I am a sad and unwell Zippy.
I have had plenty of time to reflect on this weekend’s unfortunate race from my hospital bed in the boat park and will now regale you all with the shocking details.
Sunday was forecasted to be a very wild and windy one. The other boats in the boat park were talking about gusts exceeding 30 knots and were already giving me pep talks about my fearless tough Owner, who has a habit of taking me out in freaky winds. The GP14s said I needed a calmer, quieter type; the Albacores said I should have a more thoughtful and cautious helm and the Finns just shrugged and said, “whatever, but why a woman?”. Well guys, what are you all suggesting? That I went to the Crazy Bitch Store and just took the first one I saw off the peg? The truth is that there are more people in the world every day, so the chances of getting a crazy one are much higher. Not my fault.
There were a few other crazy ones out for the club race on Sunday. The RS300 launched first and came home unattended, upside down.
Making the start line were a Laser, Solo, Finn, GP and me. The GP went off grid for a little sail by itself, crewed by a very brave (possibly also crazy) lady who had only been out sailing once before! She will be in a D Zero by the end of the week I guess.
The course was a hairy zigzag, involving at least 2 gybe marks, both a few metres from a solid lake wall. The wind was blowing fiercely and water sprayed upwind, downwind and at every mark rounding. My battens were inverted and my sail was doing its best to deflect the angry puffs of wind elsewhere. After a few confident gybes, the wind increased and we resorted to tacking around to avoid any unplanned wall mountings. By the second lap of the second race, the wind was blowing steadily around 30 knots, with crested waves appearing. Disaster struck our Commodore in his Finn, as he wore around the leeward mark. The boat capsized and planted its mast in the mud, landing very close to the lake wall. Behind me, the Laser was in difficulty and the Solo was planting its mast in the mud too. Of all this, Owner was blissfully unaware because she was sailing partially sighted due to my plumes of spray. In an attempt to avoid the plumes of spray, Owner poked my nose a little higher upwind so we could reach around a bit and pretend to be catamarans, only using tacks rather than gybes to turn down the plumb line to the leeward mark. It was mighty peculiar sailing, but we were the only ones upright, so I gave the Crazy Bitch a thumbs up and carried on, throwing in a final gybe before rounding to the finish. There, we were met by the race officer, flashing a huge blue and white chequered flag, meaning racing abandoned.
I hurtled off to pull the Finn out of the mud and then attempted to do a lee shore landing between the pontoons. It all went horribly wrong in the final moments and I was catapulted onto the concrete lake apron mast first and then blown right up the slip on my side. At some point my mast top section snapped and I lost consciousness. Owner was unharmed and gently scooped me up on my trolley to my hospital bed, where I am awaiting minor surgery and new body parts from Dr. Tin Man God Valentine.
The Finn, who also had bad wounds and cuts to the sail, is keeping me company and we are both “Off Games” this week, although I am certain and feel to my core that I would be rather good at pole-vaulting as a new additional sport.
I’ve had plenty of time for reading during my enforced sabbatical. My book of the week is “Lanterne Rouge” by Max Leonard. It is the story of the Last Man in cycling’s Tour de France. I think that the tale has many parallels with sailing; the fame and glory of the leaders that are followed and most written about, pitted against those who spend equal time and effort at their sport, only to watch for the umpteenth time, the backsides of the fast guys disappearing onto the horizon. Unable to win yet unwilling to fail. What keeps us all going? Why not simply go and do something easier and less painful instead?
I researched into the origins of the Lanterne Rouge and discovered that the idea was borrowed from the railways and was inspired by the red lantern that hung on the final carriage to indicate to guards and signalmen that no carriages had been decoupled and the line was clear behind. So, the break van with its swinging red lantern was truly the last carriage on the line.
It got me thinking that we should celebrate the toughness, the perseverance and competitiveness of the rear part of our fleet as well as reward those at the front. So, at the D-Zero Nationals in Weymouth in 3 weeks’ time, I will present our Class Association with their very own Lanterne Rouge to be awarded at the end of each day to the last placed boat who has completed every race so far.
I hope to be back to my pre-Nationals practice with my psychotic Owner shortly. Meanwhile, enjoy the peace.
Zippy Zero 187