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Bojangles goes to Yorkshire

At last – another day out for Bojangles, the International Contender. It’s been a long wait since our epic windy Nationals at Hayling Island in September.

I’ve been doing a lot of practicing out on the Dee estuary since then; mainly scaring seals with my super-pointy surfing nose, which always gets them when they’re dozing with their equally pointy snouts facing skywards and not paying attention. It’s been quite windy lately, so Owner has been working on her downwind trapezing skills, her wire to wire tacking and staying upright. So, we were all set for the Northern Champs at Yorkshire Dales.

We travelled North on the Friday through some dreadful grizzly rain. By the time we got there, my underpants were full and, because Owner had failed to put a top cover on me, my hull was full of leaves and remnants of roadkill which had been flung in on the way. Our welcome party on the long climb up to the reservoir consisted of sheep, a never-ending fence line of perched pheasants and more sheep. The water level was alarmingly low and the fog and drizzle hung on the mountain moorlands in a forlorn and eerie way. I was unloaded, the garbage was quickly scraped out of my cockpit and I had a half-hearted sponge down before Owner retired to the pub for a beer and chinwag with her fellow Contender Owners. 

The morning dawned rather chilly and the wind appeared in random streaks, crossing the narrowest part of the reservoir. It meant that the Race Officer had to produce a fairly inventive course, which involved more club buoys than Owner had frozen fingers on two hands. 

We flipped and flopped our way up the first beat to try to round a mark which was conveniently placed beneath a mountain. The wind channeled around it in various directions making trapezing fairly tricky and unpredictable. I tried my best to stay flat for Owner and she tried her best to be mobile and reactive, but we did have some wobbly moments. This wasn’t what we’d practiced for and there wasn’t a seal in sight for advice or target practice. We battled on. The first part of the course was a square of various running and reaching things, depending on what the wind was doing at the time. There followed a two sided triangle down the length of the reservoir, the first part of which was a fetch, reach or beat, or sometimes all three. Then a runny thing and another beat, which was either a straight line to the mark, a doldrum or a heading lifter. I was very confused by now and a little seasick, though there was no sea and the water was an ochreous brown. I was a very happy Bojangles by the time the whistle blew at the end of the race.

After the start of the second race I decided that our performance would be improved if Owner finished the leaf and vermin cleaning operation from the day before, so I dropped her in the water for a while so she could get the job finished. Talk of ungrateful. She’d even put together a righting line after the Nationals so she could get me up quicker. I counter-protested and exploded my mainsheet up the next beat, leaving Owner to try to control my crazy dance moves with a thin strand of inner core, connected to two large blue furry pompoms which refused to co-operate with the pulley blocks in any way. It was game over and we retired gracefully. Luckily a kind and friendly local sailor was also just coming ashore and offered me her own mainsheet for the rest of the weekend. I was overjoyed as it was black with Dyneeeeeema, so matching my ultra cool and manly image.

I was rapidly re-assembled and shot off for the third race. I took a flighty, super-bendy puffy sprint up the left side of the course, flipped the black dyneema over to my other side and rounded the windward mark in second place. There I stayed until the final beat, where I was pipped into third by a boat which undoubtedly was dressed in black dyneema overall and probably had a matching cover in the car park.

I strutted home with my mainsheet trailing in the water a bit, just to show everyone what kind of gear a third place boat wears these days.

Day Two dawned and there was frost on my cover. I would have called boatline if Owner had given me a mobile phone or if I had any digits to operate it with. There I was, no duvet or tent, left on the side of a mountain overnight. And expected to be a top performing athlete during the day. There was no wind, so after a brief postponement, we got under way. We had a good start and weaseled our way from shift to shift up the first beat, rounding third. It was an exciting line up of close racing on the final run. I went wide and picked up a friendly gust which kept me ahead to keep my third place again.

By the fifth race, the wind had increased and there was now a bit of capsizing going on. I behaved very well but had a crazy moment downwind when one huge gust hit us. Owner did a counter-balancing freaky metronome impersonation and sent a message down to the engine room requesting a cancellation on the gybe she’d just ordered. A lot of brown water flew around us, camouflaged by the ochreous lake colour. Once I’d got my boom back under control, we did do some gybing and finished the race in 4th place.

The wind button was then cranked forward to 26 knots and many of the boats retired for the final race. Owner was still smiling so we had to continue. We got off to a sad start because the wind headed and didn’t allow us through the pin, so we had to duck, dive and re-start. We had a good race and survived the numerous gybes finishing 5th. This gave us 5th place overall. I was all up for another race, so I took Owner ashore and deposited her in the water 20 meters off the beach. As I was making my getaway, the rescue boat came over to block my exit, so I called it quits, scooping my bedraggled woman back on board and joined my friends on the beach. 

Next up is the Inlands at Rutland in two weeks’ time, so it’s back to the seals and the practicing.

Until next time, toodles, Bojangles

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