, Musketeer Tony encountered a similar problem, as he noticed his elastic caught around his spreader adjusters shortly before the start. He attempted the circus trick, got as far as the foredeck and capsized in the process. The words “I told you so” blew in the wind as we passed by.
It was a day of great starts and many infringements. Germans and Italians tried to squeeze in at the marks and ignored our calls for penalty turns. Owner declined the protest route, not wishing to spend the remainder of the final evening in a protest room. Then, in stepped the karmic God of Justice, who sent the offenders tacking off into a huge hole of life-sucking depth, to our great delight and final placement. The day’s results of 46 and 32 gave us 60th overall.
Here is the summary of our week;
- Race Management – Top notch. Efficient, organised with excellent courses over a range of tricky conditions.
- The Venue – Glorious views, clear warm water. Unfortunately, not much wind, no waves, no seals. Also, no trolley supervision. The trolleys were very badly behaved all week and were largely left to their own devices. It seemed that this was part of an overall DIY scheme, which stretched to the canteen service, bogroll supplies and having to kill your own cockroaches in the accommodation block.
- The food – let’s move on…
- The social – Brilliant for us boats. Loads of fun and games, such as Hide-and-Seek, to see who was the most clueless Owner (plenty of candidates). The most favourite of all games had to be the Slipway Flier. The concrete slipway was built at a steep angle, ending in a Poohffff of deep, soft sand. There was nothing better than sprinting downhill with an Owner hanging on for dear life, especially in flip-flops. One aspect of the game was to stop so abruptly that Owner would take off and land in another deep Poohffff of sand. Think long jump. With brief aerial moment and face plant on beach.
- Closing ceremony – Medals for Top Three; in Masters, Grandmasters, Juniors, Ladies (a bronze for my Owner) and for Overall. Nothing for 4th to 10th place, which seems very sad so I will recognise them here for their greatness, speediness and sneakiness.
4th – Markus Maisenmacher (GER) – won 3 races!
5th – Marco Ferrari (ITA)
6th – Iain Horlock, (GBR) second top Brit, won race 2.
7th – Andreas Wieting (GER)
8th – Gary Langdown (GBR)
9th – Stuart Jonex (GBR)
10th -Joachim Harpprecht (GER)
Hearty congratulations to Markus Maisenmacher (GER) our new and worthy World Champion and to our own Graham Scott as runner up, who led the first part of the Championships and was recovering from cracked ribs sustained in a sailing injury just a few weeks previously. Third was Dane Soren Andreasen.
After the prizegiving, I was whisked off to the trailer and packed up for an early departure to St Malo on Saturday morning. We stopped three times; once for fuel, again for croissants and a last one just before arriving at the ferry to check if anyone had plugged in the light board (they hadn’t).
There followed an uneventful, relaxing cruise back to UK, interspersed with much Owner amusement as they caught up with FaceBook posts from several GB sailors with broken down vehicles and blown out tyres etc. en route home.
I was unloaded and reunited with my single trailer back in Oxford. There, my trusty travel companions noticed that my ball bearings had given out in my left trailer wheel. Luckily Tony had a spare set and fixed me up, assisted by his architect Junior.
They bade us farewell with the parting words; “Any problems, any problems at all, let us know. Preferably with a photo so we can post it on FaceBook for the Contender fleet to enjoy.”
Merci mon amis,