Hello once again from Zippy Zero. I’ve just got back from my fourth trip to Scotland this year, this time for a special event run by RYA Scotland, called the Scottish Champion of Champions. It is an event that has been running for 57 years inviting the Scottish National Champions or series winners, plus their top lady, of all dinghy classes, to compete in a weekend of handicap racing in their own boats.
This year, the event was held at Helensburgh and was such a social and fun event that I feel compelled to prepare you a verbal barista-Zippuccino, with a foamy top and a sprinkle of this and that, so you get the full flavour of the mellow happiness that I experienced this weekend.
Lets go back a step. My Invitation.
It came a few weeks ago, from the Scottish DZero Class Rep, Martin McLatimer. It seemed that we had qualified on the account of Owner being the top lady at the Scottish DZ Champs. I’m sure it was more to do with me being Very Famous, good looking and charismatic to boot. There was an added incentive for going; I heard it rumoured that there would be paparazzi, autograph opportunities and a potential appearance on Love Island. I was in. The thought of hanging by the pool in hot sunshine, with a few cocktails and surrounded by young, bronzed, fit people, all vying for the chance to rub hot McLube onto my bottom was most appealing. With this image in mind, I packed my lubricants, kilt and sporran and headed North up the M6.
By the time we arrived in Helensburgh on Friday evening, my picture had been re-adjusted somewhat. The sun set at 6:30, there was nobody about and I sat on my road trailer waiting for the rain to arrive.
The following morning, my 21 fellow Champions and their cheery Owners started arriving from 15 different clubs. I listened carefully as Race Officer Donald McLaren gave the briefing. I heard snippets such as “Hazard – Glacial Erratic” and “Beware of Naval Movements”. I made notes incase we needed this vital information to win a race later on.
We launched in a light Northerly breeze, so it was a long, slow run to the open area where we would be racing. The wind fickled and tickled my telltales in every direction and the postponement flag joined in. There were four possible courses for us boats to enjoy; upwind/downwind, triangle, trapezoidal and W. The fleet had been divided into two starts, with the split between the Hornet (helmed by D-Zero hero and Scottish Champ, McStorky) and the Aero 9, who fell into our fleet. All boats were placed based on average lap times, which saved me having to argue with a foiling moth on the start line. Good plan Mr Matt McToynbee, Class and Academy Officer, RYA Scotland; another hero (and fan) of mine who organised the whole event to perfection.
Our first course was the upwind/downwind and I managed to stay close to the Aero 9. The wind puffed and shifted on the second beat, just enough to catch it’s Owner Robbie Lawson by surprise and to my delight, he put in a super Naval Movement of his very own that ended in a slow and graceful capsize. We kept moving and stayed ahead of RS 200 sailed by Brendan Lynch and Kirsty Wilson (daughter of our own DZero sailor Ian Wilson), although they took me on handicap in the end.
The race was won by the humongous windshadow with 94 on its sail. I presume this number was the square metres of sail that it was carrying. Owner told me that it was a Norfolk Punt and that the class was designed in the mid 19th century to carry guns. I hoped that the Edifice was not armed for our regatta and gave it a lot of room.
Race two was a triangle course and we were blessed with some more wind. The Gun boat won again, followed by John Wilson (son of our DZero sailor Ian) and Laura Glover in their RS200. I had my moment by beating the Stork by 10 seconds on handicap.
The next course for Race three was a quadrilateral, where the wind shifted to turn various legs into beats for various boats. I was a various boat. The race was memorable for being overtaken by a psychotic butterfly, presumably on drugs. It passed me with a scream and left a speed burn along my starboard deck. I can only compare it with watching Usain Bolt sprinting 100 metres on ballet shoe points.
The wind died on the final lap. As half of the fleet had been finished after two laps, it left the three lappers with a long way to go. An anomaly of the results was the splitting of the RS 400’s; the leading boat of Jon Gay and Amanda Henderson was sent off for a 3rd lap, whilst The Yeamans were the first of the finishers after 2 laps, to take the higher placing on average laps. I was last through the finish line and started the long and chilly sail home in the dusky evening, with my shivery Owner asking me where my nav lights were. I think she’d gone Glacially erratic.
Day two dawned bright but super chilly. The boats trooped off to the start line nice and early, to sit around for a while and wait for the breeze to settle. The upwind/downwind course was set and we were nearly off, til the pesky postponement pennant popped up again. Luckily, because we boats are all super-champions, we noticed that the course had changed to a triangle and I had a great start on a favourably shifting wind, which put me ahead of the Aero9 once more. It was a seabird’s day, because the Hornet (Storky) won, followed by two Ospreys; the Scotts and in third Alan Henderson (Another of our DZero sailors) and Alastair Barrie.
Race 5 became the Upwind/downwind race and the wind picked up to 10 knots. It was another buzzer beater for us on handicap over the Stork (I have to enjoy these moments when I can).
Finally Race 6. The double ewe. Rather than two sheep, this involved five buoys in the shape W. It may as well have been two sheep out there to add to the strange race that this became. I started with the slower boats towards the first mark (notice I refrain from calling it a windward mark – clue here). The wind drained away and the silence was broken by the sound of the second starters reaching towards me on new and fresh wind. I cowered, waiting for the Edifice to engulf me in reams of orange spinnaker cloth, like a burial shroud. It didn’t happen because Owner got a grip of me and went high to fend it off. We got round the mark, for the wind to turn again mid-course, putting us on a beat.
Poor Donald must have been having kittens on the committee boat and he wisely stopped the game by shortening at one lap before it got too silly. By the time I got there the wind had tricked away to the lightest of breeze, which meant a very long beat home for us.
Fortunately, a passing rib which was towing the last Solo, stopped to give us a lift home. The next 20 minutes were great fun, where Solo and I pretended to be foiling moths and waterskiied all the way back to the moorings.
So ended my fabulous weekend in Helensburgh, finishing 14th overall, and Owner even came away with the Ladies Champion of Champions Cup.
Well done, Owner McPotter. Has a nice ring to it, hey?
Zippy Zero GBR 187