Practice, practice, practice... that's what it's all about. So, having only sailed together for the last few months (and never on the sea), Richard and I headed for the one day event at Portchester on 14th May.
The entry list had been steadily growing over the previous two weeks, and when we entered 32 RS400's were headed for the coast with sunshine & winde forecast a plenty.... a little too much for me if I'm honest.
Our journey started, a little too casually, at 8am yesterday...and ended in blind panic arriving at 11:30am for a 12pm briefing & a 12:30 start.... all before we'd put the boat together, fixed the spinnaker cleat & got changed.... Something had to give, and unfortunately, the customary bacon sandwich & cup of tea gave way to a Bounty & a swig of Fanta.
The good people of Portchester sailing club did their very best to help us all get on the water promptly, and with some trepidation, we launched into a good 20+ knots breeze. I have to admit to feeling particularly nervous at this point, I don't handle the heavier stuff particularly well - google apocolyptic conditions at the Steve Nicholson trophy and you'll understand why, but as the opening line says, practice, practice, practice.
For the first race, we roamed a little too far away from the start line, and without any timings just about made it - Not a great start, but we were under way. The pressure was on the left of the course, we were about two thirds of the way down the fleet & with 20 boats rounding the windward mark to port... made for an interesting approach for us back markers, lots of tiller movement usually preceeded by lots of shouting. And so having rounded the windward mark we start our downwind leg... I'm not really sure whether or not it was an advantage being that far back, but with the breeze still building, what lay in front was something akin to carnage, at the gybe mark there were 400's aplenty upside down. No such drama for us, made a nervous gybe, and managed to creep back up to 16th for the first race.
The second race was a little more entertaining - nailed the start, held our lane, and came into the windward mark in 5th (I think).... a little misunderstanding between crew & helm resulted in our only capsize of the day. The rest of that race is a bit of a blur, we recovered, overtook a few boats, had a storming last reach before overtaking more boats right before the finish line - and rather surprisingly finished 8th.
By now, the fleet was a little decimated, some retired wounded, others majestic in their victory - Russ & Penny Clark were simply untouchable. Feeling pretty exhausted, we started the last race of the day, hoping for only two laps! The RO duly delivered, and without much incident, we replicated our race 2 performance, coming in 8th.
Overall, we finished 10th - which, I think it's fair to say we're both very happy with. We found out afterwards that the breeze peeked at 28 knots, and down wind, it's probably the quickest I've been in a 400. We had a couple of hairy moments, when the kite gybes and the main doesn't, it usually spells disaster, but both times we recovered. Nerves aside, we had a great day, so a big thanks to the good people of Portchester for putting on a wonderful event - the afternoon tea post racing was well received.
Looking for to Hayling Island in June!