41st Bloody Mary 2014

The 41st Bloody Mary, would you be better off just having the drink?

Being a fairly typical sailor of no obvious talent I’m as adept as anyone at cobbling a story together about boats and/or sailing and/or boat tech to sound important in the bar.  I do this by using facts that I have overheard and no-doubt miss-interpreted over the years.  I find this also helps feed the monster within me that still believes, against all evidence to the contrary, that I could one day win a sailing race.  However, for once I thought I’d start with a bit of genuine fact so I did some research as to the true purpose of a Bloody Mary.  Thanks to Google I quickly found out that Wikipedia has a view:

“In the United States, the Bloody Mary is a common “Hair of the dog” drink, erroneously reputed to cure hangovers

Armed with this fact I decided to test out if the 41st Bloody Mary would be able to compete with a spicy tomato juice and vodka, which I have found does little to cure a hangover over the years.  To ensure this was given a fair test I willingly threw my body on the sword of the modern day middle class (professional) mans downfall, the Friday night binge drink.  Personally, I find 7pm at the door of a comedy club  a good place to start and www.piccadillycomedy.co.uk obliged me well.  Multiple Pints of Lager, a few Rum and Cokes and some shots later I was dozing peacefully on the night bus back to my digs in West London safe in the knowledge that my preparation was going well.

As usual in the morning before going sailing with other moth sailors someone text me to say they didn’t think there was enough wind.  I awoke to this, and a blinding headache, at 8.30am, told the moth sailor in question to ignore the forecast, lest be a loser, and hit the snooze button.  Well, I thought I hit the snooze button, clearly I hadn’t set my alarm at all and woke up at 11.26.  fortunately I knew I wasn’t due to start racing till sometime in the evening so I had a few slices of toast and a pint of coffee and left for Queen Mary.  Entering on-line the day before certainly has its benefits.

I arrived at the club around midday and was surprised to find the “Car park full” sign at the gate.  Surely the posterboy for the moth vs topper battle could have his own space right at the base of the steps?  Apparently not.  Fortunately someone else who had a space on the road right by gate was just driving off, probably a 14 sailor who had left his boom on the south coast again, so I nipped in and began the stroll to my boat.  I noticed a few barges with colourful sails on the course all-ready.  For some reason a few people asked me with a strange tone of surprise if I was sailing.  Weirdos.

By the time I’d put the rig up I had about 1 hour to the start so I grabbed a coffee and a flapjack as I find it’s good to eat properly before a race.  I seem to remember them telling me that at those horrible winter training sessions way back when.  Good to see I learnt something from those.  Some “keeno” mothies were already changed and launching which was a bit odd.  I quickly realised that this was all part of their important pre-race warm up.  To be fair it is sensible to make sure the boat is ready to race and one probably should conduct a full test on the structural rigidity of a moth when sailed into a mooring buoy at over 20 knots before every race.  Maybe if I’d been to the Olympics I’d know this kind of thing? After that I changed, launched and carefully sailed out to the start line avoid all the barges that were making their way around the course.

The start of the Bloody Mary always requires some thought when sailing a moth.  Firstly you have to psyche yourself up as you are about to do something similar to racing a formula 1 car around a go kart track currently holding the national tractor racing champs.  Secondly this one presented a strong port bias but you had to do 2 tacks if you fell for that so most of the boats went for a pin end on starboard approach.  However, not long after the start you then had to tack in a marginal breeze so the good people tacked on the foils and sailed off to the mark.  The rest of us plonked the boats down and then had a continual marginal battle to get round the first couple of marks.  Having started near last I got to the first mark and could see a 2 boats tearing off down the run on the foils.  This turned out to be Jason Belben and Dan Vincent.  The rest of the fleet were low riding back and forth at right angles to the wind trying to find some breeze to get foiling.  I decided to sail around the course instead and quickly took 4th place by pointing at the next mark.  After a couple of minutes I grabbed a gust and popped up to the foils.  I didn’t see any other moths as I managed to foil down to the bottom of the run, gybe and then just stay on the foils out to the end of the spit, passing all the water pushers to windward.  I think I played the kicker more than the main in an attempt to keep out the water.  Out there though I found two moths low riding, despite writing the foil gybe guide Dan V had dropped off the foils in the gybe and he must have spooked Ed Chapman as he went the whole hog in the gybe and capsized.  I managed to remember Dan’s key words of wisdom and slammed in the light wind gybe with just enough pace to keep it up and foiled straight back along the spit, again staying to windward of the canal boats and gin palaces.  I briefly spotted Jason coming in on the opposite tack to go around the next mark so I guess he got headed on his way back along the spit.

Unlike Jason I didn’t manage to stay on the foils down the run and was up and down like the general re-call flag at an oppie event.  At the bottom of the run I saw Rob Greenhalgh foiling down the run towards me and he sailed straight past me on the reach back out to the far side of the lake.  He did offer some helpful advice though “you need to get on the foils”.  Fortunately the breeze started to build so I then popped up and stayed foiling for the rest of the first lap managing to weave in and out of the water pushers up the beat.  Rob was steadily getting away from me and soon I couldn’t see him in front or anyone behind.  There was a brief moment where I spotted out intrepid class chairman who was punishing himself for being daft enough to move to Cornwall by sailing a Merlin Rocket.  He shouted over “You’re really doing quite well”.  I can’t work out whether that was a veiled insult or a veiled compliment?  Well, he wasn’t winning either!

Things were getting pretty marginal so I had to play it very smooth to stay foiling back to the start of the run where upon I fell off the foils and lots of boats sailed past me again.  Eventually I got some more breeze and after getting back out to the spit I had un-lapped myself of most of the fleet.  At this point I couldn’t even work out what was going on anywhere on the course.  I did have the growing sensation of the need to vomit building though.  Still, I was rejuvenated with the knowledge I had finally un-lapped myself after 1.5 laps of sailing, perhaps I could now start to over take some actual boats?  So, I checked my watch to see how much time I had left and realised I had a whole 2 minutes.  That was just enough time to overtake the leader, well, un-lap myself actually.  In fact I then splashed a tack and he sailed past me again to take the finish gun.  It was some weird boat with a foil that couldn’t fly?  Still, conveniently it meant I was one of the first boats to know I’d finished so I could then turn and race for home.  I won that race and was first boat out the water.  What an achievement!?!  Otherwise I can safely say the race was pretty much a relaxed sail around the edge of a load of slow boats.  It wasn’t really windy enough to make it exhilarating but I did feel pretty clever sailing past everyone several feet up in the air.  A man of my stature doesn’t get that very often.  I still felt bloody hangover though so I can report that the sailing race is about as effective as the drink. 

What happened to the rest of the moth fleet?  Rob told me he overtook Jason near the end of the first lap and managed to make a bit of a dent in the main fleet after he finished un-lapping.  He was going faster than a chicken loose in a Thai market so I’m not surprised.  The guys in the pack of the moth fleet told me there’s was a fair bit of low riding and foiling with several place changes as a result.  As usual the water pushers were doing their best to get in the way, especially when one had just popped up on the foils and needed to find a way to round a mark.  But then that’s part of the fun of this race for a mothie.  Although apparently not for one portly, rocket riding, west country mothie who may have uttered the phrase “out of my way Chicken Chewers” or something similar.  Usually followed by a “Nooooooooooooo” as he popped off the foils.

Hopefully there will be a few of you at the Steve Nicholson.  I will see you all at the Tiger Trophy and almost certainly the Hayling Perisher.  I’d also like to take this opportunity to say that the way things are looking, I am going to win the moth winter series.  Haha.

Neil Baker