Number 133 / May 2002

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Published by the Open Canoe Sailing Group

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Eee, It's Good To Be Back! (RoyB)

If the OCSG could always enjoy such wonderful sailing conditions as at Rother Valley Country Park,

we would indeed be fortunate. A steady force 2/3, occasionally 4, blowing down the length of the mile-long lake for two days provided us with the ideal opportunity to shake off the grey cobwebs of winter and reacquaint ourselves with the joy of canoe sailing. Moreover, only a few spots of rain fell early on Sunday morning with fresh to warm temperatures.

Maps showing location of Rother Valley Country Park (originally published in The Gossip in April 2002).

When I arrived on Friday afternoon the camper/caravans of those less challenged by the demands of employment already stood at the top of the broad grassy slope sweeping down to the water's edge. I just had time to rig my canoe and drift about in the warm sunshine with DaveT and MartinO before the 6.30 limit on sailing.

The lake is a managed water sports centre, with canoes, windsurfers and dinghies for hire as well as a slipway to launch one's own craft. A safety boat buzzes up and down. At one end, suitably buoyed off, there's a waterskiing area with a moving overhead wire from which handles dangle to pull the skiers along; hence few roaring speedboats and no intrusion upon our activities. The entrance gate is locked at 7.30 but WalterG had acquired a key. When Ann & KeithM arrived later they phoned Martin (on his mobile), who drove up to the entrance and let them in.

As the temperature fell, Lynne & JohnS invited us all into their warm trailer tent. A generous offer, as we numbered about 12. However, by keeping the heavier element over the wheels and only entrusting the more delicate to the strength of two 2mm split pins (apparently), we managed. As the sky darkened, the laughter grew louder and the jokes more dubious. No more need be said. The main disadvantage with this venue is the nighttime facility for campers. There is no camping site as such, the water sports centre with its clean toilets and washing facilities is shut from 7.30 pm until 8 am so if the need arises one has a good 5-minute walk to a toilet for the disabled, which is not signposted. The lights of a modern housing estate twinkle on the far side of the water beyond the trees and railway line.

Saturday was fun. I counted 20 canoes, a few of a distinctly unusual character. JohnW ('Banjo') had built his very shapely craft out of scaffolding battens in the strip-planking method and sported a jib

and sort of spritsail. Another gentleman whose name I did not record sported what looked like a lateen sail. The revolving mast projected sternwards from the bow at about 45 degrees. The loose foot of the sail stretched almost the length of the boat, the sheet being led through a fairlead near the stern. By revolving the mast the sail was progressively reefed (roller-reefing in effect), but as the lower part of the triangular sail was wrapped round the mast, the remaining triangle was towards the top of the mast - an unusual sight. He said that this system kept the centre of effort of the sail in the same position relative to the centre of lateral resistance of the hull. He hoped to do some sailing/ paddling in the salt waters of NW Scotland.

The roller-reefed 'lateen' rig.

He was one of a number of non-OCSG visitors who came for just one day. We also had at least one sailor who'd seen the OCSG stand at the ICE. I suspect that a 'safe' (i.e. managed) lake near large population centres has its attractions for those who want to have a look at us. One potential member, possessing a canoe but no rig, had brought his family, for whom there were things to do on the site, along as a day trip out.

We ran, tacked, reached and gybed in the splendid conditions, circumnavigating the island at the far end; had lunch and then experimented with sea anchors. JohnS with Wally and Rod made a few out of an old sheet and string and invited us to sail out to a buoy, lay the sea anchor and drop one's sail and see how little one drifted, bow pointing comfortingly to wind, before raising sail again. It became clear how important it is to have a line back to the crew, enabling one to pull in the anchor without an undignified and possibly risky scramble to the bow.

After a short interlude a 'tennis ball race' followed: throw the ball and sail to retrieve it time after time round the set course.

WalterG de-rigging, with campsite in background.

Enthusiastic MartinO capsized in the ensuing melee, but happily survived. A good exercise in negotiation under sail. EddieP (Solway Dory Prospector hull) and JanP (half-decked Sunart) put their new canoes through their paces. Both seemed to be pleased. JimB tried out outriggers that he

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