Number 201 / August 2008

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Published by the Open Canoe Sailing Group

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Great Weekend (EddieP)

Yet again, we had a super time at Ullswater, and although it might seem tedious year after year, we have to thank Janet and JohnE for organising it, and Ullswater Sailing Club for their hospitality, and the wonderful ladies in the kitchen for the Saturday night meal.

The weather improved from rain on the Friday, although not as heavy rain as much of north-west England received that day, to variable, but with wind on the Saturday, and, in a reprise of last year, almost too little wind on the Sunday.

Thankfully, as we lolled about on the beach in increasing sunshine, the wind came up at 12.40 p.m. precisely on Sunday, and we did have a race!

I did think to myself afterwards, as the group have had much soul-searching in recent years about our aims and what we do, that this meet was almost perfect - a lot of people, half of whom seemed to be new, a nearly record number of boats (I counted 22, then 24 on the Saturday, and on Sunday afternoon, 28 boats were lined up on the beach), and a magnificent 36 for the meal on Saturday night. People were very sociable, I thought, and there was a lot of talk of boats, sailing and expeditions. Also, on the Friday night (and I think a lot who were absent would have thought this sad!), we had a great discussion about the state of the nation, retirement and pensions.

Whoopee. On a more serious note, sailing club members joined in when we talked about the effect of fuel costs on people going away for weekends, and there are signs that one-design dinghy meetings are being affected now. We had home-made boats, re-built boats, and perhaps the future in the group, some of the latest technology from Solway Dory.

On Saturday, the day dawned gusty, with early sun, and then ominous clouds. The group met at 10.00, and various outings were arranged. I think the 'buddying-up' went well. I sailed to Howtown with Roy, Jim and Gavin, and a group of (all experienced) 8 set out for the end of the lake, eventually reaching Norfolk Island. The wind was a tricky Force 3 to 4 with (surprise, surprise) gusts, but also holes in the wind when leaning out could prove a bit wet.

Our group was back quite early, about 2.00, and then at the club the wind really picked up in time for the club races, and a good time was had by all just watching a lot of capsizes, including even a 49er. The wind now was a good Force 5, gusting 6, and no one thought about going out again! The Norfolk Island group rolled in at about 5.00. Then we had the enjoyable evening of having a meal cooked for us.

We then looked forward to another cracking day's sailing on the Sunday, but the day dawned absolutely windless. We met at 10.00, then again at 11.00, and decided to wait until 1.00, with the sailing club in exactly the same boat (excuse the pun). Sunday's forecast improved, going from rain and no wind to sun and no wind - in the end, it was a great day, with warm sunshine, and a light wind.

Were we to have a repeat of Coniston, and no race? Well no, 1.00 p.m. was a fortuitous time to re-convene (I had told several unbelievers that the wind would arrive at midday), and when I went out for a float about at 12.30, I could see the wind advancing up the lake from the south.

Racing - Shearwaters, the sign of things to come?

The first race was going to be towards the sailing club, around their start buoy, and then a clockwise route down to Pooley Bridge and back. (The club had not yet started their day, apparently 'waiting for the little canoes to come out' - in light winds!) The start line was 12 boats for the ranking race, and I knew, having forgotten my sailing watch, that I had arrived on the line about 10 seconds too early, and had to track down it. Jeff judged the time beautifully. I was too far to leeward, and had to try and fight through the fleet a bit. The race soon sorted out, with the two Daves, Gavin and Jeff up front, then Keith and Jan in front of me. I didn't really want to be 7th, and thought I could improve (all down to a sloppy start from me).

I was told by spectators that the sight of all the boats strung out near the start was quite a picture, and we all followed line astern around the first buoy from tack to wind aft, and down on the long run to the end of the lake. There was very little difference in boat speed on this leg, although ominously for me, Rod was gaining on me. Around the end of the lake on the gybe, I knew that the long tack back suited my boat better, and took a different route to those ahead of me, gaining by tacking earlier in the centre of the lake, with the most wind. I was visibly gaining on everyone in front, although the three Shearwaters were obviously away in front, and came in at 1,2 and 3. Keith was also not too far in front. I could see that I had overtaken Jan (we are often one place apart, having very similar boat performances), and set out to try and get Jeff (Competitive? No, shame on you!). I nearly did it, Jeff coming across my bow, and me heading straight for the finish line.

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