Every day’s a learning day – the Round the Lake race

Photo by Dave G

Report by Mike Simmons

On a breezy Sunday (force 5 gusting 6 or more) the RCSSC open-top car society – plus me – met at the boats to consider the Round the Lake cruiser race.  After a lot of dithering (including my warm up of mowing the grass round the squibs – my first learning point of the day!) we decided to enter both squibs into the race.  Mike T and Eric took Satyr and I went with John C-W on Lift Off.  My next LP was to confirm if the course is going round capital V or roman numeral V (this feels unnecessarily confusing!).

After registering (my third learning point – you need to know the sail numbers) we got the boats launched.  This was my next LP – the slip is busy on race days and so it takes a while.  We got out onto the water and then started to work out the course and where to start on the start line. Unfortunately, the earlier dithering meant that we were on plot a little late and so our preparations and planning went a little awry as we were not quite where we wanted to be when the gun sounded.  So an LP about getting out early enough and another LP to check that my watch is telling the same time as the race official. As we all know, PPPPPP.

John helmed us for the first hour and a bit of the race, skilfully avoiding the upturned cat just over the start line, and we went down to the limits of the southern leg and then round back to the dam. My LPs here were around how far into wind you can point a squib when it is sufficiently breezy and the most efficient sail trimming.

We were doing OK in the fleet at this point given that the leg was downwind and we had no spinnaker – we did not lose too much ground to those with kites.  This leg gave the treat of being directly overflown by the Lancaster (at least for the boat far enough round the course….). Of course, the distraction meant that the helm stopped going the right way for a while but you can’t have everything.

From the dam we aimed towards the limit of the northern leg and after a while I took over the helm to try and put a bit of my learning into practice.  It is definitely true to say that squibs are reasonably easy to sail but not so easy to race.  It was a constant battle to keep on the best course to make the marks.  Here I was in uncharted territory as I had not been past Whitwell creek before but we managed to identify the course adequately and round the marks in the right direction (unlike some of the rest of the fleet).

The next LP is that a 1200 start meaning you need to be launching c 1100 and a 2 hour plus race means that you miss lunch! I recommend taking something to eat with you and definitely a drink.

On the way back to the southern leg we passed pleasantries with Satyr who were heading in the opposite direction.  It was around here that my main technical issue occurred – the jammer for the main sheet decided to stop playing and so I was trying to helm a course and hold the sheet in a gusting force 6.  Another LP – especially with a lot of windsurfers around who seemed to be floating obstacles (and usually in the water rather than on the board).  I think the photo is from somewhere here – Dave G was out walking and happened to see us.

With the jammer working better on port tack, we headed for the final mark back down the southern leg.  We rounded this one really well (John seemed impressed with me for 10 seconds at this point) and headed for home.  I did not manage one of my aims here – to make sure we were on starboard and force Satyr, coming the other way on port, into evasive action.  Next time….

We finished and then joined the other crews for tea, scones and cake on Commodore’s Green.  My next LP – I know where it is now.  The fare was excellent, with the food all homemade.  Tales of the race were swapped – including LPs for other crews around writing the course down correctly, avoiding exclusion zones and not forgetting to attach the kicker strap so the boom stays linked to the mast.  My final LP here is when John is seemingly aimlessly wafting a cup, he is actually looking for you to go and get him another tea.

Overall it was a really enjoyable day.  The results came in today (it takes a while as the handicaps need to be applied and protests resolved) and showed that it took us 2 hours 32 minutes, finishing 8th (out of 12) on the water.  The handicap and penalties meant that we were 6th.  And looking at those without spinnakers, we did even better.  Satyr were just a little behind us (an adjusted 2 minutes and 8th) – and considering they had no windex and the changeability of the wind, did really well (and even better not to use it as an excuse in every sentence).

I would definitely recommend this as a way to get into racing – you learn a lot and as there are so many classes of boat (6 on the day and around 20 over the races so far this year), it is not usually too congested round the marks.  The next race is Sunday 21 July – see you there.

The course was: start – I (p) – H (p) – G (p) – V (p) – II (s) – III (p) – VI (p) – S (s) – L (p) – finish Accent

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