Racing on Saturday 21 December 2019

Yulelogy to a Christmas Race

It’s a fairly bright day, but the shortest one for daylight, the wind is encouraging and there is a promise of rain.

The Race Officer for the day, Stuart, is beset with problems. His race management team are still absent and he finds that so is his equipment.  The garage door is disabled with a broken key in the lock imprisoning the Committee Boat, flags and the wherewithal to conduct the required on the water start. Stuart is SAS trained and does not panic. He decides to run the race from the shore because the wind is coming from a convenient south west direction.  The sound system is found in the bar, recharging, and the late arriving race team decide to use bright orange training battens as the replacement visual signals.  The competitors are briefed about the situation and good humour prevails.

It is an average lap time (ALT) race which as you will know has a single start for all the menagerie of boats. Racing around a single set course for a target time of around 60 mins the faster boats are destined to do more laps than those of a more ambulant design and the winners are determined by the average lap time achieved adjusted by the boats RYA handicap.
The race is set in process, Warning at 5 mins, three battens and a hoot, Preparatory at 4 minutes, two battens, one minute warning with one batten and we are ready to spot any boats prematurely over the start line.

There are sixteen boats covering five different types appealing to all non-crazy sailors.  The introduction of the ALT has improved starting skills at the Club and the fleet set off like a shoal on a migration rather than a plate of oven chips. Two boats were deemed to be over and returned in penance. The course gave us a clockwise rounding at the windward mark (5) with most boats entering the zone on starboard so not much tactical action.  With the water level being at maximum, the option down the next leg from 5 to 6 whether to gybe away from the shore or take the track down the shore and approach the next mark on starboard with the right of way advantage but not necessarily Mark Room.  Chris Martin in his Merlin Rocket executed his plan and led round the mark 6 and planed away towards mark 2 holding his boat beautifully flat, spinnaker pulling expertly controlled by Freya Mason. A substantial lead was established by this team. The next two places were also held by Merlins, as was required by their handicap ratings, but the Solo of Kevin Hopkins was not supposed to be in fourth place! Also against the bookies was Trevor and Stephen in the Enterprise battle lording it over Paul and Jan. In the Lasers, there was a fair degree of place swapping through the race as some of those that were usually up the front had somehow failed to materialise and were destined to lay catch up. The leg down from Mark 4 to 1 was nicely tactical and gybe choice was a good game. The fight for the lead hotted up as the Armed Forces of Matt Smith and Aimee Allsop overtook team Harms and hunted down Chris and Freya like an Exocet missile. As the target race time approached and the wind slowly fading the Race Officer made the difficult choice of where to finish the boats  in the sequence, rarely the boat leading on the water. So the top Merlins were sent round for a fourth lap and the rest of the competitors enjoying a shorter and advantageous race time. First past the finishing line on the water were the new Team Marlow in their GP14. A few minutes later the final battle ensued with Chris and Matt on their way down to mark 1.  Matt was on starboard tack creeping to the port side of Chris on port tack. Could Matt achieve that vital inside line for the anti-clockwise round?  Too late, Chris spots the danger and tries to break the overlap but the confident crewing skills enabled the mark room to be gained by Matt and Aimee and the Merlin line honours taken.

Calculating the results, the bespoke computer results program devised by Oliver Mason was impressive for the first time user race team.  Second guessing entries from the database, the results were typed into the series results database.  One can just type in the competitors initials and a person is suggested like predictive text.  Being Christmas, I thought the “JC” might produce you-know-who but he’s not in the series so we got Jenny Chen-Andronis instead. Solo 5610 has multiple users and the program struggled with this polyamoric family.
So in the dying wind, the Merlins’ extra lap was cruel but justified and the calculated results not unexpected.  Former multiple Club Champion Kevin Hopkins won in the Solo, Chris Winters, in a Laser, second and Matt and Aimee third. Team Marlow were not last!

Stuart survived his ordeal but was wearing his body armour in the bar later.