Went out four times this week

11 June 2016

Fair weather this week with gentle winds, and I've been out four times.

On Sunday 5th June four boats went to sea for the cruiser race. Light and variable winds from the NE, an offshore breeze, meant the sea was fairly flat and it was a bright sky. New member but experienced sailor Susi was with me for the first time.

The race officer did a line start at 1100 from the committee boat anchored southeast of the river entrance. We decided to attack the start on starboard and had a good chance to shout at a couple of the others coming at us on port tack as we arrived at the start line seconds after the start, which was invigorating! Nobody was moving particularly quickly though!

Races nearly always start with a beat towards a mark a mile or so to windward, which today meant we were going into the wind and into the tide as we tried to go east. The wind was variable and mostly offshore, and it seemed that the strongest gusts were to be found closer to the shore. We spent ages trying to see where the wind was and then get ourselves moving. The other three boats seemed to find the wind with more luck (or skill) than we did and it took us an hour an a half to go 1.3 miles to the Steel Can mark. We were well to the back of the fleet by then. Susi had thoughtfully brought a bag of sandwiches so we broke them out after we rounded the mark and headed South to the next one - another long leg and it was 1315 as we went round the second mark.

Looking at the GPS as we turned back towards Steel Can again, we were only making 0.5 knots so I calculated it would be nearly 3 o'clock before we got there and it was likely we'd be too late to get back up the river against the ebb. We were well last so with some disappointment we called Richard, patiently waiting at anchor in the committee boat all this time, to tell him we'd retire and he could go back in.

It took us another hour to get back to the berth at 1415 but we were in time for a cold drink in the clubhouse. We'd had a pleasant afternoon and Susi said she really enjoyed it so that overcame the slight disappointment at retiring!

On Thursday I took Elsa out on my own for a bit in the afternoon. Light winds again, F2 at the most, from the S now so there was a bit more swell out there. I flapped around with the genoa out for an hour or so but I had more enjoyment when I motored back in, spending a while just motoring slowly up and down the harbour looking at the various moored boats before returning to the berth and putting the kettle on for one of my sachets of 'latte' coffee, they're brilliant.

Later that evening I was on duty supervising the club free sailing (some Thursdays the dinghies don't race, but they get a chance to go to sea and just sail about). Winds were still very light and I had enough volunteers to crew two RIBs, so I chugged out in the committee boat and sat at anchor for an hour and a half as three teenagers in Lasers, one grown-up in a Laser, a couple of RS400s and Dick in his new Hadron sailed around. The younger sailors seemed to enjoy capsizing themselves and swimming around their boats and generally messing around. Going back in around 7.30 pm the ebb tide was running fast and we had a bit of a struggle towing them all back up the river. Even though we were over an hour ahead of low tide the water was very shallow at the river entrance, as one of the lads proved by 'accidentally' falling off his Laser and walking along beside it!

On Friday afternoon I was one of three or four skippers taking part in the club's cruiser taster session - giving members the chance to have a go in a cruiser. Alison's been with me once or twice before and we also had Steve and Claire aboard. Another fine day with winds around F2 from the SE, we set off at 3.15 pm.

Photo taken by Mark Nicholls as we motored up the river getting ready - I'm making sure the crew get the most out of the trip by letting them do all the work.

We had a smashing sail up and down outside Littlehampton, there was enough wind to get going but without much heeling. Steve and Claire have done dinghy sailing and a bit of cruiser sailing before and they make a good sailing couple, each enjoying their turn on the tiller and working the sheets. Apparently they were born a day apart in the same hospital, and have been married for 31 years! We sailed around for over an hour before we had to come in, back on the berth by 5pm, everyone said they'd had a great time!

So that's three trips in Elsa and one in the committee boat, a busy week at sea, all great fun.


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