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Sailing Highlights
  • Moonlight Races are tricky
  • Date Published: June 24, 2013

Last night's Moonlight Race.... (as Told by Stephanie J)

Not really a race report. But gives some insight into how we on Steffi have evolved a rock solid training programme for new crew ...

It was wonderful, last night. Good race.
Also tricky.
Why? Well, full moon and full belly should mean everything cool - right?
Well, a whole heap of new people on Steffi.
Never sailed before. Youngsters all of them, guys and gals.
And want to know everything.
Ready for blast up to "F" and back. Full of zip, energy and enthusiasm.
And just look at that moon!

So, once in the boat and going through the usual pre-race stuff, the conversation went something like this...
Remember, we'd all had a few rums.

'So, what's "F"'?

"F"? Well, it's a red flag on a bamboo post way up deh so.
I pointed towards the east end of the harbour, trying to keep it simple.

'Is a big flag on a big post?'
Keep it simple - avoid the temptation to elaborate. The rum nice an sweet.

'Why up there?'
Somehow the rum seemed to make the questions more complicated than they really were.
Well... And this was a tricky one. Best to change the topic.
OK, let's tack - heads down. Watch that boom!

De (quietly): better tell them what the boom is...
De had noticed they were all peering into the darkness above us as if we were drawing their attention to some fast-approaching sonic phenomenon.

'What's "tack"?'
They all looked at me. No sign of a boom...

Um ... Well, we were now half way through the tack to come down towards the start line and they were all about to get swept overboard by the boom.

As a group they all sensed the tone of urgency in my voice and all heads immediately faced skywards again.

De and I sort of fluffed the tack and headed Steffi into the wind with sails flogging.
Hey guys! THIS is the boom. This long thing here. It's not a sound and it's not up there (me pointing at moon). And if this boom thing hits you, it's going to hurt like hell.

Oh, says one guy. I thought that was a tack.
I wasn't sure if it was me - but I didn't feel I was coping very well.
Must be the rum...

No, a tack is a manoeuvre you carry out to change the direction of the boat.
You guys then need to clamber over the other side of the boat - with your rum - while the boom swings across and tries to knock you overboard. It can be tricky Everyone ok with that?
Didn't look like it.

Well, it was the best I could do at the time, but that youthful confidence seemed to have evaporated. Perhaps skipper Ross wasn't really the one to lead them to the promised land after all.

Somehow, we got through that first tack without anyone losing any rum or any crew getting swept into the murk.

"So if "F" is up there" - he pointed in the opposite direction to the one we were now heading - "why are we going this way?"

I've often asked myself the same question.
Sailing can be quite tricky...
Well, we haven't started the race yet, and first we need to find "I".

"I"??? What's "I"?
You're probably getting an idea of how this was going...

"I"....  Well.. (where's my rum?) it's a red flag on a bamboo post just over deh so!
No-one could see a thing, but they all stood up and peered into Kingston Harbour on starboard side... Just as we swept past it on port!

There's "I", I shouted. It seemed hard to accept that "I" was in exactly the opposite side to the one they were looking and, of course, before they had time to clamber over and peer towards the new "I", it was gone, captured once again by the darkness and by the other boats swirling around in a melee.

'Does "I" move'?
Of course it does. Especially after a few rums. Everyone knows that...

No, I say.
That would just be too tricky.

But "I" was slipping away quickly.
Quick, let's tack!
Watch that BOOM!

Well, that was really impressive.
Everyone just hit the deck flat, and stayed there, each grimly clasping their own rum. This was going to take time. Sailing should be more relaxing.

'Have we started yet?'
It sounded like one of those questions the kids ask every two seconds when you've just started a three-day car treck to the south of France.

Er, no.
I was still worried about "I".
Has anyone heard the gun?

'Gun'?? They looked alarmed...
This Moonlight race thing wasn't what they thought it was going to be.

Starter gun... well, horn. 'Arn...

At that very moment, the doleful sound of the groaning goat carried mournfully across the water.

'What the hell was that?'
That was the starter gun - 'arn.

Everyone turned and stared at me, and I got the impression - again - that I wasn't coping very well. That somehow, things seemed to be beyond my control.

We hadn't even started yet, and you could see some nervousness creeping in.
We couldn't even seem to find the start line, let alone get across it.
And that dying goat...
Their faces told me everything.
What the hell was going to happen up at "F"... If we ever got there!
And then, we still had to get back.

This sailing thing is tricky!

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