It’s Zippy, the Zero, checking in after another exciting weekend away, this time at the D-Zero Inland Championships at Yorkshire Dales. Despite the extreme wind weather forecasts depicting Storm Hannah’s track across the country for Saturday, 22 D-Zeros turned up from as far as Aberdeen, Glasgow, Devonshire, Sussex and Cambridge.
We set off on a wet Friday afternoon, with the hope of getting a practice sail in. After 4 hours of diverting off motorways, we approached the reservoir on it’s long scenic road, which Owner fondly refers to as the “Top Gear Run”; still the same as she remembered it last September, complete with speed trap grills and exotic birds lined up on the fences to admire my attractive rear end flying behind her vehicle.
The heavy rain was accompanied by low temperatures, so I got ditched alongside my fellow travellers, all in the same state of full waterproofs and total bedraglement. I noticed that some Zeros were wearing their underpants on top of their overcovers. These were obviously a Super Hero breed and I made a silent note to try out their cool fashion when no-one was looking. The Owners all disappeared to the clubhouse in search of warm drinks and a weather app which did not depict 35 knots of wind for the next day.
Saturday dawned cold and wet, though not too windy. That was yet to come. A quick call home on my secret mobile informed me that West Kirby boat park had already seen gusts in excess of 50 knots and there were some boats that were lying down to evade the worst of it. Back at the Dales, us boats were rigged and ready to go afloat by 1pm. The first freaky Hannah gusts had begun and Owner had to sit on my nose for a while to stop me taking off before launching. The Race Officer started the race sequence on time and we set off minus half of the fleet. I shot off the pin end and tried to weather the huge gusts, rounding the first mark around 7th. I could see the leading boats ahead of me reaching to the first gybe mark and then a huge gust hit them and all I could see were plumes of spray the colour of cold tea, from the ochreous waters of Grimwith Reservoir. They fell over like sticks as they attempted to gybe, and there was so much debris by the time we got there with my cockpit full of the finest Yorkshire tea, that Owner did a carving gybe worthy of a Top Gear chicane and we shot off to the next gybe mark to manoeuvre through the next group of upturned hulls. By the second lap, some of the boats behind had caught up on the shift up the beat. We survived upright to finish 9th, with Aberdeen’s Neil Ritchie winning from National Champion Steve Bolland and Dalgety Bay’s Ian Baille in 3rd .
The wind continued to increase over the next race and the boat corpses continued to pile up at the gybe marks. The tea flew liberally and, on the tighter reach, Owner resigned herself to sailing by braille, occasionally filling her ears to avoid the biggest waves. By the last gybe mark of the day, we were still upright, but the Great Yorkshire Tea Monster had crept onboard and untied my mainsheet end and it was now being sucked out of the open transom by the denizen of the deep. Owner fought back bravely, retrieving great wodges of it and trying to re-tie a bowline, whilst screeching downwind, clinging to my tiller and performing strange windscreen wiper actions to remove the tea jets out of her eyes.
The Race Officer had somehow failed to hoist the shortened course flag, and was shouting at the race leaders Ian Baille and Neil because they had sailed to the wrong mark, so we all had to go another round with Hannah. The race was won by Steve Bolland, with Jon Bassett from Largs 2nd and his truly, God Almighty, Zero maker, overtaker with mast raker, David Valentine in 3rd place. By the end of the day, we were lying in 6th place overall, thanks to the swimmers, the absconders and my blistering downwind boatspeed. My Owner was a mere passenger.
Once ashore, the action was far from over, as a small tornado passed down the reservoir, uprooting a new Zero from its trolley and decimating the tent of Jon Cowper on the shoreline. I am told that it’s not the first time he’s been troubled by passing wind and he joined the cold and homeless in the back of somebody’s car that night.
By Day 2, the winds had thankfully abated and changed direction, so we were given a fabulous reaching course, where I bagged a 5th place, behind the winner Steve Bolland, Prestwick’s Alistair McLaughlin, our Zero Assoc Chairman Paul Jefferies and Jon Bassett. For the next two races, the wind swung around and played havoc with us poor boats. The windward mark was pushed up into a far corner under a hill and the technique was to sneak up on it without the wind noticing. Two unsuccessful sneakers were Neil Ritchie, who got tacked by a large wind shift before he noticed and then let go of his mainsheet, capsizing with much oooooo noooooooo’s on top of Alistair Glen’s boat. Neil’s boat tried to insert it’s mast inside Alistair’s boom sleeve and it was all getting a little steamy as I zipped past, whilst the Owners were trying to disentangle them.
I wasn’t very good at the silly wind game game and finished up with a mid-fleet discard. Ian Baille and Paul Jefferies took the first two dodgy wind race places, followed by Gavin Flemming from Hunts SC.
By the final race, the wind was behaving very badly. This made the mark roundings potentially hazardous. Luckily, the DZ Owners are a friendly lot and seemed to enjoy a lot of jovial banter with each other. I usually struggle to understand what they are saying, particularly if they are Scottish, but the exchanges which are most often passed are “Room”, which must be an offer to stay the night, “Starboard” (oh look, our booms are touching), “Up” (can I help you over the start line?). I even heard “Can I go?” called to every boat by a Scotsman on Port tack, even though he’d only arrived the night before and on outward appearances, seemed to be having fun. It was to be the last race, as the wind dwindled away and the time ran out. Tom Southwell was the last race winner, with Paul Jefferies enjoying the sneaky conditions and bagging a second, with Gordon Stewart in 3rd .
We were packed up in pleasant sunshine and the new Inland Champion Steve Bolland was crowned, with Paul Jefferies taking the runner up prize, followed by Tom Southwell. The prizes were sponsored by David Valentine of dzero.co.uk and Chichester Harbour Gin.
I came 11th overall, tying for points with Mr God Valentine, maker, heartbreaker and taker of 10th place on some obscure factor known only to the Genie inside the Sailwave programme.
It was a truly wonderful weekend, supported by a professional, warm and welcoming club, with great volunteers, fabulous food and underfloor heating. It was a weekend of winning and losing, give and take. I gained a brand new kicker, after seeing Mick Green’s explode in the windy race and I lost a trolley tyre on the Skipton roundabout on the way home. Owner lost critical places on the final short beat of the last race, but gained a whole load of new friends and some happy memories.
Next up is Largs in a month, so I have around 30 days to learn a new language. Until then;
“Awa’, an bile yer heid”
Zippy Zero 187