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A difficult start

March 2013 - 

Hi, I am a relatively new (and somewhat reluctant) dinghy sailor, having started sailing with my husband 3 years ago in an effort to find a mutually enjoyable hobby. We have been sailing an Enterprise and have had really good fun with it but decided that it was time to move on to a slightly more modern boat which we could attempt to race in the Fast Handicap fleet at our sailing club (Bewl Valley in Kent).

We have a number of friends who also own Xenons. Having tried various oter dinghies (laser 2000, RS 400 etc) we decided that the Xenon provided a balance between a stable comfortable boat which we could handle and a faster more ‘twitchy’ racer.

Having purchased our 2007 Xenon, we had some very useful and helpful advice from friends as to rigging, sailing and setting up of our new purchase.

17th March 2013 –our first trip out

I’m quite sure that many readers of this blog will have experienced the excitement of buying a new dinghy, setting the date for the first sail only to arrive on the day to less than perfect conditions. The wind was averaging F4-5 with some gusts of F6 and the water temperature was approx 2 degrees. No problem in a familiar boat but maybe a little ambitious when sailing an unfamiliar one. We convinced ourselves that everything would be fine and excitedly rigged up ready to launch.

We set off and thoroughly enjoyed the first hour and a half - the Xenon was everything we had hoped for. We had a few sticky moments when we were hit by a gust or two, accompanied by some colourful language from me but the boat was pretty forgiving and we felt safe.

Heavy rain and increasing gusts set in around mid day so we decided to head for shore and a welcome cup of coffee.

I was just commenting to Helm on how stable the Xenon was despite the gusts following our final gybe, when the next thing I knew I was being catapulted through the air, followed by a plunge underwater and a few mouthfuls of reservoir water. I came up several feet away and had to swim back to meet Helm and the boat. Despite a dry suit, it’s alarming how quickly you become chilled and tired in such cold water. Having not practised a capsize recovery or even having a plan, the Xenon fairly quickly turtled despite having one of the Xenon buoyancy triangles at the top of the mast.

I went round to the back and passed Helm the righting line and with me fairly pathetically hanging on, he got on top of the boat and pulled for all he was worth on the righting line. An ’exclamation’ and a loud splash followed as the righting line and bungee cord parted company (the sheet bend knot had slipped), leaving us both floundering in the water once again with the Xenon resolutely unmoved. We both scrambled on to the upturned hull at which point the club rescue boat arrived on the scene.

It then took 3 others plus Helm to finally right the boat and as I was extremely cold and shivery I was taken to the shore in the rib and poor old Helm and our pride and joy, were towed in.

Having said all of this, we have not been put off at all and can’t wait to have another go at sailing to Xenon but hopefully in calmer conditions.

Friends have very kindly offered to sail with us and do a capsize recovery and offer some tips. This seems a very sensible idea and with the benefit of hindsight really should have been tried before our first sail. Watch this space....

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