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Zhik 2024 February Outlet - LEADERBOARD

Mirror Open at Dorchester Sailing Club

by Burl Solomons 12 Jul 2007 02:39 PDT 7-8 July 2007

The weather was horrible – all week I had been watching the forecasts and all week it was wind, rain and thunderstorms. On Thursday though, there was a glimmer of hope – a couple of good forecasts for the weekend in the South, East and Midlands, and we had promised ourselves we were going to take part in the Mirror open meeting, rain or shine, at Dorchester on Thames near Oxford. On Friday the forecast was better still. Paul Stevenson, who was organising the event, had said we could camp at the club, which has a few mains hookups to make life easier. We have an old VW camper, which is perfect for events like this, and I spent the day cleaning, packing and filling the tanks, and checking over the boat to make sure all was packed and in order.

Joel arrived home from school, had a quick snack, changed, and then we were off. I avoided the M25, and luckily so, as we later heard on the traffic news that there was a massive tailback from the M11 to the M3! We went cross country, and arrived at the club at 6ish, to find Paul waiting for us with a welcome cup of tea. I stuck a ready meal in the oven, while we pulled the boat off the trailer and uncovered it, rigged the mast, and put the boom up cover on. This done, we had a chance to relax while we had dinner by the beautiful lakeside, watching the sun slowly set, the coots with their chicks, and the geese grazing up and down the lawn. I made Joel do a some of his homework, as we were likely to be a bit busy for the next couple of days...

I had been warned about the geese waking people up at dawn (about 4:00am) but such warnings proved unfounded – maybe they are more audible through the canvas of a tent, but I woke at 6, and had to pull Joel out of his sleeping bag at 7:30. He didn't even hear me boil the kettle or put on BBC breakfast TV! We finished off rigging the boat, and opened the gates at 8:00 as requested so any early travellers could arrive unhindered. Shortly after this, the activity began – club staff started arriving, Paul's family got stuck in in the kitchen, and the safety boat was dragged out.

Hector Cisneros, our coach for the day, arrived with his 10 year old son Ben. For those who don't know, Hector and Ben are the current European champions in the Mirror, and what they DON'T know about sailing could be written on the back of a postage stamp. If you have a youngster you are wondering about teaching to sail, take a leaf out of their book, buy an old Mirror Dinghy and go for it!! It was unfortunate for anyone who didn't turn up on the day to miss out on the fantastic opportunity we were all given to improve our knowledge and skills. The first morning session concentrated on boat tuning, how to get the very best out of an older Mirror, cutting stitching apart to make old sails work better (freeing off shrunken rope) sheeting angles on the jib, best set-ups for a variety of conditions, and some spinnaker gybing technique. Joel got a little bored after an hour or so, but kept himself occupied with Ben stirring up the numerous small ants nests along the edge of the dinghy park! Everyone learned a lot about Mirror rigging in general, and their boat's specific setup, and of course we can now help other club members with theirs, so everyone benefits from these training sessions.

Next we headed out on to the water for some start practice, which it was apparent very quickly we all needed. Hector wouldn't let us all go on to race until he was sure we had all made a decent start, so we were called back for about 7 or 8 starts to each mini race. Again, we improved drastically throughout the morning, and Joel and I started to pick up on the unique wind conditions that lake sailing always seems to give you.

Lunch was prepared by Paul's wife and daughter, and was a lovely cooked meal of either vegetarian chilli or sausages, with plenty of cakes and cold drinks for the little ones, and cakes and tea for the older ones!

We were soon back on the water for more of the race start training, and Hector had us all pushed right up to the line by the end of the day – a massive improvement in both the setup of our boats and our handling of them. The boats put away, tea was served, with lots of Scotch pancakes that Joel ate too many of and spoiled his dinner! We sat down to chat about various events and locations til well after 6.00. Gradually the club members who had been manning the safety boat or setting up their boats for the next day drifted home, and just the two of us were left on the small camping field next to the clubhouse. Joel and I had a shower, inspected bruised and aching legs and set about a late dinner, again watching the beautiful evening sun setting behind us and lighting the whole lake with its warm glow.

The Sunday dawned with a more businesslike feel, but less wind. A few more boats and their crews arrived who had missed the coaching. MCA secretary Simon Lovesey turned up with a GRP Mirror and his sons' boat on a double trailer, and Hugo Sloper and Aidan McCarthy rounded out the 4 visiting boats, which of course included ourselves.

The first race was at 11:00, which gave everyone plenty of time to get their boats ready and drink lots of tea/squash/water etc and eat a lot of the cakes and biscuits that were laid on before the start. Luckily the lake wasn't busy, and the start line was only 50 yards from the bank we were launching off, so boats were taking to the water at the very last minute, including us in a bit of a panic!! In the first race we managed to get off the line last, and had a slight entanglement with a mark early on, resulting in things looking very disappointing, but we made a lot of ground on a couple of the wild windshifts and other tricky conditions that the lake has up its sleeves, managed to get the spinnaker sheeting properly worked out on the last leg, and raced a valiant Paul and Richard Stevenson neck and neck to the finish, just getting across ahead of them for second last place. The leaders had their own race to worry about, but they were so far ahead I didn't see who won!

Once ashore, it was time for lunch, which was more of the lovely veggie chilli from the day before, and a variety of sandwiches, all laid on by the club again. The chilli must have been really good, because Joel had it a second time, and he can be a real fusspot when it comes to vegetables.

Shortly after lunch and a quick toilet stop, the racing was on again. This time the course was simplified to a rough figure of 8, giving us a better chance to use the kite and put into practice what we had learned the day before. We had a good start, but disaster struck on the first windward leg when we became sandwiched in between 2 boats and the wind dropped right off. Unable to manoeuvre, we touched Hugo and Aidan, and had to do a 720 with no wind to push us round. The others had all slipped away and we were playing catchup again, but every time we got onto the long reach the wind seemed to drop right off, and we lost any advantage we would have had by flying the spinnaker, though we were getting much better at hoisting and dropping it quickly – practice makes perfect!! We were quite disappointed with our last place, and came ashore for a very quick snack, only to find the next race starting in 15 mins!!.

Just time to have a bite, and no time to think about licking our wounds before we were back on the water and looking for position on the start line again. The other boats were all on the shore end of the line and VERY close together with less than 30 seconds to go, and the wind was fairly steady and strong, so I risked a start from the bad end. For some reason it paid off, there was a lot of fuss at the other end of the line with Hugo and Aiden getting squeezed out and having to come round the line again. We were well clear of the resulting confusion, and got away well. Saturday's start practice was starting to pay off - by the first mark I was in the lead, with James and Tom Lovesey in one boat, and their dad Simon single handed in another gaining on me all the time. The three of us pulled away from the rest of the boats, but try as Joel and I might to keep ahead, the 2 lots of Loveseys caught and passed us. The wind shifting and dropping all the time didn't help, and none of us could keep our kites filled on the reach, so eventually we gave up and didn't bother, as they were probably slowing us down more than anything, but at the end of the day it's obvious that Joel and I need a lot more practice. However, the good start held us close to the leaders, and we finished higher in the last race than in the first.

Everyone hauled their boats up to the hard, took the sails down and started packing away. We were then summoned in for a lovely tea of flapjacks, cakes and large amounts of tea and squash before the presentation. The 1st place winners were James and Tom Lovesey, and Hugo Sloper and Aidan McCarthy made 2nd place, and are looking good for a series win if they do well in Chichester in September. Imagine our surprise when we found out we had come in equal third place overall with Paul and Richard Stevenson for the meeting. The OOD collated the times and we had completed the races 40 seconds faster than the Stevensons, so were awarded 3rd place trophies, much to our delight. It just remained to eat all the rest of the lovely cakes, and go and pack up the boat and tidy all the mess that we had made in the camper, before going home. As I write this the following day, I ache all over, which has underlined the need for a little more fitness work!

It is such a shame there weren't a few more boats, especially on the training day. A lot of hard work had obviously gone into preparing the weekend, and if you are worried about sailing with little ones, or whether you are good enough to race, you shouldn't be. Joel is only 8, and this is his first season ever sailing, but he loves it, and keeps begging to go out every weekend we can. Simon Lovesey asked if we would come to the Nationals, and Joel was hopping up and down with excitement at the thought of going. Now all I have t do is to convince my wife!! There are always plenty of people on hand to help, lots of other children and parents around, and the atmosphere is always very friendly and good natured. Next time you are wondering whether or not to go to an open meeting, just give it a try – you'll have a great time, whether you come first or last.

The club members helped to the very end, lifting boats onto trailers and checking lighting boards. Dorchester SC is a lovely friendly sailing club, and they ran the meeting impeccably, with good race management and support, excellent food, good facilities (nice hot showers), and a lovely, if quite challenging location to sail. We very much look forward to coming again next year.

Burl and Joel Solomons, Mirror 70037 Alibaba.

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