Report from a keelboat racing virgin
Well not quite a virgin, but I have only had a small handfull of race outings over a long period of time.
Fortunately I was crewing for John Spencely on Peak Flow, and both the boat and the skipper treated me gently.
Eight boats turned out in very brisk conditions, south westerly 4 to 5 with slight seas. Bearing in mind that slight is up to 1.25 metres. Being a stern chase, it was a staggered start with no more than two boats crossing the start line together.
It was a complicated course: h e U R w h l s W h FINISH, where the finish was deep in the harbour by the fuel pontoon. If the handicappers had got it right there was going to be a big pile up at the top of the harbour at the end. For those of us not used to racing, that course was the standard markers with the lower case letters passed to starboard and the upper case passed to port.
So the start was a beat past the harbour mouth with a bit of a hustle going up to the first mark. One of the other “slow” boats (we shall leave her anonymous to preserve her modesty) getting their jib sheets in a fankle and getting somewhat in our passage. No matter, we were gentleman, despite the rush of adrenalin and the bit between our teeth (or is that another sport).
Up to the third mark on a reach, we had passed the two other slow boats, but there was a Dragon out there, Wizz Too, and she scurried past on a wider tack and led the field round the fourth. By this time the two H boats, Varrich & Humdinger were snapping at our heels and on the run we couldn’t hold them, despite our big genoa. Up to now I, as the humble crew had been having a good workout grinding the winches but on the long run I could relax (just a little) and take some water for my adrenalin parched mouth. We followed the H Boats round the W mark just off Leith, but now we were being hounded by the two 707s, which left us standing after the mark.
The final zig-zag course back to Granton was back to beating again so it was back to the winch grinding. By now it was getting to be a bit of a struggle but the skipper was generous. Well done, he said after each tack, just wind it in a bit tighter.
Heading back into the harbour we were behind all the “fast’ boats but leading the “slow” boats. Close hauled we raced up alongside the pontoon and crossed the line by Pharo’s Pier, then executing a rapid skid turn to avoid going onto the putty (forgive the technical terms). Then it was engine on, wind the genoa and a leisurely trot back to the mooring (studiously avoiding the buoy handling and survey vessel The Conserver who was just coming in).
Secured on the buoy, it was back to the clubhouse for a drink, results and a few yarns.
Who needs fine weather for an exhilarating and exciting afternoon’s sailing. If you haven’t tried race crewing, don’t be put off. It could add another dimension to your sailing.
P.S Thanks, John, and, despite the crew, we weren’t last.
Apologies for the lack of photos. The camera was in the other bag.