Welcome back to the tales of Zippy the Dzero; this time travelling to the DZero Inlands at Grafham Water Sailing Club. I’ve called this episode “Zippy’s Adventures in Wonderland” because it seems unreal to be on the traveller’s circuit again; off to meet up with my boatie mates across the country.
Traditionally, the sailing report for these type of events is written by the light-winged heroes, who see all from the vantage point at the front of the fleet. So, I’m sorry to disappoint you readers by admitting that this report comes from an under-achieving boat, who’s Owner sailed me like a heavy goods vehicle on the way to a test centre.
Having interviewed the main players, along with some of my other fans who stopped by Owner’s tent to welcome me back to the racing world, I have pieced together a story, which might be far from the facts. But it reads well and fits in with the final results, allowing for some personal vengeances, individual victories, figments of the imagination and too much time spent in isolation over the past six months.
As always, I like to set the scene before we get to the capsizing, breakages, penalty turns and tantrums.
After a sad summer of cancelled DZero events, Grafham Water SC bravely stood by the planned Inland Championships on the weekend of 5th/6th Sept. It attracted a total of 22 entries; 16 from ten visiting clubs, plus 6 local club boats.
The wind was forecast as a fresh Westerly, gusting 20 knots. It did not disappoint and created some havoc for the first race.
Race Officers Nigel and Fiona Denchfield set up a trapezoidal course and the DZeros were away cleanly on the first start. David Valentine, the Dzero Dealer, led the fleet around the first mark in a brand new and unmodified boat that he was using as an experiment to see what happens with a standard 8:1 kicker and without any upgrades that us Zeros so enjoy. Well, “Plain Jane” was simply flying and David sailed a short distance after rounding the mark without using a rudder or controls as he was so busy fist pumping the air with both arms. He led the race for 2 laps, being overtaken by Gavin Flemming on the reach and followed by new Dzero sailor Harry Moffatt (age 22) in the boat borrowed from Paul Jefferies, who was having some appendix issues rather than sailing.
I was having some of my own appendix issues on the last run, as my mainsheet
had flipped itself around the boom on the gybe and it got truly twangled, so it wouldn’t release. Owner did some dodgy circus manoeuvres on my transom trying to release it, whilst running by the lee, which didn’t help at all. In the end the whole boom had to come inboard to get sorted – all with gusts of 15-20 knots puffing in various directions. It was not quick.
The gust and shifts continued to make sailing hard work. On the second beat, a 90-degree shift caused four boats to capsize together. Think Synchronised Swimming. Seb Prowse, Andrew Spencer, Richard Major and Gavin all won gold for style and Gavin won double gold for rapidly making up the 150 metres he lost and was lying in 3rd on the last lap.
Local sailor, Neil Washington was close behind in 4th place and headed drastically inshore on the last run to look for the Convergence Zone.
May I butt in at this point and say that I was completely lost at this stage in the interview, as I usually go looking for waves or seals when I get bored of racing. It seems this Convergence thing really paid off for Neil, but even more so for Gavin, who looked behind him and decided he’d like one too. It propelled him past David Valentine and gave him a comfortable win, with Harry pipping David over the finish line to rob him out of second place. No fist pumping…of a happy kind anyway.
Race two saw David, once again, lead all the Zeros around the windward mark with Jane flying like a banshee and David fist pumping like an over-adrenalized teenager. Once again, it was to be Gavin who sailed a faultless race and took the gun from Tom and Steve Bolland.
Race three involved much place swapping between Steve, Tom, David and Neil, until Gavin got ahead on a shift on the second lap. Harry sailed a good final run, getting past David to rob him of a place once more at the finish.
So ended an exhausting first day of racing. We boats retired via our personal slipway and practiced a little social distancing in our self-made boat park on the grass by the camp site, just to see what it was all about. It didn’t last long as the Canada Geese came to snuggle up with us at bedtime.
Although the clubhouse and facilities were closed, the café provided packed lunches and hot drinks for sailors in the daytime. As the evening approached, the sailors staying overnight gathered at The Valentine Bistro (David’s Van) for a takeaway supper, sponsored by dzero.co.uk and beers sponsored by JonCowpers Beach Bar. Music by The Canadas.
The wind had dropped off. In the words of my interviewed Weatherman Washington “The cloud formation to the West gave a sense of fore coming doom with signs of turbulent mixing aloft.” In Zippy speak this translates as, be prepared to rig up facing any direction. Not only that but be prepared to sail in any direction on any tack on the same leg. Simples.
The first game-changing shift arrived on the second beat. Luckily, we were on the correct side of it for once and reached into the windward mark. Tom, Steve and Neil all got it right too and finished the race in that order. David had been lying in the top 5 that race and sailed into a huge hole (but no rabbit, seeing as this is a wonderland story). There he stayed until the entire fleet had passed him, so that he could finish in last place.
The winds became lighter and shiftier. As the placings were repeatedly shuffled and re-drawn, there was a new race winner; local man Richard Major, who had obviously been studying the wind patterns at Grafham for a long time. Close behind was Nigel Pybus, followed by Tom and Steve. Gordon Stewart was the rabbitless hole man of the race, finishing like David in 21st place.
The wind was still very unstable. No more so then when it drastically shifted to the South West at the start. Of course there was chaos, including Richard over the line. The boats at the pin end were unable to cross the line. Tom was able to tack off early, but Gavin was caught out at the pin and had to gybe around to re-start on port. Weatherman Washington saw the writing on the clouds before the gun went and bore off, gybed round and put a friendly little tack in on top of Tom. The Weather Gods were very sympathetic towards Tom. Tom is kind, Tom is a Poster Boy and Tom tacked just short of the windward mark. So the Weather Gods lifted him gently and kindly around it. Neil Weatherman did not receive this generous gift and finished in second place behind happy winner Tom.
The weekends’ racing was so close, that the overall winner had to be calculated
on countback, with the top three sailors being on equal points. Gavin won the overall Inland Championship Trophy and the prizes were awarded all the way down the fleet, sponsored by dzero.co.uk.
A special mention must go to an opportunistic sailor, Nigel Austin from Cransley SC, who spotted a large silver yacht replica at a car boot sale roadside on the way to the club on Sunday morning. He stopped to make an impulse purchase and presented the trophy to the first Cransley Sailing Club DZero; Nigel Pybus (8th overall).
Thus ended the DZero outing of the season so far. Lovely to see some old friends and make some new ones (Abby Freeley – welcome back to the DZero Class!) A huge thank you to Grafham Water SC; the race teams and shore crew. And a massive thankyou to our wonderful and supportive Class Man, David Valentine.
Next job for me is to find the nearest HGV driver training centre.
1. Gavin Flemming; 1,1,1,4,9,(11) -16 pts
2. Tom Southwell; (10),2,9,1,3,1 -16 pts
3. Steve Bolland; 5,3,2,2,4,(7) – 16pts
4. Neil Washington; 4,5,3,3,(7),2 – 17pts
5. Harry Moffatt; 2,(8),4,6,6,3 – 21pts
Full results can be found by clicking here.
Photos below from the Committee Boat and are Copyright Nigel Denchfield