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Wow what a ride!

One of the best days sailing in the Xenon so far.

Cold day, started at 2°C with water temperature 4°C, but lovely sunny sky and the view from the reservoir was beautiful. The wind was a consistent 14 knots with gusts up to 18 knots. Ideal spinnaker weather. The Race Officers choice of course did not disappoint. See the layout below. Incidentally the symbols at the top of the layout indicate the buoys on the course and how they should be passed, ie to port or starboard.

From the Start line it was almost possible to make buoy W without a tack by starting at the inshore end of the line as the wind at that point tended to be more northerly. In practice we never quite avoided the need to jink.

Rounding buoy W we immediately launched the spinnaker. Several of us had minor problems as the blustery wind coming across the dam rocked the dinghy. On the second lap one dinghy capsized at this point. I managed to hourglass our spinnaker on the second lap on this stretch. When gybing it is essential that the new spinnaker sheet is pulled in smartish, any hesitation, such as mine when I took too long to pull the Jib across, can easily leave scope for the spinnaker to entangle, either with the hoist line or Jib wire. Once we stabilized the dinghy we managed this stretch comfortably, gybing to make best use of the wind direction.

At buoy B it was a choppy tack across to I. Rounding I required a careful gybe, and instead of heading straight for buoy H we chose to delay hoisting the spinnaker, make a tight turn and do a quick reach after which we then headed for buoy H full blast with the spinnaker fully deployed. Both crew moved rearwards and well hiked out the Xenon bow lifted 1ft out of the water and sped along, planing all the way. The wind although strong was mainly consistent and when on occasion we were hit by a strong side gust the rapid response by Helm bearing away kept us upright. All I had to do was make sure I didn't fall overboard.

Swinging around buoy H we were confronted with an upwind course with jettys to port with a scattering of moored motor boats and mooring buoys to keep us on our toes right up to the finsh line.

The course was testing in that even on the reaches we found ourselves constantly on the move to preserve boat balance.  We managed the lap in around 15 - 18 mins, 2 laps per race and 3 races back to back.

Apart from the beautiful if cold day my memory of this days sailing will be the long flying dash from buoy I down to H with the Xenon flat out behind the spinnaker.

Lessons from the day

As Crew I learnt a few spinnaker gybing lessons. Speed is the essence. Must get the Spinnaker sheet pulled across whilst the spinnaker is still inflated but the Jib sheet must also be pulled fully across asap. Failure to do this caused the Jib to fold across the Jib wire. Freeing the Jib cost us valuable time.  On another occasion I failed to pull the spinnaker sheet across sufficiently causing the spinnaker to hourglass. I was fortunate in that by partially dropping the spinnaker and then rehoisting the spinnaker freed itself. I was lucky. The final problem occurred on the last section of the spinnaker run. We were on the point of dropping the spinnaker on the last approach to buoy H when the spinnaker sheets, normally tied together parted company and the sheet disappeared out of the block!  It proved very difficult to retrieve the spinnaker. I had to crawl out to the bow and fish the spinnaker armful by armful out of the water whilst Helm gently hauled the tangled material into the chute.

I am a strong advocate of tying the two ends of the spinnaker sheets together which greatly eases spinnaker gybing but in windy conditions the knots can easily shake loose and if a small overhand stopper knot is not used in the very ends then the sheet can be lost through the block - and it was!

Finally the result, we came 2nd in the race and in the final series - beaten by a pesky RS400 very skilfully sailed!