Note to self: I really do enjoy sailing. Oh, and mooring too!

As I sit here on the 17:10 Virgin train from London Euston to Holyhead (affectionately known as “The Vodka Express”), having dealt with the last entrails of my working week, I have time (well 3 hours 49 minutes to be precise) to reflect on the sailing achievements of last weekend to see what can be learned and applied to the weekend of sailing that lies ahead.

By way of a lead into the topic, I would like to explain that Sanderling has a new mooring this year, following the retirement of “Content” as a rescue boat last year.

Sanderling’s new mooring is in Porth Diana, which is a much sought after location and a lot more convenient for me than Lagoon, where Sanderling was previously and is on the other side of the bay. It was therefore only natural for me to jump at the opportunity to take on a mooring in Porth Diana when the Moorings Officer, Matthew, advised me that I was “next on the list” at the Easter Committee meeting earlier this year.

I was clearly very pleased at the time, but I was rather intrigued by a number of comments from other Half-Rater sailors which were along the lines of “That will be fun” and “should I increase my insurance cover” and so on… Never mind it can’t be that bad, I said to myself at the time!

Of course, the mooring was fine when I launched Sanderling with James, of Yachtshop fame, about a month ago. However, it appears now that I slightly overlooked the fact that Sanderling was the only boat in Porth Diana in early July and that Porth Diana is now absolutely rammed with boats! Oh, and there’s that cliff to one side of the mooring and a submerged rock pretty close by as well!

Already, after only one week of the season completed, I understand so well why Sanderling is moored on “that mooring”. It’s so easy to recognise once you find out what to look for.

So now to the highlights of last weekend’s sailing. I’ll keep it brief (and you’ll soon understand why):

Finished last in the race on Saturday afternoon. That’s a first!
Mooring after the race was a challenge, but pretty well executed in my book.
Got up early on Sunday to swap the sails over to a fresher main and a brand new jib. Consumed a flask of coffee on board during the process.
Embraced Sunday’s race with revived energy, focus and enthusiasm.
Lost the spinnaker halyard on a run and came in next to last. An improvement on Saturday, but not much of one!
Mooring after the race involved a pirouette, backing the jib, quite a bit of swearing and about five minutes of adrenaline shakes after we finally moored. However, to the outside observer, it must have looked pretty well spot on! If only they knew.

So, I suppose it was not the best start to the season, all things considered. It also became clear to me (very) that there is a massive incentive for me to finish higher up the fleet –not only because of the satisfaction that would bring, but also the fact that there would be fewer boats in Porth Diana which in turn would make the whole process of mooring Sanderling so much more straightforward.

Now, I know I can do better than I did last weekend – considerably so – and Sanderling knows that she can do better, as she has demonstrated in every season since we first started to get to know each other nine years ago.

So, something has to be wrong. But what? We’ve got new sails, she’s in good shape and there was very little, if any, weather helm last weekend. She looks as good as she did in this photo … so what needs to change?

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OK, I’m possibly not as aggressive at the start line or at the marks as I perhaps should be, but that doesn’t explain why we get overtaken on a good reach. And I probably don’t know the tides as well as others, nor do I concentrate as intensely as other skippers, so end up pinching the wind on the beat, which doesn’t explain why we can lose six places in between two marks.

Of course, the answer is to make further adjustments to Sanderling’s rig – and that’s exactly what I’m doing tomorrow morning in advance of the 14:30 race … and naturally, I’ve asked the skipper of the leading boat to give me a hand 😉

Let’s hope for a better report next week.

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