Switcherly do dah, switcherly dae, my, oh my, what a wonderful day.

by Steve Watson published Aug 06, 2017 07:20 PM, last modified Aug 07, 2017 11:22 AM

Saturday racing Aug 5

Switcherly do dah, switcherly dae, my, oh my, what a wonderful day.

There are many Wapps, that is weather Apps.  I have my favourites but I do like the Club’s weather instrument.  When working, it can tell you wind speed, direction, rainfall, temperature of something somewhere, air pressure and probably water depth, hours of sunlight and whether the weather will or not. Mike C tells us that’s it is currently poorly. Even this sophisticated device would have been perplexed by Saturday’s weather and the world wide impact it had, well, in reality, just Edgbaston.

So a morning bike ride starting out in sunshine leading to a short rest from the drizzle and thunder in a green house  followed by a forced ride home in heavy rain against the flow of the river Westfield Road. Soaked to the skin.

So to sail or not to sail?  Could be grim. The South West weather that passes my house runs a few meters parallel north of the reservoir so the MSC Wapp is a good indicator. Not so today as the wind indicator flatlined.  There was temperature at “somewhere” though.

We’ll go and look down the club, I thought, taking car rather than bike as a precaution.

It looks good, even though the tide is out with an indication of wind colouring the water. There’s even a few dinghies out already on the water following a rather damp junior session that morning. The rigging area starts to bustle as would be sailors prepare their boats.  There seems to be an unwritten rigging rule that says that those that rig early still seem to miss the start.  Do they misunderstand the difference between ‘launch’ and ‘lunch’? Today, it looks like a Solo option for me as my forum request for a crew in the lilac Merlin has not attracted Saskia to reply.

It’s an average lap time race first.  These are good as the entire fleet start together and creates that start line adrenaline buzz! My sailing watch is in sympathy with the MSC Wapp and fails to function to the standard expected, that is telling the time. I’m late over the line and affected by the bigger sails of Merlins, GP14s, Enterprises and that thing that looks like a skate wing in Morrisons’ fish counter.  I also find my memory of rigging such a simple craft as a Solo has joined in with the Wapp revolution and my sail is falling down, centre board relentlessly floating up into the case, burgee lying in the bottom of the boat and a large spider clearly reinventing the World Wide Web. I reach the first mark in a lowly position to be amused by the antics of Keith and Stuart who are having Wapp problems of their own.  A place made up, I reflect on the fact that its not the leading boat that counts but the average speed and that I can still win! However, the temptation of a cup of tea and a donut is too much after the forlorn first lap and I head to the shore subject to the cheery comments of the race team poised patiently on the start/finish gate. Their mood is surprising as their sound equipment for race signals was also in Wapp reluctance mode.

Ashore, I watch the race continue estimating which of the fast boats is doomed to disappointment as a slower vessel beats them on the later handicap calculations. I anticipate that the computer to calculate the results will bound to be Wapp affected.  There’s a couple of Laser capsizes probably due to the switchy gusts.

A visitor is introduced to me by Stephen N, who has rigged his Solo, failed to make the start and later puts it away again without giving me the chance to pit my memory loss against his. Did his memory fail him and he forgot to race? Anyway, the visitor, a charming man called Isaac, was interested in taking up sailing so we discussed how he might engage with the Club to develop his skills.  As it happens we have a RYA start sailing course commencing at the end of August and he was quite enthused by this prospect and would email the Training Principle to request more info. I couldn’t recall the cost of the courses and the info usually in the Club was not around. Another Wapp error. My conservative guess did not put Isaac off who was clearly expecting a figure closer to £thousand than the price of a pint.

Following a tasty pasty and odd conversations with people who I thought were but weren’t after all, we are off to the second race. 

This time a pursuit format.  My Solo starts first in the sequence of 30 second start intervals.  Knowing the course is pretty important under this situation and I observe carefully the boards displaying the sequence of buoys.  I am sure that between checking looks at the race box the board for buoy 2 changes to 3, but who knows, maybe another Wapp. The wind, the underlying subject of this story is really switchy and I use all my powers of reading sailing text books to check out the line bias.  It’s the right hand, CB, end on starboard; no, its changed and the best approach is now at the left hand side, pin end on port; no its gone back to other end and I can probably lay the first mark on starboard tack.  I know that the fleet will be watching my progress with care; little do they know about the days Wapp events so far and they would be better off waiting til its fixed.  Sure enough I get to the first mark with just a short tack at the end of the leg.  The Race Officer is probably tearing his hair out, if not already done on a previous race day, not a lot one can do at this stage about the race or hair.  I hold the lead for a long while as the competition between the top GPs gradually catches me and inevitably they pass.  They continued to scrap and the unusually tense face of Chris M and the spirited team coaching happening in Mark and Efan’s boat was interesting as the race progressed.  The wind continues to move in direction from northwest to north east and back again making some legs quite variable.  As it happened, the course set up one of the interesting sailing set pieces.  A port tack windward heading boat crossing a running boat which may be on starboard or port. Right of way could change in an instant here and potential collision ensue. One such occasion found me evading the unintended collision intentions of the beating? boat bearing down on my fragile craft. I think I heard mild admonishment of the crew for not keeping a proper look out.  The switchy catches me out at mark 3 as I gybe round towards mark 5.  It’s not keen on my new intended sail position  and refuses to play. The tiller extension gets caught in the folds of the sail and its looking like a Wapping great capsize is imminent. Penguin like agility amazingly avoids the inevitable and I’m now stuck in irons drifting to hit the mark. Vigorous sculling worthy of the rowing club avoids this next Wapp and we continue dry.  The flying skate wing flies past; the helm standing over the centreboard, desperately trying not to fall in, over, or rock too much. Now come two Lasers.  I’m looking forward to a tactical fight with Laz, always entertaining, as rule interpretations vary like Socrates and Aristotle. But it’s not to be. The Switchy takes me off in the wrong direction and Laz goes past at a distance beyond my grasp. Phil, having a good race, passes me later with just the faintest chance of me claiming water at the mark. Doesn’t happen. The race time limit approaches and I am grateful that the RO has elected to finish the race from buoy 1.  However, my complacency is cut short as the Club Enterprise is now following me on the long leg down from buoy 5 to our last mark. We’re on port tack but rounding the forthcoming mark to starboard. So a dilemma, protect the windward pass by the faster boat but still needing to be leeward and overlapped to gain mark room as we tack round the mark. Adam’s in charge of the Enterprise and he wisely elects to take his passing manoeuvre to leeward.  It’s going to be touch and go, relying on Switchy Wind to favour my tactic.  In the event, Adam gets a puff and sails off to leeward clear ahead but needs to tack.  I can probably fetch the mark and pass astern of his starboard tack thereby gaining the critical inside position. He tacks, passes across my bow and then back onto port to windward and ahead.  All is not lost, I might catch him as he attempts to gybe around the mark towards the finish line. Wapp is not in my favour and the Ent rounds first without infringement. It’s a drag race to the finish now but the line is heavily biased to the race box end.  Adam steams away heading towards the other end of the line and almost certainly in stronger wind.  My only chance, I luff up and will my steed toward the shallows and wind shadow of the race box. All I need is a friendly puff and I can cross that line first and probably run aground soon after. The RO toots the horn and I know it is not for me. In its final laugh of the day, the Switchy backs and I’m forced to bear away and get my own toot several seconds later.

Laz kindly helps me pull my boat up the steep ramp.  Lucky I did not cause him any problem.

There’s a strong social side in the bar, still humming at 7pm.

My, oh my, what a wonderful day.