It was with some trepidation that I eventually agreed to crew in the RS400 Nationals this year.... Like many, I wasn't born into this sport, I didn't do the rounds with the Oppies or Toppers, and I was certainly nowhere near the Laser squads! So for us late comers, any event can seem quite daunting, let alone a National Championships. What made the decision equally difficult, was that the two sailors that asked me to crew for them, are both very credible helms.
The decision was made, and trepidation soon turned into nerves - this is my hobby, why do I get nervous ?! The nerves were seamingly justified, as day 1 dawned..... to a very misty Mount, around 20 knots of breeze.... and oh yes, that other thing I hadn't encountered in an RS400 - waves...... big waves. The sail out to the start area was interesting enough, you know the conditions aren't great, when you're struggling to see the leeward gate, let alone the windward mark.
Off we go, day 1, race 1. Maybe there's an assumption that everyone understands that things are going to be slightly more lumpy on the sea, and I certainly had this in my head, but until you're actually out there, you don't realise quite how difficult even the basics become. At a fleet talk given by Russ Clark, one of the top 400 sailors in the country, Dave Exley, said that on day 1 of the nationals, he didn't know what his settings were..... with the combination of the wind, rain, waves, it was just a tad disorientating... So, first race, a quarter of the way up the beat, we go for a tack. I drop the sheet, and like a muppet go back for it - in the meantime, we get slammed by one of the monster waves.
So... the boat is on it's side, we think the main has cleated, and it takes an absolute age for us to right the boat. When eventually, we do right the boat, there are around 70 RS400's disappearing into the mist about 200 yards in front - not a pretty site.
There were quite a few DNF's, but we did manage to recover a few places, and ended up 52nd.
With every event, you'll usually have some highs and lows, undoubtedly, the capsize was one of our lows. For me, one of the biggest highs is a more general point. With our extended sailing family (Sam & Ben Pickering from Chasewater), Bartley / Chase had 5 boats in attendance at the event, so it's important that wives, girlfriends, kids etc all feel like they're part of the team. My 16 year old daughter was on the fringes a little, waiting for her GCSE results & unable to get them until we returned from Cornwall. But everyone really made Wendy & Emily feel like they were part of the family.
The RS400 team also helped with events planned for every night of the week.... even a reception with Lord Levan on the mount ..
And the Bartley team had a great night out at The Fire Engine Inn
I can't sign off without mentioning probably one of the best days sailing I've ever had. Conditions are rarely perfect, too much wind, not enough wind etc etc. But on Tuesday the sailing gods were smiling on all of us. A beautiful day, wall to wall sunshine and I'm guessing the wind was somewhere in the mid to upper teens. You'd think on a clear day like this you'd be able to spot the windward mark... but our RO had other ideas, we think the first beat was somewhere in the region of 1.5 miles. We came out of the start gate relatively early, and held our lane.... rounded the windward mark in 7th... blasted around the course to finish a very credible 8th. The result in the 2nd race of the day wasn't as good... but we had a pod of dolphins join us - what a way to finish the day!
Like many, I like to reflect on the event, what it means to me, what could I have done differently & what have I learned.
Those that are wary, don't be, a glance down the results will show you, that whatever your ability, there will always be someone you can race against. You'll probably be nervous, but nerves will soon diminish - especially if you're lucky enough to be visited by dolphins.
1) I'm not fit enough!
2) Never believe a helm that tells you he's not bothered about the results !
There are some great pics on photolounge.co.uk take 5 mins & have a look