Number 199 / June 2008

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Published by the Open Canoe Sailing Group

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Two Views Of Coniston (JanP)

We did not do a great deal of organising for the Coniston weekend so I hope it didn't show too much and as it turned out the weather helped a lot.

It was calm and warm; perfect for sitting outside at the campsite, if a little lacking in breeze for racing on Sunday. It was also good to see some new faces and I hope we shall see them again.

Encouraged by the sunshine all week I suspect, more than usual numbers arrived on Friday. By the time we got there, camps were set up, boats were rigged and several people had been sailing during the day. Again this year, Coniston was a centre of activity; the Keswick to Barrow race (going along the East shore of the lake) took place on Saturday and early on Sunday morning we heard cyclists setting off from the campsite for the start of the Fred Whitton Challenge, 117 miles over all the passes in the Lake District.

New faces at the Saturday morning briefing included MikeW and his small family in their canoe with a downwind sail. We broke up into cruising groups (we decided we didn't like the phrase "buddy groups") and headed off for our chosen destinations in a light south westerly breeze. Dave and I reached the beach by Peel Island in time for lunch where several other groups seemed to be heading too. Oliver in his trimaran, kept ahead of us most of the way with the help of his electric outboard. Others arrived over the next hour reporting that the wind was gradually dropping whilst Eddie and Sue, who set off later, chose their favourite bay on the north shore for their lunch stop. Paul and Renate volunteered to stay at the north end to keep company with those sailing near the campsite.

For the return journey the fleet had to get out their paddles; DaveS and Steve lost no time double paddling (kayak style) off into the distance with the rest of us following at a more leisurely pace. In spite of my earlier doubts, there was still plenty of time and enough enthusiasm for some capsize practice and it was sensible to make the most of the warm, calm conditions. We have to thank Steve for organising a very useful session which Keith began by demonstrating with his 18 ft Penobscot. Others practiced in pairs watched by land lubbers from the beach.

I particularly wanted to see how Petrel behaved with outriggers as last time I capsized (without them), I could not get back in without help. I had already prepared by securing the mast and tying a rope to the outrigger beam. After several attempts, even heaving on the rope, lead round the outrigger on the opposite side, I couldn't get the canoe out of the water. With the mast tied in, I couldn't release it without diving under the upturned canoe and I'm not good underwater. The forces keeping the boat upside down (outriggers and the weight of the mast) were greater than any I could exert whatever I tried. In a real capsize I could have tried removing an outrigger. This time though with a bit of extra lift from Dave, up she came. Getting in was easy, the outriggers keeping the canoe steady as I hauled myself in over the gunwhale and into a comparatively dry boat.

Stuart swapped with me and had a go using my canoe with outriggers. Needless to say, being young and fit he performed a perfect capsize and re-entry, as did his friend Paul. All around though, people were learning a terrific lot from the exercise. Ellen righted Njuzu on her own by removing the mast and we know that both she and Jeff have had plenty of practice at getting back in! Altogether, nine people capsized that day; Gavin, Stuart, Paul, Ellen, Jeff, DaveT, Keith, Steve and me - a very good show for so early in the season.

Next morning though, there was only a breath of wind; not nearly enough for racing but there were some interesting boats on the beach. As several people were new to the group, we persuaded Keith to take us along the line on the beach inviting each owner to outline 3 points they liked about their craft. It showed not only the variety of canoes that can be fitted out for sailing but also the different ways of approaching this.

After that, there was still no wind so we broke up into small groups again for more paddling practice, this time to the Blue Bird for coffee or an early lunch. On leaving the Café we had an enjoyable hour or so sailing as the wind sprung up unexpectedly rounding off the weekend nicely, before preparing for home.

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