On Friday, I pulled into the field adjacent to Weston Sailing club on what was a warm, sunny and dewy morning; parking next to fellow Stokes Bay sailors and ex-Europe sailors Steve and Sarah Cockrill. While rigging, in a very leisurely manor, we chatted about all things sailing (as one does) and I took the opportunity to collect any little nuggets of information I could from Steve. Mast bend curves, tacking with your bum in the air and small-time phycological warfare were amongst his favourite stories. He speaks very fondly of the Europe still and sounds as though he would re-join the fleet again if several things fall into place. A 'his’n’hers' pair of boats for him and Sarah is definitely not out of the question!
I collected my tracker and launched, hoping that a glorious sea-breeze would fill in. Unfortunately this was not the case! The wind became lighter and shiftier, far from optimum for the timed speed trial's planned for the day!
Saturday arrived with a similar feel to the previous day’s meteorological situation: light and a bit flukey. A few more boats had arrived and the assortment of classes rigged on the shore line in anticipation of the three scheduled races on the Costa-del-Soton Water. Being over the Easter weekend many of the usual Europe suspects were unable to travel due to family commitments… Or perhaps they had seen the forecast and thought better of it! Competitors were divided into two fleets: Catamaran/Fast Handicap and Medium/Slow Handicap.
On launching it became apparent that the wind was slighter than it looked on shore and really quite shifty. Fast fleet started well – with a notable comedy moment from the 49er where the helm executed a quality dismount by way of missing the trapeze line, leaving the crew do go it alone on a man-overboard manoeuvre.
After completing one lap, the wind had shifted from a North Easterly round to a southerly and the majority of Med/Slow fleet had managed to raft together, crossing the gate in a great line all at the same time… on a run. One lap later, S flag was raised and a collective sigh of relief that we could have a break of intense concentration. AP was popped up and we drifted in for a spot of lunch in the sun.
Before Race 2 myself and Kathy (USA111) had a quick tune up and I offered a few tips to help her sail set-up for the super-light airs. The course was reversed as it seemed that the wind had settled in on a southerly-ish direction. The wind became increasingly difficult with one leg of the course I was on beat at one end, a menagerie of small boats mid-leg on a run to by-the-lee and a pack of F18 Catamarans behind with their spinnakers up.
AP up again after race 2 but then came down before we could drift in(!)
Race 3 was much the same as race two. An acceptance of the wacky races and a healthy level of grit, determination and concentration seemed key.
The evening’s entertainment included a hearty BBQ put on by the club and a game of Mad Hatter Bingo – a game I thoroughly recommend to anyone and everyone.
Sunday dawned and AP went up ashore instantly. The forecast was for less wind than Saturday but the race officer was staunchly optimistic that we should be able to get a race in and therefor qualify for a discard. After an hours’ postponement the decision was reluctantly taken to abandon racing, allowing for the travellers to get home early.
It has to be said that the weather suited featherweight nature of the Europe and other similar smaller boats and the ease at which they power up with. After a great two days of light wind racing, 3rd place went to myself, with Kathy also finishing in 15th, not a bad set of results for the Europes in a 45 boat fleet!