24Oct2001 HAMPTON SC REGATTA, A NEWCOMERS EXPERIENCE John and Caroline Graham

After deciding to enter the regatta at the weekend I needed a crew - all my friends declined my offers so the gauntlet fell to Caroline my wife, who had said she would crew as a last resort. So the scene was set. We were going to enter a sailing race - I who had never helmed a boat in a race before and had only crewed as a child, and my wife who had only been out once for 10 minutes, and all this was going to be in our Merlin Rocket that we had bought from Cowes a few weeks before.

On Saturday morning we met up with our fellow AQSC members and decided to sail down to HSC as I needed the practice. On arrival we were greeted by a large fleet, many of which were Merlins. They were a friendly bunch and enquired of our origin. Aquarius we proudly replied. Oh! we didn't know Aquarius sailed Merlins was the reply. They were about to find out how true that statement was.

Caroline and I were obviously a bit disturbed when we saw all the high tech rigging on the Merlin's especially when they upped spinneys in a blink of the eye, but it was still a great thrill to be among them.

At least until they sounded the start anyway. WE ' RE OFF I thought. hey! wait for us, come back and they did, lapped again. After we shipped a load of water, due to a rare gust, and all but sunk we managed to get back into race and finished a well deserved last.

Not deterred by the fact that the Merlin Fleet were organising a lynch mob, and my wife announced she that had some studying to do, I put myself in the afternoon Handicap race, without a crew. Not much better.

Sunday Caroline returns, armed with our advice from the previous day were back racing the Merlins. THEY' RE OFF, hey we' re not last, we' re catching them up, look we' re overtaking them. Short lived the wind completely dies and our inexperience shows as the other boats read the light breezes and pass us. Frustrated we finish last again.

Caroline finds more studying to do so I'm in the Handicap, wind is up slightly and I've overtaken them all, I'm first, just this last buoy and back to the line. Horror of horrors I've gone downstream too far to the wrong buoy. Not last but not first.

Last race Keith volunteers to crew for me in the Handicap, he points out that my top batten is stuck and I can tell he's not impressed by the rigging. We take the lead, just as we attack around the last buoy the wind dies, we float down stream and watch the others catch up and overtake. I'm gutted.

I soon cheer up as the atmosphere back at the clubhouse was a breath of fresh air. Kids young and old diving in the river and friendly chats.

At the prize giving it was great to see Bob and Fin pick up pots - like myself and Caroline I am sure they learnt a great deal.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the members at Aquarius for making us feel so welcome.

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