Summer 2006
Baby Boomers Rock On
Bar License
Bewl - Spring Bank Holiday
Dinghy Show
First Race of 2006 Season
First Working Party of 2006
Kew Bridge Steam Museum
Kew Gardens
Kew Motors V Gardens
Mid-Thames Trophy
News of Members
Open Weekend
Quiz Night
Regatta & BBQ
Regatta at Hampton
Sailing for the Blind Wine?
Significant Birthday
Social Calendar
Start of Season Party
Bewl - Spring Bank Holiday - Nigel Knowles
     I suppose the auguries were not good. Richard had hurt his foot badly, Rodger's wisdom tooth was playing up, Mike was at the Monaco Grand Prix and most of the other "regulars" were otherwise engaged. It was left to Bryan Clements and me to defend the honour of Aquarius at the Bewl Valley S C's Spring Regatta.
    Now, once upon a time, in less pressured times, this was a splendid 3 day affair. Aquarius visitors were able to camp in the adjacent field, use the Club's facilities during the day and sample the fare of local hostelries in the evening. Nowadays it is still a splendid affair but most people go for only one day, either Sunday (handicap racing) or Monday (pursuit racing) and sleep in their own beds (Richard has been known to buck the trend and sleep in his car - presumably in a pub car park?). Bryan and I elected go on the Monday and duly set off with the Club Topper piggy-back on my Laser.
    We arrived in good time for a 10.30 briefing. The sky was clear, the sun was shining and the surface of the water was like a mirror! Actually not quite a perfect mirror - there were some disturbances evident - but these were attributable to oarsmen or fishermen and certainly not wind! Undeterred we rigged the boats.
    Of course the idea of pursuit racing is that the slowest boats start first followed by progressively faster ones at intervals according to their handicap such that in theory, other things being equal, they all finish together after 1 hours sailing.  Fortunately for the race officials, other things are usually not equal, so the fleet is usually well spread out at the finish- and so it proved!
    Anyway Bryan in the Topper was sailing the slowest boat and therefore was supposed to start first. Unfortunately in the near flat calm conditions he failed to make his allotted start time so started late. The gods were not smiling on Bryan - no sooner had he crossed the line than the wind started to pick up and to change direction such that by the time the Lasers started we had a gentle force 1-2 for an easy beat to the first windward mark whereas Bryan had had to put in an extra tack and was struggling to make the mark as the faster boats passed him.
    Rounding this first mark I looked back to note some ominous looking cummulo-nimbus on the horizon (i.e big black clouds!) but thought nothing of it as I set off on a broad reach chasing after couple of Laser Radials ahead. Suddenly it went quite dark and glancing back I saw a rain shower approaching. A squall hit me a few seconds later. The good news was that the wind in the squall was from essentially the same direction… the bad news was that it increased to frightening force, blew away my hat and started to hurl hail stones onto my follicly challenged head while I struggled to keep control as the boat took off on a plane at seemingly suicidal speed!
    My laser normally whines when it planes fast (there's a nick in the leading edge of the centreboard) but at this speed it was screaming and doing nothing for my feeling of well being! My main concern (apart from not really being in control!) was not being able to see more than about 10 yards ahead and knowing that, not too far in front, there was a concrete dam across my path. How could I get off the plane and back in control?..(Richard and Mike don't cover this in AQSC.'s sail training manual!)….Any attempt to turn upwind at this speed was likely to result in broaching and rolling the boat and I've broken too many spars and bruised too many limbs in the past to want to do this deliberately! On the other hand if I stayed on the same course I would hit the dam with a mighty whack which was even less appealing! Should I just jump off the back and abandon the boat?....
    I'm not sure quite what did happen, except that somehow I did come off the plane without capsizing, turned into wind and promptly got into irons, with the boom thrashing violently from one side to another and waves washing over the cockpit. This wasn't much fun! but I didn't really have time to reflect on this, before the wind caught me on the other tack and I took off on the plane again… fortunately away from the dam and vaguely in the right direction for the race!
    By this time the gods were making signs of peace, …the hail had given way to rain and visibility improved so I could see where I was going. Just as well really, because it was a real disaster area! Overturned boats littered the course and the safety boats were really struggling to cope with a number of crews in evident distress and it was quite tricky avoiding the debris! Conditions continued to improve and I made the next mark, still on the plane, feeling quite exhilarated!
    The wind continued to decrease, and settled for a gentle 1-2; the sun came out, we dried out and warmed up and finished the race with no further drama. I came ashore to find that Bryan, wisely had retired and moreover, having got his new boots wet had decided to reef his Topper in readiness for the afternoon race. Of the 23 boats that started, only 7 finished. It was reported that the wind speed on the committee boat was measured at 55kts. ( Question:. Why were they measuring wind speed in those conditions? Would you have such presence of mind when all around you boats are capsizing?)
    Bewl has an excellent Clubhouse and provides some excellent catering facilities. After a welcome lunch we took to the water again for the afternoon race, better prepared this time for what the gods had for us. However after the morning's drama, sailing was relatively uneventful in the variable force 1-2 winds. Bryan, in the reefed Topper, was frustratingly uncompetitive and finished 21. I had a good sail, but failed to keep up with the serious Laser sailors and finished 11.
    All in all an exhilarating day and a great change from river sailing! My thanks to Bewl SC who, as always, make us feel so welcome.