Hello all from Bojangles, the International Contender 2523, reporting on the past fortnight’s adventures at the Menai Strait Regattas.
The first two days of racing were so windy that the racing was cancelled for the Fast Handicap fleet. Instead, my Owner managed to find a crewing job on a Limbo for the first race and had a very exciting fly around the course with Jonathon Atkinson at the helm. I watched from behind the clip on my boatcover (boat equivalent of behind the sofa for Dr. Who, for those of you who remember that) as Captain Kirk (Jonathon) steered the USS Enterprise (Limbo) into Warp Factor Ten over Gallows Point ledge in a Force 6, with full spinnaker flying, whilst running by the lee. My Owner was standing on the transom, presumably to prevent Captain Kirk from leaving the ship and also to prevent the USS Enterprise’s nose from burying in the sand. “Bimbo on a Limbo”, I muttered under my inhaled breath.
The next day was even too windy for a Limbo, though the local Fife fleet managed a 4 boat turnout to entertain us boats and humans left on the green.
Wednesday dawned quiet and sunny. One of my fellow Contender buddies who had been at the World Championships the week previous, turned up to race with me on the long distance sail through from Beaumaris to Caernarfon. The boat’s Owner had named it “Bad Taed”, which in Welsh translates as Grumpy Grandfather! So, Grumpy and I set off from the Beaumaris start line in a, by now, very brisk wind, chasing the earlier starting keelboats.
By the time we had reached the first suspension bridge, Grumpy had capsized in a big gust and let me take the lead.
The tide had started to turn, so we avoided the beat through the islands after the bridge, as the other boats seemed to be doing, and gained ground in the main channel. Owner was a bit braver than me, trapezing in the gusts, although there was a dodgy moment when she lay in the water during a lengthy lull. I tried not to panic and scooped her up in the next gust and we spewed out under the second bridge to start the long beat to the finish at Caernarfon.
The next section was narrow and there were plenty of waves. By now, the tide was beneath us and the shoreline shot by. After an hour, we passed the huge castle of Caernarfon, where they tried to shoot us with a canon. We finished second on handicap, after the GP14 of Tim Scott-Wilson and my Grumpy friend Paul Green came third with not such a Bad Taid helping him over the line.
The days’ prizegiving was held at the Caernarfon Sailing Club, but Owner couldn’t resist the open castle doors of the Royal Welsh Yacht Club, which had welcomed her so warmly last year, and pay her respects to the Commodore & Membership Secretary; John and Mo Judge and the Barman, whilst dripping Menai water on their carpet.
Sadly, that was my one and only race of the week, as the forecast looked most uninviting until the second week.
My next outing was the following Tuesday; the Round Puffin Island Race. It was a downwind start in light airs.
By the time we reached Penman Point, the true wind kicked in. I was the closest boat to the cliffs and did some dainty pirouettes as the wind swung around the compass, whilst Owner tried to sort out my sails. A few metres to leeward, the Finn passed me in full wind power, bumping over some illogical waves.
The seas were very confused, and the freakish waves played havoc with the smaller boats amongst the whirlpools, so we went wide of the island to avoid any disasters.
The leeward side of the Island was now a reach in the new wind, so I bubbled along looking out for puffins, seals and dolphins
At the end of the Island, we turned the corner for home. There was some serious overtaking of the earlier starting keelboats to be done. Luckily the breeze picked up and I set off on the long beat home.
After a short time, we were leaders and had to show the rest of the fleets where the sandbanks were. I lifted up my foils and carried on. The Limbo was not so lucky and had to bail his crew overboard to get moving again.
Once in deeper water, we had a glorious sail to the finish, coming 4th on handicap. The race was won by Julian Bridges in his FD, with Glen and Rosie Hughes coming 2nd in a Dart and our West Kirby Commodore finishing 3rd in his Finn.
The next day was our West Kirby Sailing Club hosted raceday. It started with a postponement pennant, no wind and a forecast of 20 knot winds from the South West. After an hour, the drizzle arrived, blown in on a zephyr from the North East.
In this wind, we were summoned to the start line and Owner set me off on port tack at the outer distance mark to go and play with the sand and crabs that I had so enjoyed the day previous. As the tide was running against us, I agreed and joined the Dart on our crossing of the Sahara desert with a bit of water on top of it. After a while, I noticed the Albacore, Wayfarer and GP14 seemed to have more breeze in the main channel, so we tacked over, crossing some way behind them. By the time we tacked back, it was obvious that we now had more wind and were tracking higher. Even better, a huge gust came and lifted us above the windward mark. There, a raft of keelboats were wallowing in a vacuum. What happened next defies all my boatie laws of physics and logic. The wind shifted again, so that we were running to the mark in a Force 3, between all of the stationary boats on completely flat water. The other dinghies to the right of the mark were also stationary. Personal Bojangles Breeze. Blame it on the beans.
Once I rounded the mark (excuse me, so sorry, can you move out of my way…oh no, you’re becalmed, I forgot, sorry) it was blowing a Force 4-5.
We avoided all sand banks and even tacking too much, all the way to our next mark near Bangor, where Owner turned me for our final run to the finish. Another canon and this time for a first place on handicap too.
That was to be our last race of the week as the strong winds returned once more. I never did work it all out. The logic still escapes me now, but such is the charm of the Menai Straits and the wonderful fortnight of stunning scenery, friendly hosts and fabulous friends.
My last story of the incredible Straits week involves another Limbo named Bacchus, Owned by Bob Mosedale. He sailed over to Beaumaris from West Kirby the week before the Regattas started – Some 33 nautical miles, as the fish swims. Upon arrival, he accidently lost his rudder overboard and had to borrow a spare for the races. Today, over two weeks later, the rudder was washed up on the shores of the Dee estuary, just past West Kirby Sailing Club, having navigated its way across the North Wales coastline; past the Conway estuary, Great Orm and finally turning right at the Point of Ayr lighthouse to start its last leg home. A small miracle indeed. What a magical place our seas are and no wonder I haven’t quite worked it out yet.
At least I know my Owner will be quite safe if she falls overboard next year.