To sail or not to sail?

I slept well last Thursday night after spending a pleasant evening with my son Sam, and two of our good friends and neighbours, Andy and Bunta, here in Trearddur Bay. The evening was organised at short notice – the good ones usually are – and involved rustling up a respectable meal from what was in the fridge and modifying one of my favourite recipes to produce something that purported to be a “devilled chicken”.

We also had the opportunity to sample two of the three wines that had been delivered by George Rhys, my friend and wine merchant from London, earlier in the day: A Brolio Chianti Classico 2011 and an anonymised Paulliac 2011 from a rather well known and respectable estate. Both wines are relatively young, but they drank well and the bottles were emptied at a pace to be observed in relatively few locations around the world, one of which is Trearddur Bay. The devilled chicken disappeared pretty quickly too, which was reassuring for me!

Despite being on holiday, Friday morning started at 5:30am when I woke up 30 minutes before the first of the three alarms I had set the night before went off. This happens every year when I am Officer of the Day (affectionately shortened to OOD) at Trearddur Bay Sailing Club (TBSC), irrespective of how late I retired the evening before or how much wine-tasting had taken place. Being OOD is quite a responsibility and there is a large number of people whose day’s sailing depends on you getting up and getting things organised.

The first job is to replace the ‘eines and to work out if the race is going ahead, so I headed outside the house with a mug of coffee, a packet of Marlboro Gold, the OOD Handbook (Which provides a blow by blow account of what I need to do in my role as OOD) and the iPad, to suss things out and to decide whether or not the 5th Cup Race was to go ahead at 10.00am.

The first thing that struck me when I looked out over the bay at around 6:00am was the distinct lack of wind – clearly an essential ingredient for a good sail – and a bit of a mill pond:

OOD 1

OOD - Millpond

OK, perhaps the wind would build up over the next few hours?  I therefore had a look at the various websites that we use to check the weather forecast in the hope that the elusive wind would return.  After all, we’ve been on storm-alert for the past week!

Unfortunately, the WindGuru forecast did not bode well:

OOD - WG

They always say that doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the first sign of insanity.  Determined to disprove this theorem, I rekindled my optimism and phoned Holyhead Coastguard in the hope that the experts would get it right.

I summarised my discussion with Holyhead Coastguard in the notice that I placed on the Club’s two noticeboards to apprise Members of the weather forecast and the racing decision.  I also updated the Twitter feed and the telephone line for members to call.  On the face of things, my optimism was not misplaced….

OOD - Notice

So a 3/4, occasionally 5 wind was not that bad.  It would certainly make for a brisk race and would cause a number of the half-rater skippers to regret the fact that they had not lined up another crew member to keep the boat level and to deal with the increased intensity of a bit of a breeze.

I analysed the various data that had been presented to me over a period of around an hour.  The eternal optimist in me was inclined to give greater emphasis to Holyhead Coastguard’s predictions, so I reflected on what they had told me, but the word “CYCLONIC” kept coming to the fore!

If you Google cyclonic, it comes up with the following:

“Inward spiralling winds that rotate anti-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere of the Earth. Most large-scale cyclonic circulations are centred on areas of low atmospheric pressure.”

I raised the flag on the flagstaff at 7:55am to announce that the 5th Cup Race would proceed as scheduled at 10:00am.  The wind speed was 1.2 knots from an East, North Easterly direction.  A far cry from 3/4, occasionally 5!

OOD - Flags

The time before the start of the race passed quickly and involved a number of preparatory activities, including re-checking the forecasts, donning my blazer and Club tie, and making my way to the flagstaff at around 9:15am.  Once at the flagstaff, I was greeted by Millsy, the Flagstaff Officer (aka “Flags”), Hugh the Assistant OOD and the rest of his flagstaff team, including canon firers, spotters (one for each class), flag handlers and refreshment providers, assembled to take up their positions in advance of the race.  Lemon drizzle cake, tea and coffee featured on the flagstaff menu that day.

As we counted down the minutes to the 10:00am start, the wind (for all that it was) swung round to oscillate around the South West and the speed picked up to around 2.4 knots. Things were picking up.  The fleet of Half Raters assembled slowly in front of me – and then the wind speed dropped again!

I had yet to select the courses and the minutes before the race were counting down at an increasing rate.  I decided to postpone the start of the race, which meant a delay of at least 15 minutes to see if the wind increased, which it finally did – well slightly.

We finally got the race away 45 minutes later than scheduled, so the usual flurry of gun firing, flag raising and dog-frightening ensued.  There were a few individual recalls, but no general recalls in my race this year, so I was unable to improve my position in the league table so far as those are concerned.

OOD _ Flags 2

Once all of the classes had started, the next challenge arose.  How do we get them all back in time for lunch and the afternoon race?  I called for regular updates from the spotters and rescue boats to keep up to date with how the various fleets were progressing in their coordinated float around the bay.

As expected, we needed to shorten the courses for every fleet, which involved even more flag-raising and gun-firing to let each class know when to come back to the finish line.

The finishing procedure was straightforward.  The first three boats in each class receive a gun and the rest receive a bell as they cross the line.  All straightforward really.

The bay slowly cleared as the boats crossed the finish line, with one exception!  The fleet of Myths which I decided to send round the course for a second lap during a temporary increase in the wind.  I knew I’d get some stick about this later in the pub (which I did indeed receive on several occasions) as part of the usual rivalry between the Myth and Half-Rater skippers.  However, Tom, the OOD for the afternoon race, is a Myth sailor so he would have the opportunity to get his own back on me then!

The final paperwork to record the results of the race was completed, posted on the notice boards and delivered to the points-keeper.  Job done for another year!

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