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October 22nd Wow what an experience!

Nick and I have spent the weekend up at Queen Mary yacht club at the RYA J80 Match racing event. As I expected, it was just about the most challenging and difficult thing I have ever done. Constant boat on boat contact from the moment you enter the zone, high winds, spinnakers and five hours of seven back to back races. The results didn’t reflect the exhilaration, boat on boat contact and shear fun we all had. By the end of the day, none of us could move due to pain and fatigue, but we had the largest grins ever across our faces. The buzz was fantastic the experience and learning amazing.

 I knew I would always have regretted not helming, taking the safe course and main sheeting, stepping aside for a sighted helm.  It was a hard decision, full credit to Ian Mills and Chris Coulcher for supporting Nick and I  with this choice. We did prove that a partially sighted tactician and a blind helm can with the right training and experience, cope in main stream match racing. Though I would endorse our earlier thoughts that there are less challenging competitions through which to do this.

 I was worried because I knew we were under trained as a team. it would also be very different from Blind match racing, not just because there would be no sound buoys, but I knew there would be a difference in how the competition was structure, and the other sailors would all be experienced battle tested pros. All good teams many excellent  teams.

 We hadn’t had a chance to race together. None of us had raced or sailed a J80.  Nick and I had never matched raced with spinnakers only the Blind Sailing Gibb and main.  Though was used to mainstream racing with spinnakers I had rarely helmed to a kite.

 The moment you entered the box at four minutes to the start, it is constant boat on boat manoeuvring and contact. Constant circling, luffing, holding station dial ups.

 Apparently during our race against our American cousins, Chris thought he was on a Harry Potter set, “the skipper was waving the protest flag  like a wand, continually up and down “The result was constant whistling from the umpire boat, no penalties.

 All boats were racing dead downwind on the leeward legs, this was easy for me but a lot more stressful when you know you have  a bow man at risk if you don’t get it right. Someone did end up in the water, don’t get excited it wasn’t our boat, we think the French. Though it might be an idea to add as an exercise during our training weekend, scooping team members out of the water. They did it so quickly.

 Between a boat and a hard place. I must admit to a brief moment of concern during the pre start on one race when we were squeezed up by the other boat. I seem to be surrounded by the sound of crunching and the feel of very hard substances. In a two boat race how did they manage to hit us on port and starboard almost simultaneously? They didn’t, but what they had done was make the mistake of luffing us up into the committee boat at a point in the race when it was a keep clear obstacle n much crunching for us and a penalty for them.

 When speeding back in on the rib an observer asked Nick and I if we were an item “Oh god no” exclaimed a startled Nick “sailing with her is far worse than being married!”

 So what was Zeke up to during this? We left Zeke for the weekend back in Brixham staying with Thorpie skipper of Fire fox the boat I race on in Torbay. Fire fox is now out of the water and in the yacht club compound.  We received a text Saturday night,  “You have to talk to your dog.  He is meant to be helping me with Firefox, not giving my tools to anyone walking by who says hello to him.  More training required. Thorpie ”

 So what does the future hold? A large glass of white wine.  A full nights undisturbed sleep. Massive reduction in my stress levels. Some great ideas for training and some newly identified training needs. Nick and I would very much like to pass on our Thanks to; Ian Mills and Chris Coucher are extremely brave team members, Queen Mary yacht club, RYA and the royal Thames boats.

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