Team Phoebe’s Big Adventure 15 Oct 2006
‘Sail for Gold’ is the first event for Olympic classes to be held in the UK for over 30 years and the RYA had invited top competitors from all around the world. Running concurrently was the ParaEuropeans and so the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy was host to twenty two nations represented by 281 boats.
The trip to Portland took two days so we were very relieved to arrive in Weymouth then make the short trip across Weymouth Bay and into Portland Harbour to the WPNSA. We spent Thursday preparing Phoebe and attending various meetings. Phoebe was to be the Pink Team, one of four race committee boat teams designated for this event, blue, yellow, orange and pink but using yellow for all identifying flags! Was this to save some embarassment, we wondered?
Our team consisted of Mike Pearson, Edwin Buckley, Pat Buckley, Dave Shepherd, Iain Williams, William Jeffcoate and Jeane Horner and we were supported by guest safety boat drivers supplied by the RYA. Iain and William were our mark layers, Mike stood on the line and called the shots, Edwin was in charge of timing and the bang box, Dave called the wind, Pat recorded and Jeane was in charge of flags.
Friday morning dawned without the promised sunshine, and without much wind either. When the rain arrived it obviously had no where better to go and hung around for most of the day. Ugh! Each fleet had been allocated a race course area (ours was inside Portland Harbour), and our fleets were two classes of sailboards, the RSX 9.5 (male) and RSX 8.5 (female and youth), and the 49ers.
We ran two races each for the boards – the class rules allow no more than 2 races before a break ashore has to be taken, and no more than 3 races per day. It was fascinating to see the control the sailors have with the boards. At five seconds to go, they were all still, just to starboard of the committee boat. By ‘Go’ they had spread right across the line and just about all crossed it at the same time. Unfortunately the winds weren’t strong enough for them to plane, so we didn’t see them at their best until the Saturday. However they had two good races and then went for lunch, by which time the 49ers had joined us.
49ers usually race in fleets of no more than 25 boats, but because of the popularity of the event, we had a fleet of 44, so as well as us getting used to officiating for a different class of boat, they were all getting used to sailing in such a big company.
After the first attempt at starting when more boats were over the line than not, we used the black flag and then saw the control that these top sailors can produce, followed by tremendous acceleration in relatively light airs. Their three races followed in quick succession, and because the boards were not allowed to race again, we had finished for the day.
Our efficiency however didn’t mean we could go straight to the bar – we had to sit out at the entrance to the harbour to count in the boats that had been sailing out in Weymouth Bay. When will we learn! The pasta and beer were very welcome when we eventually arrived at the academy.
Saturday was much more promising weather wise – still a lot of low cloud and mist but the wind crept up to a 4-5 by the end of the day, although still from the east. Again we started with two races for each of the board classes, and as the wind improved and they could get up on the plane, they changed from slugs to butterflies. They skimmed around the course impressing us all with the speed and strength needed to maintain it.
Three races for the 49ers followed in quick succession. All weekend we were using an orange flag hoisted two minutes before going into the start sequence and it helped make the racing a lot more efficient – the gaps between the races were kept to a minimum, and the racers could save their energy for the actual races. Because the boards had managed two planing races they came out again after the 49ers and had their last race of the day. Some of the younger ones were finding the conditions quite tough by now and we did have a few retirements.
On Sunday the fleets were all divided so the boats lying in the top ten positions in each fleet went into the medal race and the rest of the fleets sailed an ordinary course. Because the Pink Team had impressed the coaches and the top ranks of the RYA, we were given only medal fleets.
The wind was now 5 going on 6, so instead of two courses in the harbour and two out in the bay, there were three designated areas in the harbour all doing windward/leeward courses, and no one went in the bay. It was over the top strength for the boards so they did not go out, and neither did the ParaEuropeans. Phoebe’s team ran courses for the Tornados, Ynglings, the 49ers, the Lasers and lastly the Laser Radials. We worked very hard as we had only 40 minutes between starts, but the efficiency of the shore-based workers meant that as one fleet was finishing the next fleet was warming up ready to go.
Finally a prize-giving in the WPNSA. Edward Ramsden presented the prizes – for a list of prize-winners and more information on the event go to www.skandiateamgbr.com/events/sailforgold/s4g.htm
Phoebe and her crew stayed overnight at Portland – it was just too windy and too rough to consider plan A, which had been to get as far as Yarmouth before dusk. So at 0745 Monday morning we started on the long journey home, refuelling at Yarmouth and again staying overnight in Brighton marina. Another very early start on Tuesday followed by the long slog round Dungeness and Dover and into Ramsgate to refuel before finally making it back into the berth in the Burnham Yacht Harbour at 1900. It felt good to be back.
2007 and 2008 The Pink team will be self sufficient with 23 members covering committee boat, mark laying and safety. I am negotiating at the moment with RCYC members to join the team.