Very exciting news: I sailed at my first open event…and loved it! George and I drove up to Northampton at the crack of dawn last Saturday to join the National 12s for the open weekend.
Being the only 12 at Shoreham, it was a novelty to me to see so many others, and all of them so different. There was many a Dead Cat Bounce, a couple of Feeling Foolishes, and even a Final Chapter but I think we were the only Numinous design. It was interesting to have a peek at the varying boats and meet their owners.
This being our first proper National 12 event, everyone was very welcoming (although they remembered us from our made-it-to-the-beach-and-no-further escapade in Stoke’s Bay. A chap who was looking at Di simple said ‘Ah yes, this is the pretty one,’ giving her a pat. This gratified me hugely. Funny how you can feel a swell of pride for a boat!
We got rigged up (we’re on our way to having this down to a fine art now, having done it so many times this season), had a bacon sarnie and a cup of tea, before the general briefing and a quick change. Then we were out on the water.
The three races
As soon as everyone was out it was clear how slick the other sailers were. It was brilliant, having so many 12s whizzing around us, and we had fun testing out the course before the first race.
As the first race loomed, around twenty 12s jostled for the line. George did a series of nifty tacks and we found ourselves in a fantastic position, just toeing the line. The horn went and crews all down the line whipped the jibs in and got out hiking. We started really well, keeping up with the other boats, until the foiled rudders breezed away from us.
We did three races on Saturday. The first was the most blustery, with strong gusts that seemed to appear and disappear out of nowhere. The second quietened down a little, before picking up again for the third. We took a brief splash in the third race, just to perk ourselves up (ha!), and by the end of the race we were both quite chilly (as in, I was blue and my hands were numb – which was a bonus, as it meant I couldn’t feel the rope burns that were bleeding into my gloves).
I loved the course at Northampton. We did a a figure of eight course, and it gave us a really good selection of upwind, downwind, and a decent amount of reaching. The course remained the same throughout the weekend, which allowed me to really get to grips with what we were doing and why. By the end of the weekend I was comfortable and before each marker would say to George ‘So at this one; shroud on, pole off, jib over and in?’etc. etc.
Hilariously, having been really very unsure about reaching when we were in Salcombe, I now love it, and neither of us can help but let out a yelp of joy when Di takes off like a rocket and we both scramble to the back of the boat. I mean she absolutely flies, and it is an amazing feeling.
Fireworks and chilli
That evening we had a speedy bowl of chilli at the club, and then it was on to the prize giving for that season. George and I were absolutely delighted to be presented with £50 Gul vouchers each, as it was our first Gul event with the National 12s. We’ve decided to treat ourselves to a new thermal top each.
Northampton put on a brilliant firework display and bonfire. We were all asked to bring one firework, which resulted in us all trying to spot our own as they went off. We were certain we saw our Asda one wheeze itself into the air… The bonfire was enormous, and an old canoe or something had even been sacrificed, which warmed us up nicely.
Frozen jib lines
The next day dawned frosty. Scraping the ice off the car at our Airbnb, I wondered if this counted as insanity. Di had a beautiful, even layer of frost over her cover, and on unwrapping her, we found the jib line and mainsheet to be frozen solid! Luckily she thawed speedily in the sunshine.
There were just two races on Sunday. The first started gusty but far less breezy than the previous day, and we crossed the line well. Hiking out hard, George said (as he often does) “we’re doing well here, Kiddo.” We hiked to the first mark, enjoyed a downwind leg to the second, reached up to the third, and…. the mainsheet came untied.
Letting the jib flap, George tried to re-tie it as the rest of the 12s flew past us. It looked like we were going to have to go in. We pottered over to the slipway, and bobbed in the shallows as George did manage to re-tie the mainsheet on.
Then we went and finished the first race. We came last, naturally, but as George explained to me, coming last is far better than not finishing, points-wise.
When the second race came, I will not tell a lie, I was tired. We found that we were strangely slow, having to fight to not slip to the back of the fleet. Was it weed? Was there something wrong? Maybe it was just us.
The race ended and all the boats piled in. We packed Di up just as the rain began to pour down. I was a deep shade of blue so George sent me packing to the welcome of a hot shower. Then we grabbed some lunch, listened to the final prize giving of the season, and pootled on home.
A fantastic weekend, lovely people, and I simply can’t wait to get out sailing with the National 12s again. And the best bit? We came 15th out of 21 boats, which we are happy with, for our first sail with the 12s.