Wind, Swim and Rescue

Too many things happened today. The day seemed to be good with a nice breeze. I arrived at the club early, and it was decided that I would sail the new (recently bought, second-hand) red Laser.

I rigged it and I realised that it didn’t have a ratchet block like most have but it had a cleat block and to make matters worse, the cleat was upside down. This means that unless you keep your sheet-holding hand down, the sheet will be always cleated. Since I was not used to that whenever I wanted to let the sail out, I would let of the sheet but since it was cleated the sail would stay in. The strong wind and the cleated sheet resulted in a capsize before even the start of the race. I brought the boat upright, and I was getting ready for the starting sequence. Then I thought I should get the sheet out of the cleat and use only the pulley wheel of the block. While trying to do that I capsized again. The safety boat came to my rescue but soon I was called onto the safety boat because 3-4 other boats had capsized.

We went on to help the other boats. One of the Merlin Rockets had capsized and they were already bringing it upright. We were about to let them get on with it when I saw that as the boat came upright, it was side to wind, so it came over the top of the helm that was pulling it and capsized over her. As soon as she surfaced we asked her if she was OK and she said “No”. So we pull them on the safety boat, and since it was full of people, we were taken in. Needless to say that I had missed the start and my laser was almost upside down with the mast dug in the mud.

As soon as we got of the safety boat we had to arrange recovery of the my Laser and the Merlin Rocket. We decided with David that we would get the Merlin in first and then he would go out to bring the Laser in. As soon as the committee arrived from the start line, we asked them to get as back out to the Merlin. Jumping from the committee boat into the dark water the harp full of weed and algae seems a bit stupid, but we had to do it.

The Merlin was almost upside down with the top of the mast under weed and mud. We had to bring it up gently in order not to do any damage. We asked the safety boat to throw a line and we pulled the boat sideways in order to get the mast off the bottom of the harp. Then David was pushing the centreboard down while I was “lying” parallel to the boat, so the boat would scoop me up as it was coming upright. It was the first time I was doing this and although I was expecting the boat to lift me up, it actually came under me. So I was almost floating in a boat full of water! David pulled himself in while I was sitting on the opposite side to avoid another capsize.

As soon as we were both in we start tidying the boat. While David was sorting out the mainsail, mainsheet, rudder, etc. I pushed the centreboard down and put the spinnaker into the bow because it was floating all over the place. The spinnaker full of water was like a blob and it took me some time to tuck it away. Anyway, soon we were sailing away. The Merlin was full of water too and we were trying to empty it somehow. The theory says that if you sail downwind with the spinnaker up and the bailers open the boat will empty. I think that we were too heavy for that, with me inside, so we were going upwind towards the pontoon. At some point we were doing OK, but somehow we managed to get more water in. By the time we arrived at the pontoon, everyone was laughing with us because the rear half of the boat was underwater.

As soon as we got off the boat, David got a lift in a safety boat to go and get my Laser, while I was helping pull the Merlin out of the water. David recovered my Laser and he started cruising. He seemed like he was enjoying himself, while I was waiting on the shore, freezing, for him to bring the Laser to unrig it. Eventually, he came in and I unrigged the Laser, had a hot shower and then went to the bar and had a couple of pints.

What a day! Didn’t race, but it was exciting and I definitely learnt a couple of things:

  1. No block with cleat on a Laser
  2. Reefing (or Radial sail on a Laser) is not for wimps

Sunday, 25 June is the day following my birthday AND the Laser Open Meeting at WSC. I will race. Watch this space for all the details.