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Ski Sunday 10.11.13

Mr T was unavailable as he was on a safety boat course so I was fortunate enough to be sailing with a good friend and experienced Xenon sailor who was temporarily crewless. The forecasts during the preceding week were for winds of F4-5 with gusts of anything up to 30mph but thankfully on the day they were more like F3-4 but nevertheless with some reasonable gusts. We launched in the beautiful autumn sunshine, confident of a good morning's racing. We started quite well but were aware of some strong gusts and towards the end of the 1st race we had our first capsize with spinnaker. This did not cause any great dramas and we were grateful for our mast head buoyancy which prevented an inversion and we were very soon up and away and finished the race. Due to a slight lack of attention, we missed the 2nd start but managed to catch up quite well. The gusts were gradually increasing and some of our runs were a little unsteady with a couple of near misses. During one of these, a huge gust caught us an subsequently dropped us, causing the Xenon to heel rather dramatically. We both threw ourselves on the side and thankfully the boat steadied and a capsize was avoided. "Phew that was a close one" I thought as I battled to bring the flapping spinnaker under control. After a few seconds I had the distinct feeling that something was missing and it was awfully quiet at the back of the boat. I looked round and was alarmed to see that I was alone in the boat with all 3 sails flying and we were shooting along at great speed. With no time to panic, my instinct was to get the spinnaker in as quickly as possible in an effort to reduce speed. Thankfully I managed to do this and I then heard a shout from behind me of "UNCLEAT THE JIB". I duly obeyed and we slowed right down. It was then that I noticed my poor helm (who had slipped and fallen out of the boat) was hanging on for dear life to the back of the Xenon and was displaying some excellent water skiiing skills. Once both sails were flapping and we lost some speed, he managed to valiantly pull himself in, which took a great deal of effort and was most impressive. I was very relieved to have him back inside the boat! We were completely off course but eventaully limped across the finish line. After the 2nd race, my helm asked if I was cold or wanted to call it a day. I replied that I was having far too much fun and we decided that race 3 was going to be 'Our Race', afterall we deserved a bit of luck. This proved to be the case, the gusts died down slightly, the sun shone and we had a great start. Due to some skilful helming and a good deal of teamwork, we were rather pleased to win the 3rd race. During the final lap, my helm executed a perfect gybe and we shot off on an exhilarating but controlled spinnaker run. I guess that's one of the good things about sailing in rapidly changing conditions - you can be in the water and struggling one minute and then flying along with all 3 sails in perfect balance the next (or the other way round of course). My thanks (and admiration) go to my temporary helm for an amazing morning and yet again I learnt a great deal from the experience. I fear that his arms may well be twice the length that they used to be and he may wish to leave it a while before offering to race with me again.