Since my little “accident” that I reported to you all last time, I’ve had
various new and repaired parts fitted and have been out practicing on
the Dee estuary with my seal friends. The date of the Nationals
rapidly approached and, finally we were packed up and off.
After many hours of thundering down motorways, interspersed with a
diversion up narrow lanes to the top of the Malvern Hills to collect
The Lanterne Rouge, we finally arrived at the smart and spacious ex-
Olympic venue of Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy.
I was delighted to see some of my old friends from earlier Opens, and
there were many new characters loitering in the boat park. After a
happy evening spent with my fellow competitors downing bottles of
McLube hull polish, courtesy of our kind sponsors Harken, we were
tucked up in our king-sized berths, complete with chain anchored tie
down stakes for our amusement as the Owners kept tripping over
The following morning, we all knew what was to come. The Owners
do very little work on us all year and then, on the day of the
Nationals, every human is scuttling about with bits of rope, tape,
blocks, water bottle holders and polish cloths (too bad, we drunk the
lot). My Owner was no exception. After a power jet wash to deal with
a potentially embarrassing crab situation inboard, she started getting
up close and personal with her teeth on my downhaul knot. Before I
could mutter “hang on there a minute lady”, the Harken rep, Tom
Southwell was over giving me various upgrades and some cool new
stickers for my bows. Thanks Man and co.!
Then it was briefing time, sails were hoisted and we were off to the
furthest side of Weymouth Bay for the days racing. It was a long run
out there and if I was at all worried about my crab situation,
somebody else sure had one heck of a jellyfish problem. By the first
start, the wind was blowing a pleasant Force 3-4. We arrived at the
first mark in a traffic jam of Zeros, one of which was making a very
bad job of trying to lay it on port. A gap was opening between the
mark and his transom, so we dived for it and I pushed the mark over a
bit to give me more room. We then had to do some girlie ballerina
turns to say sorry to everyone, which set us back to finish 32 nd .
The race was won by the boat’s designer, Dan Holman, but he was
disqualified as he had been over the line at the start. This put
Scotland’s Niel Ritchie in first place and he went on the gain a 2 nd and
3 rd in the next two races to lead the Championship at the end of the
The second race involved more traffic negotiation for us and we had
to do more ballet turns after getting to close to a leeward boat whilst
trying to avoid one on starboard tack. Another mid 30s result. At the
other end of the fleet, Dan Holman bagged another first place in the
class demo boat that he was borrowing.
The wind was now blowing strongly and there were some tired boats
on the racecourse for the last race of the day. I was one of them and
was greatly relieved when the race team shortened us at the end of the
windward leg, meaning we had less distance to beat our exhausted
hulls back through Portland Harbour and home. Another first place
for Dan Holman, with Iain Horlock putting in some good results of 2 nd
and 3 rd in the earlier races.
Back ashore, the Owners went off to drink beer and eat curry at a
local restaurant, whilst we boats snoozed in the fading sunshine.
The next morning dawned another sunny day in paradise. I had my
battens tweaked by Mr Harken and his bro, Jamie, to try to give me
some more upwind speed. Then we Zeros lined up on the top of the
slipway until the release flag was hoisted and then popped off into the
water in ones, twos and threes, like a batch of newly hatched turtles.
A long reach took us out into the bay, where we started Race 4. The
wind was lighter than the day before and I was humming and zipping,
especially downwind, finishing 16 th . The next two races were much
the same, although the waves were getting bigger and a little trickier
to keep balanced on downwind. I danced some fairly funky by-the-lee
moves to grab some extra places and finished 21 st and 20 th . Then we
all sailed back on the longest ever, most glorious wave splattered
reach, guaranteed to bring a smile to the most tired of faces.
Back on dry land, the Owners grouped together and set off for Chesil
beach for an intensive hour’s litter picking, to support the Green Class
Initiative. Our Owners care about the sea we sail in and agree that the
only plastics floating in it should be Zeros. Each Owner was given a
special recyclable biobased water bottle, made by My Pinnacle
Nutrition. The beer bill afterwards was supported by The Valentine
DZ Initiative. After that little sortie, it was covers on and tie down trip
up time. The scoreboard had me in 26 th place. The Owners barbecued
and chatted late into the evening about where they should take us next
year and whether we should be allowed to play ping-pong out of the
back of our transoms. They also debated the merits of split controls
and turtle assisted corsetry, but they lost me at that point.
By the next morning, the weather had changed. A dark cloud loomed
over the boatpark and a collection of crabs were waving their pincers
out of Martin Latimer’s ping-pong net transom set-up. I denied any
knowledge over where they had originated from and they were
rapidly transferred to Storky’s boat. Before a major infestation took
hold, we were pushed out to sea for the final day of racing. The fickle
breeze shifted over Portland Hill and made race 7 a one-sided beat.
We headed off to investigate a darker patch of water which looked
like wind, but turned out to be just a dark and dismal place to sit for a
while, whilst the fleet passed us by. The conditions challenged the
concentration of both boat and Owners; The Zero of Jon Cowper had
a momentary lapse and capsized in not much wind for no apparent
reason and the boat of Paul Murphy mistook the vessel whistling at
each Zero to tell them a mark had moved up ahead, as the finish boat,
and stopped racing as it passed by.
David God Valentine lead the fleet around the first mark in an
everlasting moment of glory, but it was Dan Holman who took
another first, to win the event with a race to spare
There followed a long delay as the Race Team waited for a steady
wind of raceable strength to work with. An hour later, the
postponement flag was lowered and us boats responded by very over
enthusiastically starting well before the gun. We were recalled and
shown the black flag, finally getting underway at the second attempt. I
firmly resolved not to go right towards Portland again and stuck it out
on the left. To thwart me, the wind shifted and favoured the right,
leaving me in the back quarter of the fleet once again.
We arrived ashore to congratulate the winner and applaud the Top
Ten. The Lanterne Rouge and junior trophy was won by Emily
Britton. My Owner picked up the First Lady trophy and another bottle
of McLube for me to swig on the way home.
As we were being packed up, I noticed the Owners on their phones,
presumably texting home with results and tales of their adventures. To
help them with future events, I have created a Compendium of
LGBT – Let Go of Bloody Tiller
CC – capsized twice
UC – Still upright, made someone else capsize
SWIB – Seaweed in bra/boxers
IWCFT – In water, can’t find trolley
IB DB CFB – In bar, downing beer, can’t find boat
TOTD – Tripped over tie down
O – Swallowed a jellyfish
That should just about cover it.
Until we meet again,
Zippy Zero 187