Last Meet Of The Season (DaveS)
October 23rd was the final chance for members to go to an organised event in 2010. The location at Coniston Hall campsite has always been a favourite but usually this meet has been earlier in the year. The weather forecasts during the week before were not promising, with talk of heavy rain, gales and very cold conditions, so I began to wonder if anyone would make the journey. I need not have worried though as 23 boats were counted over the weekend. Members from as far away as Norfolk, Surrey and Southampton made the journey, perhaps encouraged by it being half term.
Several members arrived on Friday and were treated to torrential rain in the evening but by Saturday morning the weather dried up, although remaining cold and cloudy for most of the day. 18 boats went down the lake and headed to the beach just behind Peel Island on the eastern shore. The wind had increased from the forecast force 3 to a blustery force 4. Jan capsized as she turned into the shelter of the bay but managed to self-rescue. She had her dry suit on and did not seem bothered by the experience. She could not explain what had happened but perhaps it was because she did not have her outriggers on. Outriggers can give you a sense of invincibility and if people sail with them most of the time perhaps they become a little careless when they don't put them on. Certainly dry suits have transformed sailing in cold conditions. If Jan had capsized with ordinary clothes on it could have been a serious situation.
After a picnic on the beach we set to beating back upwind in a force 3 to 4, occasionally force 5. Most people managed well in the difficult conditions but a few found it hard work pointing high enough to make good progress into the wind and waves. Jeff, Steve and I stayed with the back markers and gave advice and encouragement, but it took about 3 hours to get back to the campsite. We were very chilled from being out in the cold wind for such a long time and, worse still, we missed the trip to the cafe at Brantwood.
On Saturday evening we all went early to the Ship Inn and most people ate out to escape the cold. Saturday night was clear and frosty and we woke to blue sky and sunshine. The forecast had been for more wind on Sunday but we were blessed with a steady force 3. The sunshine made for a much warmer day and we took the opportunity to sail up to the north end of the lake to explore and check out the two cafes. The autumnal scenery was stunning, with the Lakeland fells golden under the blue skies. I counted 22 boats out and everyone was sailing well in the near perfect conditions.
Several of us swapped boats to compare how differently they handled. Dave and I with our 14ft Fulmars swapped with Steve and Wayne with their 16ft Shearwaters. It was noticeable that the shorter boats tacked much more quickly and felt more responsive. We haven't raced enough this year to tell if the longer boats have a speed advantage, but sailing around together there is not an obvious difference. Greg had brought a Bell Flashfire paddling canoe with him. At 13ft long and 28ins wide it is a specialist solo canoe that only weighs about 35lb. Several people tried paddling it along the shore. It is certainly tippier that what most people are used to but with practice you can certainly make it go with ease. I definitely approved of the weight and wished we could make all our boats that light. Gavin tried some capsize recovery using a foam fender, jammed behind his leeboard, as a float, to give him extra stability and help him get in over the side. It certainly seemed to help and he managed to get in with his rig up, which previously he had found difficult.
Julie lit a barbecue when we returned and handed out sausages whilst most people packed up ready to go home. Greg and family, Wayne and family and new member Declan were staying on for a few more days and Monday seems to have had just as good weather as Sunday, so hopefully they managed to get in some more sailing before the weather broke. The meet was definitely a success. Seeing such a good turn out with a few new faces, watching most of the members managing the difficult conditions with ease whilst experienced members helped the less experienced at the rear, seeing Jan taking a capsize in her stride - all these make me hopeful for the future of the group. I cannot wait for next season to come.
Windermere Expedition (JeffB)
I don't know why it is, but sailing just a small distance carrying all your needs for a night or two introduces a frisson of adventure out of all proportion to the effort or risk involved. It is a bit like