Racing: Sigma Nationals
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Sigma 38 Championships 2008


With 3 days to go a combination of exam pressures , family illness and the plague (!)  were putting our entry in doubt – but at the last minute the situation improved to the extent that all 4 Meakins plus Helen and Sebastien  were on the startline for the Friday night offshore race , wondering when the forecast strong NE winds would arrive,  Not for the start at any rate ; a nice gentle SE gradually backed as we trundled East , matching the 3 little beats perfectly and getting up to 16 knots just as we reached the last windward mark . Perfect timing.A good start allowed us to hang on to a small lead , although we nearly lost it to Alacrity by sailing through the back eddy at the Fort. She went higher and for a while had a good 2 knots on us. I must have made that mistake 10 times!

We elected to hoist our heavy kite at the last windward mark , and headed offshore to avoid the accelerated tide by W Princessa, pulling  fully 5 degrees of bearing on With Alactrity who had gybed inshore. 30 mts later they were gaining it all back – and more -  as they found the early ebb inshore. Fortuitously the wind bend out of Sandown Bay gave us a lift and  got us out of jail as we scraped across their bow by inches for the third time that night.

There is always better wind inshore in a NE between Dunnose and St Cats – I have never understood why , but it stood us in good stead now as we flashed along at 9 knots. Would the wind come ahead at St Cats ? No, it actually swung astern so we carried the kite  in full survival mode ( pole forward  , main in a bit , vang on , knees knocking and rehearsing the emergency drop – surfing  at 10.5 knots with a sustained  32 knots of wind  in flat seas. It was looking like an interesting night. Thankfully it was just a local compression at the point – and whilst the wind came forward gradually thereafter it was seldom more than 20 knots With Alacrity were on a charge – but with fair tide and  hull speed we galloped the rest of the distance to Poole . Short , warm and predominantly downwind  - if only all offshores were like that .  even Mr  Budgen would do them!

6 hours sleep , and two more crew ( Mike and Jamie S ) saw us ready for anything – or so we thought. The wind was now 20-25 knots and the racing somewhat confused as an earlier class tangled with the windward mark , sending it bouncing downwind at 10 knots. Hmm- lets try again . This time we hung grimly onto the lead sailing slow and safe, but on the last downwing leg  Pavlova and Persephone threw caution to the winds with poles back and sheets eased and came racing up. One more gust came through and there they were pirouetting  gracefully with their masts in the water – and all  we had to do was cross the line for another first.

Wendy joined us that night to bring our numbers up to full complement, and provide proper engineering advice for the mass paper aeroplane fight in the restaurant.

Sunday was light – and  did not start well for us  when the race committee changed their minds after 5 mts to say that we were over. We thought the wind was going to back – so  went hard left on the second beat – and lo and behold , the shift came through and we lifted over all but the 2 leaders. “Didn’t we have to go through the line ?” asked Ben .There was a long silence . “That’ll be a yes then!” , So for the second time that race we ran back to the start thinking that we might as well get our mistakes over with . How wrong we were!

The second race was marred by a  bad start . We didn’t sail badly – just worse than 4 other boats  . This fleet is getting better.

Race 3 gave us plenty of starting practice – but when we finally got going  ( was it the 4th attempt?) we were up ahead  with Light and Pavlova – but on the wrong side on the first run. I determined to stake the inside on the next run – but in the event the race was shortened at the leeward mark , Light got first and Pavlova pulled out a luff that would have done credit to a match racer – hitting us on our quarter when near head to wind  with the kite up! I called for the spi down and a 720 with the crew in near mutiny – finally agreeing to do it “under protest” – but sadly our real protest was thrown out as it took us too long to get the red flag from below. From 2nd to 6th within 100m of the finish line – not bad going!

Bryony flew home on Monday morning and the weather was frankly unappetising – pouring rain and 30 knots. However we had to sail home so we might as well see what it was like. As ever , once we were out in it – it was fun with the wind in the high 20’s and wonderful black clouds.  We started under 2 reefs and a 3 ( and the red flag already flying  just in case!)  , but the black cloud bank was some kind of front and the by the windward mark we were rapidly changing up. We were a bit slow with the kite (  I chose the wrong gybe having not noticed the veer in the wind which allowed us to sail the run without gybing)  but were perhaps quickest getting to full main – with the result that we all arrived at the first leeward mark in a bunch. We tacked off , but overstood the now heavily biased beat . Inshore however , With Alacrity and Pavlova were luffing each other – and sailing slowly – so that we got round the windward mark between the two of them.

Going into this race w e were tied on  points with Pavlova so  were really match racing her for the overall win. A quick dive  down some handy waves saw us on the inside and surely far enough away not to be blanketed. Down she came – searching for our wind  , so it was pole back , ease sheet and to hell with the consequences. We rounded in good order  in second place    with Pavlova two  boat lengths astern , and then it was just a question of covering up the beat to squeek  the weekend by the narrowest of margins.




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