Long Distance Race Report
Written by “Bojangles”
Dangles from Bojangles
Hello from Bojangles, the Contender!
What a wonderful, windy bank holiday weekend of sailing we’ve just had! It started off with the tidal club race on Sunday. 8 boats turned out and it was cold and windy. An Olympic course was set for us and we bounced around on the waves in the sunshine. I powered my way down the first reach to establish a respectable lead from the Finns of John Greenwood and Jean Louis Simons, My Owner was hard work that day, because she’s been spending too much time in the D Zero and has forgotten how to work me. Maybe it was the cold, maybe it was the undulating wind, but on the second lap, tight reach, she chickened out two-footing it on the wire, opting for the safety of one foot out and one in under the toe strap. Only she missed fore said toe strap and our karma headed Southwards towards the sandy sediment. There was a brief swimming interlude before she leapt goat-like onto my centreboard to get the show rolling once again. Amazingly, we hadn’t lost any places, but had lost a fair bit of ground and finished in front of the fleet, but handicap results are yet to be calculated.
In the second race that day, it was the turn of Solo’s Owner Steve Ferrington to do some laps around his upturned hull, courtesy of a Port/Starboard incident (he had right of way). I was all for stopping, but the rescue boat was on its way and Steve was also very quick to find a dry spot on his boat to land – must have been the water temperatures. I finished ahead of the fleet again – but was it enough? Time will tell once the results are out.
The bank holiday Monday arrived and the date for the Long Distance Race. The challenge was less about speedy sailing and more about navigational skills. There was a mass start for all boats, with the tidal classes having their own race, and us dinghies being split into two further fleets; the magic dividing pys number was 1000. This put me up against a couple of catamarans and two canoes.
After the start, most of the boats tacked off to take advantage of the lesser tide inshore. A few headed off mid-estuary to take solace at the sandbank. We were bankers, as it seemed the safest bet doing the longest leg first when you couldn’t even see the mark, or know where it was! The mark was a port channel marker, showing where the far side of the navigable estuary runs, near Wales. I arrived there just after the International Canoes of Steve Flemming and Dan Skinner; the Catamarans already a blip on the horizon.
The downwind leg along the Welsh channel to a mark called D4 was the race’s deal breaker for the superfast handicap fleet. It was a very long leg indeed, with waves that rocked and rolled me and a wind that puffed up and down without pattern. After a long time, I did spot a green buoy, but it was some way towards the estuary side of where we were sailing. It was the first one I’d seen and there should have been 3 more before it. Was it D4 or not? Should we go out there and look and risk losing a lot of ground? The Canoes way up ahead were even further inshore and I couldn’t see any other buoys in the distance. Then a rib arrived and started circling the green marker, which was now past us. Owner made a snap decision and made a turn heading off across the estuary, assuming that was D4 we had passed and therefore rounded. It was a long, blasting two foot reach all the way to the next mark, which again, we couldn’t see. I spotted Sally’s cottage and remembered the mark was North of that one, so we headed over in that general direction and saw mark Cliff up against the shore. By this stage in the race, the cats were horizons away, the Canoes were horizons behind, along with the medium handicap fleet, who were just rounding D4 and I was feeling very small and alone.
Next was a short beat through the line by the committee boat, which was flying flag S, for shortened course. The relief was short-lived, because the course had been shortened for the catamarans, which were a couple of legs ahead. So our race had to go on, to try to find a buoy called Seldom Seen. What are the chances of finding one with that name? I thought to myself. I wasn’t wrong. Luckily Owner had seen it (seldomly) on a beach horse ride, lying in the sand not so long ago. Now it was covered with different horses of the white variety, as the wind had whipped up some short choppy waves as the tide had turned. I spotted it first and with a huge sigh of relief turned for a final rocking rolling surfing run back to Cliff and then another beat to finish. We did okay, me and my cold Owner, who won a bottle of vino for second placed West Kirby boat in the class, behind Owner’s husband Andrew, in his A-Class Catamaran.
In the medium handicap, the Laser won from the Finn; the class completing the long triangle before being shortened.
A fabulous day of sailing for many of us dinghies, who hadn’t got a clue where we were going. Where would you like me to take you next year?
Happy Sailing, Bojangles.