Sailing at Babbacombe is always interesting. Babbacombe Bay sits in the lee of prevailing south westerlies. Sometimes you’re sitting in glass and you’re looking at a wall of wind all around you. With your asymmetric spinnaker up you certainly have to have your wits about you.
Babbacombe Corinthian Sailing Club has taught many a great sailor. I'm sure the radical gusts have had something to do with that. Whilst learning to helm my Lark there, the club sent me off to Mount Batton Centre in Plymouth, to take a RYA Dinghy Instructors Course. On our first day of training I had to helm a Laser 2000 in 15knots of breeze. After sailing around the track the instructor said I did some really, really good stuff, and some really, really bad stuff! When I asked him later what the bad stuff was, he replied that holding the mainsheet between your teeth whilst sheeting in wasn’t in the RYA syllabus!
The course was tough as it was always very windy and everyday you were in a different boat. I managed to get the bow of a Laser Pico pointing skyward on the second day and I still don't know how I did it!
Babbacombe Corinthian Sailing Club is a proper sailing club. Its members are from all walks of life and the club is situated right in the heart of a thriving community. Babbacombe Regatta is one of my favourite regattas.
Along with white knuckle sailing on fast sports boats and dinghies, I wished to gain as much sailing experience as possible, so over the years I have tried to sail on as many different types of boats as possible. A bit extreme at times. Tuesday nights I was at Babbacombe, Wednesdays at Torquay, Thursdays at Brixham Yacht Club, and Sundays back at Torquay. I remember arriving at Brixham after a full day’s work at Bay Rigging thinking, 'What am I doing here?, I'm knackered’! Such misgivings were soon forgotten when holding onto the mainsheet of a Sigma38 in 20knots, and the sausages and mash and a pint at the club made it all worthwhile.
My first big boat stuff was thanks to Mary Sturges, who owned a Maxi 909. She took me under her wing and taught me loads. My first summer regattas were with Mary, ten days of sailing bliss. I learned to put the sheets the right way round the winch, and I battled with a symmetrical spinnaker pole for the first time. Then there were night sails, navigation, the rules of the road and, of course, let’s not forget sailing etiquette! Mary liked the finer things of life, Pimms at six and sitting under the Red Arrows on Mary's trot at Dartmouth Regatta was a memorable night.
Later Mary bought a J105 and I sailed the round-the-island race. I also help her deliver a X33 a couple of times to the Solent. I later embarked on a shore based RYA Yacht Masters course which Mary helped me get through. Thanks Mary.
My Sigma38 time was with 'Sigmania' and owner Richard Cox. To sail the Fastnet, the crew has to sail some considerable sea miles together, including night passages. Whist sailing our sea miles together, we were lucky to get to sail a local event - the Offshore Week - which sails you to Guernsey, Jersey, and through various ports, marina hopping along the coast of France. Racing from port to port followed by some local cuisine and local tipples. And then you get to race back. Ideal!
I think the start of the Fastnet was the highlight. Zillions of yachts buzzing around in the Solent. Quite tricky and quite a sight! The four hours on and four off was tricky to get used to though. I think the 3am shift was the worst. Even on a late night that's well into my sleep time. We had good winds beating up to the Rock, and a lumpy running sea on the way home, but generally the winds were quite light.
The 2005 Fastnet was great and thank you Richard for that.
A few years ago I got a call from Garry Pharre. “Hi, I've just bought a B14, would you like to pick it up with me and go for a sail?” asks Garry” Yes, I said. So off we went to Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy. Turns out they’re holding a B14 sailing event and that Garry has entered. OK. I'll have a go!
Wind speed 35knots. Garry are you up for this? “Yeh, we'll be all-right” - other B14 sailors looking on and asking, “Have you sailed a B14 before?” So on we get and off we go.
We started the race, but couldn't seem to get the thing going to windward. That was partly my fault as I couldn’t see anything! It was a bit like being in a washing machine! The wings kept digging in, and the more we bore away to get on the plane, the worse it got. Of course the other problem with the B14 is if your over- healed in big winds, the wind gets under the wings and sends the boat skyward like a rocket - and both me and Garry off the back! We eventually got to the windward mark after maybe five or more capsizes (I can’t remember how many times!)!
After the windward mark, we managed to bear away and we settled and I put the kite up. That's a big kite! It didn’t stay up for long as we had to change direction and gybe. After we swam back to the boat and got the kite in, we decided to stay under whites.
Reach swim, reach swim, reach swim. Garry can we go in now please?
The next day was a perfect breeze for a sail but neither Garry nor was up to it. I couldn’t walk, let alone sail!
My Story (part 3)