Leading up to the weekend, Saturday looked really promising for wind and it's a great place for racing. Jo and I booked the Friday afternoon off work so that we could get down early and sail for a few hours but it felt like we spent the whole time in traffic! Arriving at about 6pm (2 hours later than anticipated) we did get an hour on the water, fully powered on my 7.8m and 112L. All set for business next day!
Saturday: Once the heats were published I made a mental note of the key players in the first heat (i.e. mine); James Dinsmore, Kev Greenslade and Jim Crossley. At every event I seem to be battling against Jim and it's often a close thing. James and Kev are two of the fastest guys in the BSA but this year I do seem to be keeping up during my good races. On paper, I expected the four of us to advance to winners finals but there was a bit of a wildcard in the heat in the form of Jeff Henderson, owner of Hot Sails Maui. I'd never seen him sail so he was an unknown quantity and should not be under-estimated. A couple of the younger guys moving up from the ams and Denis Royet were also in my heat (decent racers) but a known quantity.
After briefings and waiting for the wind to build it was time to get on the water. It was a long way to sail upwind from where I was parked so I got up to the comittee boat to see the red flag already flying. Shit! I started my watch and kept a close eye for the yellow to sync at one minute. Right got that, 60 seconds to go and I'm in a random position but I think that I can sort this out. With 30 seconds to go I am about the right distance from the line when the yellow goes down... game on! Beeps come from the watch 15, 14, 13... go! A single hoot from the boat coincides with my watch and I hit the line with good speed, going very broad and unable to see the boat behind me. I'm second around the first mark with James a couple of seconds ahead and Jim a couple of seconds behind. Where is Kev? Hmmm... I guess he missed the heat. Sorry buddy but it does make my life easier! Some way behind I am aware of another 3 sailors and we all race down the course. At the third mark I can see that our lead is extending so it's just a case of staying cool and I'm through to the winners final. James crossed the line just as the finish boat was mooring up and I was a few seconds behind. We waved to the guys and then headed upwind to prepare for the final.
Hmmm, where has Jim got to? Denis crossed the line 3rd but there was no sign of everone else by now. Where had they got to? Once back upwind James went and checked what was going on at the start boat... "was everything ok with the heat?"... "yes".
Roll forward to the winners final when I had plenty of time to get in a good position. A good start from the boat end (despite pin being favoured) and I rounded the first mark in third place just behind Ant Baker. That's a new feeling for me and the 122 X-Fire was relishing the conditions! I glanced back to see the rest of the fleet biting at my heels and James in about 6th place. "What is he doing there?" is a momentary thought but doesn't distract me from the task in hand. Gybes 2 and 3 go smoothly with Ant pulling away only slightly on the long reaches. Gybe 4 and I see a nice wave to drop into during the gybe... that'll keep me planing and allow for a good getaway I thought! The board nearly stopped dead as I rammed it from behind, giving someone the opportunity to pass me. Ah... James has caught up! Fortunately I managed to pump back onto the plane and was heading towards the final buoy now in fourth place. This is looking good and I can't see the guys behind being able to catch me. Maybe I can catch James? We rounded the final gybe and I glanced back to see Paul Simmons, Sam Latham and Jim Crossley in a close pack behind me. Over the finish line and fourth place. Awesome!
That was the good bit! Sailing to the beach I overheard Ant telling James that he wasn't in the race because our heat had been postponed. WTF?
Long story cut short... our heat had been postponed due to a rescue (some time after the 30 second signal) and it was only the guys further back at the start who saw the stripey AP flag. Those of us with a good start did not see or hear anything to say otherwise (1 hoot = start, 2 hoots = don't start). Yes, flags give the actual timings of starts and audible signals are a bonus but when we are travelling at Mach-2 over the start line we can't always look backwards at the boat unless we suspect an over-early. We often don't even see the green flag go up as we are trying to concentrate on other things and have a watch to tell us when the start is happening. To coin a phrase from James "if you see the green flag then you've got a bad start"! The actual heat must have been before James, Denis and I were back upwind and therefore had no chance of competing. Kev also missed the re-run although he knew it was happening (presumably he was waiting to see James and myself on distinctive red sails) so 4 guys sailed the heat and all went through to the winners final, eventually coming 5, 6, 7 and 8 in the official results after excluding James and myself (i.e. 7, 8, 9, 10 out of the 10 participants). The losers final had 1 person in it because there was no-one eligible from my heat and 3 guys missed heat 2. So, only 9 of 16 guys got to sail a heat or final.
This was the only round of the weekend so the result has a massive impact on the series. Sadly this same thing happened in the very last round of Weymouth (due to an general recall and no horn) when I was on fire but despite it screwing my scores I didn't kick up a fuss at the time. After a long-winded appeal on Sunday we've been awarded consolation points rather than the full 17 (fleet + 1). James 10 and 11 for me (+1 for forgetting my tally, ouch!) and 10 for everyone else who didn't get to do a final.
So, where does that leave me? Well, I'm sailing better than ever and in the winners final I finished in fourth place which was a best for me. Sadly I come away from the event 16 out of 16 because of the tally penalty! Points wise my season is kind of a write-off now. Every event counts as I have to miss one due to a wedding (close family) and I have two trashy results counting against me due to circumstances outside of my control. Rules are rules though...
On a positive note, the whole procedure for starts and recalls is changing at the next event and should prevent these particular things from happening again. Unfortunately for me it is too late for my 2012 season... all I can do is focus on the individual events where I fully intend to kick peoples butts!
Finally... X-Fire V4 boards are awesome. The new boards and my hard work appear to have raised the level of my sailing this year. Thanks go to Nik and Ant (Fanatic / North, K66 Surf, Baker Academy, Ion) for hosting the whole weekend and providing the BBQ + entertainment in the evening.