Yippee from Zippy!! I got taken out to my first Open Meeting with my new Owner this week! I was super excited to meet up with some kindred souls and compare notes on Zero fashion and speedy accessories, not to mention blasting around a course out of control and playing some favourite games such as chase, leapfrog and synchronised swimming!
The venue was Rossendale Sailing Club, tucked up in the South Pennines. We travelled over a day early, to get me calmed down and prepared for what was forecasted to be a very windy weekend. Our Rossendale D Zero host, Mick Green came out to play in his D-Zero, who supported a sassy GB flag tattooed on its bow. Cool, man. We had a very pleasant few hours tootling around until the sun went low and the temperatures started to plummet.
The following morning it was freezing, and a strong Easterly wind had started to blow. We got out to the start line, which was very short and angled to make a starboard start very tricky indeed! I set off on port tack, nipped and tucked between a few boats and headed for the hills. After rounding the top mark in third, I overtook another. Back in third after the next beat, the downwind leg had some fierce gusts which did not look kindly on my leaders. With both of them splatted, I took the lead for a while, until the wind shifted drastically on the next beat. Meanwhile I was having a minor wardrobe malfunction down below. My kicker rope had found its way into the mainsheet block and was forming a large viper-like mass of writhing dyneema. It had the potential to spoil the show and Owner was trying to find a quiet moment to sort it in the 25 knot gusts. When that moment appeared on a wild reaching leg, Owner had her head deep in my midriff performing a spaghetti-plucking operation and inadvertently followed the Zero of Ed Deacon around the wrong mark. Realising her mistake, she spun me back and lost a place. Ahh well, snakes and ladders; another favourite game.
The second race started without us, as we had failed to hear the hooter and there were no flags. It was very windy, and my sails were flapping very loudly. We never recovered and finished that race 5th. For the final race, we had an excellent start and, following a number of competitor swims, took the lead for a leg and a half, to finish 4th after a few dodgy shifts. The race was won by God Valentine; the maker, allocator and seeya later (because he was only with us for one day) of all things Zero. I was honoured to share a little piece of water with him and will keep his number etched on my transom in case I should ever be needing plastic surgery or new body parts welding on (like my Owner does). Another day visitor was the newcomer Ian Lloyd Williams, who collected his brand new Zero and showed his junior vessel around the race course. I look forward to giving that boat some of my party trick tips in the near future.
I rushed back to my trolley at the end of the day’s racing and joined some of my new friends for a little kite flying session to warm up our frozen Owners. It was a joy to watch them hoping and dancing along the shoreline trying to retrieve our mainsails. I also enjoy this game with a sail bag, boat cover or halyard.
The Owners joined forces and got us unruly boats packed up and covered so that they could warm up in the local pub for a well-earned pint and seafood meal for the swimmers amongst them.
By Sunday, the wind had increased, and we had 3 back-to-back races in gusts of 30 knots. A new course was up, and it still featured the two gybe marks each lap. One was located very close to the shore and the other next to the dam; presumably at the request of the photographers.
The fourth race was a blur and I don’t have much recollection of it. The fifth race was another where I had a moment playing leader, due to submerged vessels. I reached off in the biggest gust of the day, which stayed with me, propelling me towards the dam like an albatross on curry. The gap between the gybe buoy and dam seemed impossibly narrow and Owner hesitated with the gybe. She steered me on until I could feel the back wave from the wall and then lurched me into a spectacular do or die carve gybe; both of us with our eyes closed. We made it, but the next mark was now such a tight reach and we were sailed over by Ed Deacon, who took the win that race with us coming second.
By the final race, it was survival conditions. I had established a very comfortable second place behind Gavin Fleming with a lap to go. As I approached the dam gybe mark (pun intended), Owner worked me higher to try and get a slight wind shadow from the trees upwind and getting in an early gybe. I was still having anxiety about our last wall of death gybe that I was having none of it and decided to do an aquatic version of an ostrich with its head in the sand. When the message for the gybe came into the engine room, I turned the power off and parked my boom in the centreline. There was a moment of hush; the boom hovering for eternity, whilst Owner bounced left and right like a football goalkeeper awaiting the deciding penalty on Cup Final day. She went the wrong way of course and it was all over, or rather, I was all over.
The recovery was a messy affair involving rescue boat crews, tow lines to get me away from the wall and copious amounts of snot and water pouring from various orifices. Once upright, I pinned my mainsheet tightly under my flip rudder, where Owner couldn’t reach it and made a bid for home.
Amazingly, I finished the weekend in joint 3rd place, with my friendly host. On the way home, I had to analyse my cowardly dam evasion. I still have nightmares of my sleek and pointy mast being sucked with crunchy snapping noises through the “out” valve or whatever churning gadgets are affixed to these reservoir dams. But worse still are the visions of my Owner paying increasingly generous contributions to the university education of my Insurer’s children, plus the funding of a new glass domed GJW Insurance Tower Block, complete with a swimming pool adorned with a picture of an empty wallet and the words Zippy Zero crafted in mosaic on the bottom.
We live to race another day.
Extras bits from the CA:
Full results are below:
There were no less than 2 photographers on site. Paul Hargreaves (photos here) and Tony Whitehall (photos here)