A useful morning was spent yesterday down at a freezing dinghy park with the boy wonder applying a couple of impulse purchases from my favourite chandlery website. I mean how am I supposed to resist when they list a Laser traveller (essentially a piece of string) as ‘the ultimate’ Laser traveller. Not just any old ordinary Laser traveller you understand – the ‘ultimate’ – and sure enough, as a marketing man’s dream customer, the credit card is tapped in, the Black Friday discount applied and a 7am wake up call on a Sunday of all days is dialled in with more excitement than a kid at Christmas.
My goodness it was cold. The sort of cold that freezes dangling parts of brass monkeys and there were clues all around us. Thick films of ice had formed on the RS Tera covers and those temporarily abandoned summer boats whose covers have seen better days. The dog was even shaking.
Now I like sailing. I like it a lot. But there comes a moment where choice enters the equation. I never had to choose when I was young and relevant – in fact breaking the ice on the Lymington River or that Bloody Mary in about 1987 where icicles froze the kicker hard on and every time I tacked a sheet of fresh-water ice fell off my lifejacket, were magical, memorable times, but the remnants of Storm Arwen and a persistent arctic northerly were the cue to just spend the morning fiddling. We achieved a little that we’ll say and claim was a lot. A good waste of an hour or two. Love sailing, but probably love boat bimbling just as much. I’m sure you’re the same.
But there on the beach in a howling, bitter gale, putting us all to shame were some hardy, brave, committed souls rigging up Lasers and Aeros to blow away the Covid blues of the working week. The fast Shadow catamarans were already out there flying around begging for a starting hooter. It was a good scene. No, it was a great scene. I wish I had gone. And at lunchtime up at the Royal Solent Yacht Club, one of the nicest clubs on the Isle of Wight, I was reminded that the Lymington and Keyhaven dinghy sailors had all been out that morning too. The Solent was alive with morning dinghies. I maintain that winter dinghy sailing is 99% mental and 1% clothing. I should have gone.
Hey-ho. I didn’t, but it was a great weekend nonetheless as I celebrated what the Romans would call a quinqaginta anniversary. 50 years on planet earth. It’s building up into quite an innings, a few missed catches at slip, the odd boundary, no sixes to report, a few run ins, some very close run outs, a few steps outside of the crease, a lot of sledging from the wicket-keeper, a parried googly (we don’t talk about that) and some noteworthy cover drives to silly mid-on. Importantly though, still not out and batting on regardless into the early evening before sunset.
The good news is that the deep freezer switch is flicked off later this week and the heady heights of 10 degrees are forecast. That’s enough to rip the covers off and head to the horizon. The wetsuit works in those temperatures but more importantly so do the muscles.
Meanwhile, the good sailors are filling our Instagram timelines with reels of winter training camps in sunnier climes, leaving the rest of us questioning our life choices. It’s fascinating to follow the Olympic and Grand Prix athletes as they trot around the globe from venue to venue, hotel room to couch at a mate’s house, camper van to motel. It’s what you should do in your 20’s and 30’s. Sailing’s travelling hobo circuit is as good as anything the 1960’s could offer – tune in, turn up, go sailing. A useful way to spend your youth.
And what’s this? Outeridge, Jensen and Slingsby all sailing together down in Australia in what looks like a small skiff…and Outeridge steering, the rest on the wire. That’s a portent.
Australia’s where it’s at right now and all the big guns are in town ahead of the SailGP in a couple of weeks doing their thing, having a lot of fun and enjoying the antipodean summer. The 18ft skiffs were flying around Sydney Harbour in challenging big breezes and wow what a sight they still are.
Remember when the skiffs were something that were the absolute dinghy pinnacle back in the day? They lived only in the winter pages of Seahorse and Yachts & Yachting but we all ogled them in disbelief. I still do. And they still cut it today. There’s some super shots and videos coming back of these monstrously overpowered flying machines blasting around the Harbour having an absolute ball at the New South Wales Alice Burton Memorial Trophy regatta series.
Fabulous to see and very much whetting the northern hemisphere’s appetite, reminding us to get out there come rain or shine, snow or ice, wind or high water.
And the news that the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race is scheduled and very much on is just terrific. I hope it gets away. Omicron be damned. Offshore racing is the ultimate social distance sport. I hope and pray it gets away on Boxing Day. We need that race to sign off the 2021 yachting calendar in style.
Fingers crossed. We’re all bored of Covid.