Team Dixon were the first to arrive at SWAC followed by Team Tweedle and finally myself who rolled in at a leisurely 10:30am. After rigging, attention turned to finely tuning John Tweedle's newest addition to the family fleet – daughter Caitlin's Europe, while the Finn boys wondered at the dinky, scaled down versions of their own beasts. At this point John was still intending to sail, however, keen potential of a new recruit appeared in the form of Iona Dixon, Callum's younger sister, appeared and a somewhat relieved John shifted responsibilities to the young Radial sailor (John can usually be found in a Finn and was subject to many "honey I shrunk the boat" type jokes).
After registration myself and John gave Iona an arm-chair based crash course in how to sail a Europe. At this point I think she was a little apprehensions of what to expect. The Europe has a lot more strings and things than a Laser but it's really quite a simple set-up. The four of us then had a picnic in the sunny boat park and waved off the Parents Dixon and Tweedle to go and enjoy the boat show.
The briefing was clearly set out and the Race officer was quite humorous in how he approached the briefing which was enjoyable. Afterwards we got changed, collected our trackers and launched.
None of us had sailed at SWAC before and it is a fair trek around the bottom of southampton to get to where the boatshow was being hosted, specially if you'r in a little boat! Soton Met had predictably under-read the breeze, claiming it was 16.8 knots when it was more like 25/30 knots. Memories of the final race at the nationals a few weeks before came back to me. "Death at Dalgety" one of my non-europe sailor friends coined it. Hopefully this wold not be so bad but just topping the 50kg mark, big breeze is not my thing!
Starting in nay pursuit race can be "interesting" but this was particularly "interesting" start! Down wind start gates are usually reserved for club racing or Cowes Week round the cans courses. Both europes lined up with a conservative gap to the line, being blown down towards it with the Lightening 365 that had miss-timed his start. The hooter went and we were off! We flew out of the start gate on a broad reach, playing in the gusts and the waves down the the first turning mark – a big green cone just off the end of Southampton. I took a quick dip in the water at this point (caught in a shadow as I rolled into a gybe round the back of a tug) and I waved good bye to Iona. Before launching she had said she was a good hiker – and she was not lying!
Leaving the big green cone to starboard we had a short one sided beat up to "Magazine" a small yellow mark on the Hythe side of the river and then a fetch down to a cardinal marker and then a gybe round to go through the start gate again. All boats had started by this point and I have already been overtaken by both OKs and the Lightning. Iona on the other hand was loving it, meanwhile the Finns were close together, wading through the back of the other boats.
I usually sail at Weston, just a few miles down Southampton Water from where the SBS Battle of the Classes was being held but conditions there are quite different. The North-Westerly we were experiencing was quite shift and heavily affected by surrounding buildings and ships. Also the traffic in and out of out race course definitely kept us on our toes! Cameron attempting a lee-bow on a 40ft clipper and myself holding up the Red Jet are just two of the near-misses encountered.
This was my second lap and the bigger boats were really starting to flood passed. The wind was showing no signs at this point of becoming more reasonable as I headed up to "magazine" on the close-hauled leg. Tacked round the mark - and on the fetch I was overtaken again, this time by some fast, pointy looking single handers, closely followed by the Finns. Along what turned out to be the final leg, the wind suddenly dropped to pleasant 13 knots. Rolling in amongst the standing waves and trying to avoid a massive yellow container ship we chased each other back down to the big green cone. Both of us managed to sneak ahead of the Albacore at this point and cleanly hooked the mark to head back up to magazine where the committee had elected to finish us.
On the way in the Dixon siblings switched boats – Iona was dwarfed by her brother's Finn and Callum looked unconformably big in the Europe. Despite suffering a few breakages and a swim, Iona came off the water with a brilliant grin – she had definitely enjoyed it. Cameron and Callum seems to also enjoy it although both said they prefer class racing in a boat like a Finn – who can blame them.