Racing in the times of Covid

Last Saturday we resumed our weekly racing, just in time for the Summer Series. There have been some changes introduced, to minimise the risk for everyone involved: double-handed boats are only allowed with helm and crew of the same househould; no safety cover (apart from a powerboat used in an OnBoard session covering in case of emergencies), no committee boat (the races were run from the shore). Steve kindly agreed to run the races, and had even constructed a flag-stand to replace the assistant race officer who is usually tasked with the job of holding up the appropriate signals.

OnBoard session

Our OnBoard session (racing in the background)

Mostly Lasers and Solos; the Homers in a GP14, and Jim & Laura in an Ent. Our usual Ent sailor Paul has moved into a Topper. To make the transition easier, he picked the only one that had not been converted to centre-main, and the sail had some blue in in too. Quite a nice breeze and waves, so an exciting race to be expected!

On the start-line the social-distancing rules are tested, resulting in a broken tiller and one Solo down. The fleet splits on the beat, and my Laser reaches the top mark in a good position, just going round behind the Ent, and about to overtake it on the outside. Next a broad-ish reach to mark number 4. Kicker off, and BANG. The boom goes up, and the kicker plus cunningham dangle limply in the wind. The vang tang snapped, the bit that attaches the kicker to the bottom of the mast. Not something that can be fixed on the water, so I have to retire. The excitement continues as I sail on a run with no kicker. The Homers look at this from afar and wonder whether this is the new four-sprung-duck technique they have heard rumours of. Why is he sailing by the lee? And without kicker? And in the wrong direction?

After that the race becomes a bit of a blur. From the shore I glance onto the water. Oh, one of the juniors has left the OnBoard session which is herded around the reservoir out of the way of the racing by Freya in the powerboat like a huddle of ducklings (or whatever the correct collective noun is) and joined in with the racing! Doing quite well, just rounding the mark behind the Ent there. Oh, it’s Paul in the Topper.

More material problems as James in the Radial capsizes and the tiller comes out. Usually these things don’t all happen in one race, but since there was no racing for the past three months, it all comes at once. In the end, six boats finish out of eleven starters, and Mark wins, as usual, even though he swapped his GP14 for a club Laser, which, according to a later statement, “almost killed me”. Paul in the Topper comes a respectable fourth place.

In the second race, a pursuit, more material drama ensues as Jan’s Phantom has to retire with a loose pintle. The field (eight boats this time) moves fairly close together, and then the wind drops. The Homers in the GP14 beat Mark in the Laser by a sheet’s width, or one second in normal language. This excitement is lost on me, as I at the time languish in the doldrums on the run down to the final mark 1, exactly 200 seconds behind the leaders. Andrew P in his Solo trails Mark by 12 seconds. I wonder if we should re-iterate the social distancing rules.

In the spread-out bar afterwards, there is a hint of normality coming back. Lawrence is being confused with a sub-postmaster behind the newly fitted perspex bar sheet, and runs out of stamps quickly. Our one-way-system works well in making sure people can sit down at their tables sufficiently far away and don’t get into each other’s way.

On Wednesday we race again, and we’ll try a virtual bar component for all those members who are shielding: a Zoom call with a computer in the bar to allow for a virtual table.