Since my little “accident” that I reported to you all last time, I’ve had various new and repaired parts fitted and have been out practicing on the Dee estuary with my seal friends. The date of the Nationals rapidly approached and, finally we were packed up and off.
After many hours of thundering down motorways, interspersed with a diversion up narrow lanes to the top of the Malvern Hills to collect The Lanterne Rouge, we finally arrived at the smart and spacious ex-Olympic venue of Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy.
I was delighted to see some of my old friends from earlier Opens, and there were many new characters loitering in the boat park. After a happy evening spent with my fellow competitors downing bottles of McLube hull polish, courtesy of our kind sponsors Harken, we were tucked up in our king-sized berths, complete with chain anchored tie down stakes for our amusement as the Owners kept tripping over them.
The following morning, we all knew what was to come. The Owners do very little work on us all year and then, on the day of the Nationals, every human is scuttling about with bits of rope, tape, blocks, water bottle holders and polish cloths (too bad, we drunk the lot). My Owner was no exception. After a power jet wash to deal with a potentially embarrassing crab situation inboard, she started getting up close and personal with her teeth on my downhaul knot. Before I could mutter “hang on there a minute lady”, the Harken rep, Tom Southwell was over giving me various upgrades and some cool new stickers for my bows. Thanks Man and co.!
Then it was briefing time, sails were hoisted and we were off to the furthest side of Weymouth Bay for the days racing. It was a long run out there and if I was at all worried about my crab situation, somebody else sure had one heck of a jellyfish problem. By the first start, the wind was blowing a pleasant Force 3-4. We arrived at the first mark in a traffic jam of Zeros, one of which was making a very bad job of trying to lay it on port. A gap was opening between the mark and his transom, so we dived for it and I pushed the mark over a bit to give me more room. We then had to do some girlie ballerina turns to say sorry to everyone, which set us back to finish 32nd.
The race was won by the boat’s designer, Dan Holman, but he was disqualified as he had been over the line at the start. This put Scotland’s Niel Ritchie in first place and he went on the gain a 2nd and 3rd in the next two races to lead the Championship at the end of the first day.
The second race involved more traffic negotiation for us and we had to do more ballet turns after getting to close to a leeward boat whilst trying to avoid one on starboard tack. Another mid 30s result. At the other end of the fleet, Dan Holman bagged another first place in the class demo boat that he was borrowing.
The wind was now blowing strongly and there were some tired boats on the racecourse for the last race of the day. I was one of them and was greatly relieved when the race team shortened us at the end of the windward leg, meaning we had less distance to beat our exhausted hulls back through Portland Harbour and home. Another first place for Dan Holman, with Iain Horlock putting in some good results of 2nd and 3rd in the earlier races.
Back ashore, the Owners went off to drink beer and eat curry at a local restaurant, whilst we boats snoozed in the fading sunshine.
The next morning dawned another sunny day in paradise. I had my battens tweaked by Mr Harken and his bro, Jamie, to try to give me some more upwind speed. Then we Zeros lined up on the top of the slipway until the release flag was hoisted and then popped off into the water in ones, twos and threes, like a batch of newly hatched turtles. A long reach took us out into the bay, where we started Race 4. The wind was lighter than the day before and I was humming and zipping, especially downwind, finishing 16th. The next two races were much the same, although the waves were getting bigger and a little trickier to keep balanced on downwind. I danced some fairly funky by-the-lee moves to grab some extra places and finished 21st and 20th. Then we all sailed back on the longest ever, most glorious wave splattered reach, guaranteed to bring a smile to the most tired of faces.
Back on dry land, the Owners grouped together and set off for Chesil beach for an intensive hour’s litter picking, to support the Green Class Initiative. Our Owners care about the sea we sail in and agree that the only plastics floating in it should be Zeros. Each Owner was given a special recyclable biobased water bottle, made by My Pinnacle Nutrition. The beer bill afterwards was supported by The Valentine DZ Initiative. After that little sortie, it was covers on and tie down trip up time. The scoreboard had me in 26th place. The Owners barbecued and chatted late into the evening about where they should take us next year and whether we should be allowed to play ping-pong out of the back of our transoms. They also debated the merits of split controls and turtle assisted corsetry, but they lost me at that point.
By the next morning, the weather had changed. A dark cloud loomed over the boatpark and a collection of crabs were waving their pincers out of Martin Latimer’s ping-pong net transom set-up. I denied any knowledge over where they had originated from and they were rapidly transferred to Storky’s boat. Before a major infestation took hold, we were pushed out to sea for the final day of racing. The fickle breeze shifted over Portland Hill and made race 7 a one-sided beat. We headed off to investigate a darker patch of water which looked like wind, but turned out to be just a dark and dismal place to sit for a while, whilst the fleet passed us by. The conditions challenged the concentration of both boat and Owners; The Zero of Jon Cowper had a momentary lapse and capsized in not much wind for no apparent reason and the boat of Paul Murphy mistook the vessel whistling at each Zero to tell them a mark had moved up ahead, as the finish boat, and stopped racing as it passed by.
David God Valentine lead the fleet around the first mark in an everlasting moment of glory, but it was Dan Holman who took another first, to win the event with a race to spare
There followed a long delay as the Race Team waited for a steady wind of raceable strength to work with. An hour later, the postponement flag was lowered and us boats responded by very over enthusiastically starting well before the gun. We were recalled and shown the black flag, finally getting underway at the second attempt. I firmly resolved not to go right towards Portland again and stuck it out on the left. To thwart me, the wind shifted and favoured the right, leaving me in the back quarter of the fleet once again.
We arrived ashore to congratulate the winner and applaud the Top Ten. The Lanterne Rouge and junior trophy was won by Emily Britton. My Owner picked up the First Lady trophy and another bottle of McLube for me to swig on the way home.
As we were being packed up, I noticed the Owners on their phones, presumably texting home with results and tales of their adventures. To help them with future events, I have created a Compendium of Nationals Textspeak.
LGBT – Let Go of Bloody Tiller
CC – capsized twice
UC – Still upright, made someone else capsize
SWIB – Seaweed in bra/boxers
IWCFT – In water, can’t find trolley
IB DB CFB – In bar, downing beer, can’t find boat
TOTD – Tripped over tie down
O – Swallowed a jellyfish
That should just about cover it.
Until we meet again,
Zippy Zero 187