Sometimes I want to just sit and weep I'm in so far over my head. This week I bought a rivet gun, my childhood ballet lessons didn't prepare me for this.
My son George is marching forward with his Laser sailing. He comes alive on the water and has drive and determination that I can only marvel at. I am doing my best to support him. It's not easy.
Every time I master a hurdle, he progresses again, leaving me stood still. The majority of his training has moved down to Weymouth which has involved decamping there weekend after weekend. I can now handle the trailer without crying, only to discover there is a whole world of things I don't know.
A couple of weeks ago, it was too foggy to sail, so the coaches decided it would be advantageous to have a once over of the boats. My heart leapt. Someone was going to help me. I would have to face the embarrassment of a very unprepared boat but I was not going to turn down this help. Many parts of the boat were worn and the outhaul and downhaul required a rerig. The coach was brilliant and I spent the morning running merrily between the boat park and the chandlery, leaching more money every time I went.
Once in the hands of an expert, it is amazing how I find I immediately turn into a toddler, unable to complete the most basic of tasks. "Can you cut this line?". "Well I'm not entirely sure I can without stabbing you in the process". I replied. My car had run out of screen wash and whilst we were out in the boat park and I was being a spectacular loose part, I thought it would be a brilliant time to fill it and hopefully to stop looking stupid.
I opened the driver door, after a considerable amount of time searching , I could not find the handle to open the bonnet. I was clearly still in toddler mode. I had to call on fellow parents to help me put screenwash in my car. Things had hit a pretty much all time low at this point.
The kindness of strangers quite overwhelms me. I turn and one man is fixing my boat, whilst one is filling my car with screenwash and another is lending me a screwdriver for the 4th time and not forgetting the young man who yet again lent me the trolley wheels. I could weep. I am so out of my depth.
This week was the European qualifiers which sports the best field with World Champions and Olympians racing alongside my son. He has an older boat, I can't afford a new one yet, so I try to do the best with improvements. I noticed his back block on his boom was hanging off so my father marched me up to B and Q to buy a rivet gun as I was clearly going to need it. (My poor mother, how she would love to take me to have my nails done and buy me some nice shoes. Both totally pointless.) I also ordered new sail numbers for his racing sail as I had bought a 2nd hand one.
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday came. No sail numbers appeared. A frantic Facebook plea and John from Laser managed to get some sent down to Weymouth. All I had to do was find Emma with the silver van.
We nervously set off. I didn't sleep that night for fear of not locating the sail numbers and had visions of trying to put them on as the boats were launching.
The next morning, the Academy was buzzing, Lasers and people as far as the eye could see. Vehicles had been banned from entering so my chances of finding the silver van were pretty remote. I made my confession at the registration desk. They were kind. All I had to do was fill out a form that would be signed off by the race committee, I could keep the wrong sail numbers and all would be well. That is providing no-one else had the same numbers. What are the chances of that? Laser numbers are 6 digits long. So very remote.
That is unless you happen to have purchased the sail from the World Champion who was also competing. Bugger. You couldn't have written it, of all the sail numbers. Further forms and an agreement was made that I could pull off 1 number leaving him with 5 numbers.
I was helping out on the committee boat, so I had to leave George alone and prayed there would be no more hiccups. As he was launching and just seconds off leaping in his boat, he heard an announcement over the tannoy. " Would the owner of the Black Volvo....." I was already in the water, so he dragged his boat back up the slipway ran to the trailer grabbed the car keys and ran outside to the external car park (All cars were banned) to find the hazard warning lights flashing. Being only 14, he had no idea how to turn them off and had to ask bystanders what to do. Marvellous start Jane. Whilst the others were making their way to the start line, my son was standing in the car park turning off the hazard lights that I knocked earlier in my nervous dash to see the race officials.
He launched, set off, only to be stopped en route to the start boat by the jury boat and questioned as to why he only had 5 sail numbers.
That Kid has nerves of steel, how he didn't crumple I have no idea. He made the start line, sailed his heart out and exceeded all expectations.
I drove home and went to bed with my copy of Ben Ainslie's Laser sailing.
As I slammed my front door this morning I reached for my keys from my bag only to discover a clew strap in my hand. The boys looked at me and shrugged. Sailing has infiltrated my life so much that that seemed quite a normal thing for their mother to be stood holding on a Monday morning en route to school.
After a wonderful Autumn's sailing having not laid up the boats, my eldest decided to ramp his sailing up further. This has involved long dark trips to Weymouth in amongst the Tera Squad weekend to Hayling for the other 2. I did hit the point where my family nearly received their presents from the Chandlery at Weymouth. What my 95 year old grandmother would think of that I really don't know and quite frankly didn't care.
I've really had to learn and man up fast. Tying boats onto trailers has never been my forte. So when faced with the prospect one dark Sunday evening with nearly 200 miles ahead of me, I wanted to lay on the floor and weep. George was in his final debrief and it was pitch black and getting later and later. Ed had taken photos for me to follow, where to attach the straps etc. My own little personal instruction manual. I couldn't get my straps to look like those in the photos. To add insult to injury, the wind was whipping through my hair fresh from the Ocean behind me. Never more had I wanted to throw my phone across the floor and scream. Stupid. Stupid boat. If I could have abandoned it then and there I would have done.
Time for one thing only. Time to put my big girls pants on. I threw the straps over, ignored the wind and secured the them. The straps felt tight and George and I set off for home.
We made approximately 1 mile, the length of the causeway before it was apparent the boat was falling off the trailer, we pulled over in a relatively deserted car park and started again. George leapt into action and I took a brief look at my surroundings. We were not alone in the car park, there were several cars parked up with inhabitants inside. Good job we were inconspicuous then. One gave me a reassuring nod as I stood lit up like a beacon from the street lamp and I bowed my head.
We stopped a further 4 times to check the boat, I think George was close to losing it with me, having checked with Ed, Dad and Rich that it wasn't going to fall off, a rota of calling me followed. Once one had called to jolly me on, the next immediately called. So much for my big girls pants. This lasted for the next 5 hours til I rolled onto the drive in an exhausted heap.
As with all things, each weekend I went, it got better, my nerves subsided and I began to enjoy my time. I drove over 1000 miles in December. George had some cracking sailing, even winning the final racing. I took time to embrace Chesil beach, touched it's smooth stones and sucked in the wonderful sea air. I ran along the causeway with the wind in my hair and smiled at the irony of it.
The weather has turned. I know this because tonight I simply cannot warm up and my hands still hurt. Today was the double handed regatta and I was lucky enough to sail with Rob. Last night was the laying up supper.
The ridiculousness of the statement above was lost on me until I chatted through my weekend plans with Tamsin. "Oh, Laying up supper. What's that?" She questioned. I explained that we celebrated the end of the sailing year with dinner, drinks and a prize giving. I added it was where the boats were laid up and put away for winter. " Sounds lovely" she replied. "What are your plans for Sunday?" Sailing, was my response. "So you are immediately getting out the boats you have put away for winter?". Oh...
So this morning, with fuzzy heads from the previous evenings celebrations, we rigged the not laid up boats. I was to sail with Rob in his National 12 after a drunken conversation the night before. I woke at 4am in the morning in a cold sweat with the memory of such an arrangement and a vague recollection of the first winter storm coming through over night. Could I bail out? What's the protocol here of an arrangement made over a G and T. There was a "get out clause" surely? I shared my thoughts with Ed who told me to stop being ridiculous and promptly rolled over.
After a further 3 hours of fitful sleep, I packed my bag and dragged the boys to the club. It was a cold one. 4 degrees but with the wind chill it felt closer to zero. I don't own a dry suit. I'm a wetsuit sort of girl. I don't know why. Maybe it's my own private "get out clause". I climbed into my wetsuit and we both put on bobble hats set off.
National 12's are fairly tippy boats and constant work so it doesn't take long to work up a sweat. Rob was first to de-hat. After several bobble decapitations with the boom. I swiftly followed. Rob's boat has a lovely bench to slide from slide to side from. Rob was keen to roll tack and gybe we soon found our rhythm. 2 of my sons were also on the water and we had many jolly exchanges on the water.
A slight slip in the second race caused the boat to fill with water and we couldn't get the self bailers to work. We seemed to fill with water faster than it could clear. Despite enjoying pre race tic tacs (2 hours of freshness for just 2 calories) as race fuel, I started to get cold with my hands and feet in the water. We were due a break before the last race so I vowed to bring a bailer back out with me.
In the club kitchen I found a plastic cup and proudly showed Rob. He giggled and gently suggested we might need something a bit more substantial. A pot noodle pot stood on the table. He grabbed it and quickly swilled it out and we ran back to the boat.
The wind dropped and I straddled the boat and began to bail. It was cold, I was grateful for the warming activity. On the start line I announced to anyone close by what scoop I was on. That's 64 to the Enterprise, ooh now 88 to the RS200s. "Please stop begged Rob, you need to start sailing Jane we have 10 seconds before the gun". 100 Pot Noodle scoops and half the race later the bottom of the boat was clear. Stupidly I dropped the pot and had to call rescue to fish it out of the water for us. They threw it back to us with a smile and said we may need it later. Sure enough a few legs later we slipped again and filled the boat again. Another 100 scoops later we were clear.
The racing had been cold but fun. We came 2nd despite my slow bench sliding in roll tacks and Pot Noodle scooping. Rob is an excellent sailor and it was an absolute pleasure to sail with him.
So so are the boats now laid up? Not a chance, we're off to Weymouth next weekend!
It's been a very long hard summer. Our American Adventure was long planned. A mutually agreed holiday away from sailing and work. We wouldn't sail, he wouldn't work. Who would crack first?
When reports came on the BBC of Hurricane Matthew battering the Florida coast our hearts sunk a little. Would the holiday be cancelled? As some of you know, getting here was a little tricky. So the thought of it all being taken away was too much. I began to obsess with BBC weather forecast.
Our first week was in Orlando which was largely untouched by the storm. We had a great time. We met friends, rode water slides and went to the Solar Bears, the local Ice Hockey team in an unforgettable experience. We screamed, shouted, laughed and immersed ourselves in American Culture. We forgot about Daytona until we found overselves on the I92 headed for the coast.
We crossed the bridge over to Daytona Beach and found our hotel. We are situated on the 23rd floor, so we rode the lift, the boys fought the desire to mimic the accents and ride the suitcases and we burst through our door. Silence followed the giggles. The view was utterly breathtaking. For several seconds nobody spoke. From the front, we have uninterrupted sea views as far as the horizon, simply stunning, words cannot do it justice. I cannot stop staring at it. I've been sleeping with my bedroom curtains open so that I can see the view on waking and also watch the moonlight dance on the water during the night. I'm usually a heavy sleeper but I've found myself awake at 2am simply desperate to see the view. It's utterly entrancing.
It's hard to believe that merely 2 weeks ago this place was being battered by Hurricane Matthew.
We excitedly ran to the pool. Towels are provided, a lovely little luxury. I stood by the towel desk and noted the sign apologising for the storm damage. I took the opportunity to ask the towel attendant about the storm. The stories flowed.
The Thursday morning of the storm the whole hotel was evacuated. Originally the plan was to keep a skeleton staff as the hotels become prime targets for looters but, due to the severity of the storm the whole hotel was evacuated. The storm hit, waves surged and flooded the beach front properties, power cuts were abundant. Staff didn't return until the Saturday for the clear up operation. A week later the hotel opened. This was one of the lucky ones.
Daytona Beach's strap line is the World's Most Famous Beach. It has the most beautiful sand which is compacted hard. It's hard to understand quite how hard until you have walked on it. This leant itself to car racing along the sand and it became famous for racing and speed trials. Even today cars drive up and down the beach. Quite a bizarre proposition for Europeans who are used to treating the beaches as Meccas. We've spent several afternoons walking the beaches. The boys chucking a football. The distruction has been clear to see.
Trees have been uprooted, fences ripped clear, wooden staircases down to the beach washed away, swimming pools destroyed. It's hard not to stand and stare. Our hotel is a large one and the workforce clearly worked hard for a week to get it back on it's feet, other smaller ones have not been so lucky. The damage has been estimated at over $57M. My guess is much higher having seen it all first hand.
Having determinely devised a holiday that wasn't dictated by the wind speed and local weather conditions. Can we sail, will we sail? We have spent the build up obsessing with the weather and then observing the aftermath. The weather plays a larger part in our lives than we give credit for.
"Oh my, I love your accent. Where are you from?". Urrm. Surely that's blatantly obvious. What's the appropriate reply? A normal response might be, Oh Solihull, or Birmingham or even close to Stratford. But England seemed to pop out of my mouth. Was that too generic? Clearly not. "England. Wow!" Surely my accent gave that one away? I was hardly going to say Texas or Jacksonville. Talk more, oh I love it. The Americans have been incredibly welcoming, particularly in the face of recent disaster.
The Aftermath is still being felt, power cuts and the like are still common place. If we can help if only a little way by supporting the local economy then that's great. Yet again the warmth and embrace by another country has been overwhelming. America, we've had a blast and Canada here we come.
My husband has this embarrassing affliction whereby he talks in the local accent of wherever we may be located. We are talking American, Australian, Irish, French. You name it they just keep coming. It must be genetic. My youngest son is at it too. They don't mean to, it just seems inbuilt within them. If we don't get deported it will be a miracle.
We are currently in America. A non-sailing holiday. My husband's request. Quite fussy honestly. A holiday without the smell of damp neoprene and a set of sailing instructions. This could be interesting.
It was miraculous that we ever made it here but that really is a story for the bar late one evening. Buy me a drink and I will happily share the tale.
Travelling distances is hard. You find yourself jet lagged and confused. We woke the other morning at 5am and congratulated each other on a marvellous sleep. On the flip side it is wonderful. I love to see how others live. I think my children are the same.
We arrived at the airport and the smell was unmistakable. It took me back to Hong Kong Days. The musty air con immediately followed by the hot humid smell is unique and special.
There is the usual excitement following the acquisition of the hire car with driving on the funny side of the road in a funny car with funny laws. I forgot to put my headlights on. No-one seemed much fussed. I also pulled part of the plastic dashboard off in an attempt to put the handbrake on. When to turn at lights? Apparently you can right turn when you please. I've yet to have this officially confirmed. Part of the wonderful rich tapestry of travelling.
The supermarket. One of the best holiday excursions. A true indicator of a country. A frantic search for the funniest biggest items we can find. That's a good game. America is utterly super sized with gallons of milk and portions bigger than you've ever seen. Pricing is funny. Eggs cost nothing but deodorant that's a virtual luxury.
I love it. I want to sit and soak it all up. The funny accents (even my families own attempts), the food super sized and unusual, the customs (they are so jolly and nice). I like to think I could ever tire of it all.
So what does a non-sailing holiday hold? Swimming and lots of it, followed by water slides and thrilling rides. We are all mild adrenaline junkies at heart. Dress it up how you like but it's all the same. Do you think there's no pecking order over who was the bravest, fastest, best? You can't have met my family. I've been involved in underwater breath-holding contests, races down waterslides (the kids haven't learnt the heaviest wins yet) and who is the bravest on the crazy rides.
We are only a short way into our American Adventure but we are fully immersed. Freddie wished the supermarket assistant a 'Good Day' in a perfect American accent and I have a very smooth bottom from the waterslides.
I am so looking forward to the next 10 days. I'm hoping for minimal wildlife encounters (mainly snakes) and I'll be sure to be purchasing the local products both good and bad.
My inability to say no often catches me out. So when Rich suggested we take the Olton Mere Youth to the Draycote Laser Open in October, I wholeheartedly agreed it was a brilliant idea.
Then Rich started asking the adults to join in the club outing. Great. Then he asked me.
I had 12 weeks. That's totally ages to learn how to sail a Laser. Isn't it? As a family we have 2 Lasers, one decent, one not so. My eldest Son quite rightly gets first dibs on the decent one which leaves me with the ropey one. The ropey one leaks, has a selection of slugs and snails living on it, has a very special outhaul and downhaul all in one system and is really embarrassingly filthy.
I tried several times to protest that the boat wasn't suitable. The only reply back was that my son has sailed it really rather successfully and to quite frankly, be quiet.
I decided I would give it a wash before we left and remove some of the farmyard animals living on it. My day however didn't quite pan out how I'd hoped and I ended up with 40 minutes to wash and load the boats onto the road trailers. I arrived at the Mere to find the trailer allocated didn't have a jockey wheel and was eye wateringly heavy to drag. That coupled with the discovery that the decent lasers trolley had 2 flat wheels and was broken didn't help matters. Finally, the trolley was too large for the road trailer and I'd forgotten all the ties to tie it to the trailer. A proper useless disaster. Many other families arrived and loaded their boats onto their lovely working trailers and I burst into tears. Big fat tears. I was totally and utterly hopeless and had failed my son.
I found my friday night friends and they comforted me with a big gin whilst dear Rich quietly sorted the trailer situation and Ed tied the boats on the next morning.
We arrived at Draycote the place was buzzing. 14 of us travelled there making the total open count to 38. We rigged our boats, listened to the briefing and set off on the water.
Just before I left, Rich enquired if I remembered to take any water with me, something I constantly hound my own children to do. No, I replied meekly and he shoved a bottle into my hand. It started to rain quite heavily as we waited for the race to start. Then, to add to my joy, my boat started to leak and fill with water. Hmmm, I thought, clearly the ropey boat was properly ropey. I waved to the safety boat and summoned them over. "Excuse me I said, my boat is leaking". "Really?" Came the reply. "If you sink we will come and save you.".
Ok, so I was on my own with this one. Think, Jane, Think. Yes the water bottle. I took a quick swig, then poured the rest away. I then proudly used it as a bailer. I figured I could bail as quickly as I was filling up. Ben Ainslie can, so why can't I? I made the start line bailing furiously, announcing to anyone who would listen that my boat was sinking. As the race started I focused less on the bailing and more on the racing. The rain subsided as did my leaking boat. I realised my stupidity, it wasn't leaking but merely filling up with rain water. How silly did I feel.
The rest of the day passed without incident, save for the rookie errors in failing to spot a ridiculous bias on the line. We had wonderful camaraderie on the water, it was a real treat to sail together with all our OMSC friends and ones we'd made on the water. I came 6th overall. Totally and utterly delighted. Olton Mere had some cracking results of 1st, 2nd and 3rds but more importantly everyone had achieved and we'd been a wonderful team.
We regrouped back at the Mere for Fish and Chip celebrations and birthday cakes made by the very talented Gill. We shared stories and laughed, a world away from the tears of 24hrs previously.
I've spent the last few weeks sailing my laser in preparation for an event in a few weeks. So when Charlie suggested that we do Barts Bash in a club boat, I thought a change would be fun. After all, our club does Barts Bash as a fun race with the intention of getting as many sailors out on the water. It is designed to be a fun event supporting the charity.
Against my better judgement I picked the Vision. " Oh. You are sailing with Charlie. You do know what will happen?". Yes was my reply. Charlie is an exceptionally good sailor who would gain far more pleasure in frightening me round the course than winning the race. It's for charity I thought. Charity.
I rigged the boat, purposely leaving the spinnaker off, the fewer weapons I could give Charlie the better. It was decided that I would helm, would this give me more or less control? We launched off the pontoon into a windless corner of the Mere. Usual practice would be to gently drift towards the wind. Charlie immediately started rocking the boat, bored with the lack of action. I hid in the middle of the boat.
On reaching the start line we discovered the gib was twisted. Rigging had been a slightly rushed team affair. My reaction was to leave it. Charlie's was that he could mend it on the water whilst I sailed a small course tacking every minute or so whilst he swung around the bow. He even attempted to climb the mast. I was surrounded by 27 other boats with a range of ability levels. I can picture it now, Charlie swinging off the bow whilst I attempted to weave my way through the boats.
Neither of us had our sailing watches on for the start, so the actual start was a bit of a guessing game. I fear we may have ploughed through the pack on port as the starting gun fired. We started at the back in a fit of giggles which rather set the tone for the rest of the race. Pru and Josh became our companions and sailed close to us for much of the race. Olton Mere acts as a feeder to the Grand Union canal and it gets routinely drained throughout the summer. Currently the water level is low. This meant that additionally at various point during the race we came aground to much hilarity.
As the race progressed, My position of helm became a mere technicality as Charlie shared control of the main sheet. I say shared, I was allowed to hold the tail end whilst he took the lions share. He questioned by ability to read the tell tails as I tried to explain I was experiencing a range of emotions. These ranged from total terror as he shook the shrouds, to tears of laughter as we weaved our way through the course. It was pretty hard to concentrate.
We rounded mark 5 at the top of the Mere, Charlie yanked on the main causing us both to hike heartily. His hiking strap snapped, catapulting him off the edge and the elastic wipped my legs. He hung on and we laughed. A lot.
Eventually we finished the race as we begun, at the back, quite a novelty for Charlie. I was however intact and dry. With 50 metres between the finish line and the pontoon I began to relax. Mistake. Huge mistake. In a momentary lapse of concentration, I had allowed Charlie to capzise the boat and myself into the water. He sat smugly on the daggerboard. I had been warned. I had forgotten.
The mast wedged itself into the mud with the lower water levels, we had to call on Rich for assistance. The top of the sail was thick with mud. On shore this mud was transferred to our faces, anywhere became fair game.
We'd had a great afternoon, lots of fun and laughter and hopefully raised much money for a great cause in the process.
I've never been terribly fussy choosing cars in particular. Some I've loved, others I've loathed. When we changed cars recently I had very strict criteria. It needed to have a low enough roof that I could reach for loading boats on top and it needed to be the correct colour. I think the bloke in the garage thought I was nuts. We ended up with an XC60 and it made my heart sing. It was comfortable, accessible for loading boats, actually rather nice inside and was the correct colour.
This is summer the car has been royally abused. It has been an absolute workhorse. We've taken Oppies, Teras, Lasers and the 29er on its roof and on trailers behind, round the country and to Spain, France and Wales. For someone who isn't terribly fussed about cars, I won't pretend that a little bit of my heart breaks every time one of the boys lob their bags in the boot and scrape their masts and foils in and out of the car. It's full of sand, salt and a lot more.
I try to keep tabs on the rubbish that accumulates. "Boys, there will be absolutely no eating in the car." Yeah, right. That one worked.
In between driving the boys and our boat collection around Northern Europe, I landed home for 4 nights. Yes. 4. Whole. Nights. Once I'd emerged from the fug of washing ( I have a new machine - it sings to me) and working, I thought I might slip out for a quick sail on the Wednesday evening. It was a balmy summers evening, the winds were light it had the promise of a lovely evening.
On arrival, we noted that the Blue Green algae was out in force at the club. It looked like a science experiment right there in the water and it stunk. This wasn't how it had panned out in my head earlier that afternoon. All the same, I rigged the boat, signed on and held my breath. Literally.
The sailing was good, I trailed at the back, way behind George, but I enjoyed it. As I came in, a rainbow had formed over the Mere, it was a stunning sight. It felt like a little apology for the algae and the stench as if to say look I'm still beautiful. I whooped as I crossed the line. I sail like a 6 year old I know, but every race represents a small victory for me. Whether it be completing the race or simply having found the space in my life to get down there to sail in the first instance.
I looked up, George was standing on the pontoon waiting to help me in, having sailed the race AND put his boat away. As I've said before, there is no place for egos in sailing. It was a lovely gesture gratefully received.
The next morning we took the car to the car wash in a little attempt to love it. I entered the code, sat dutifully and nothing happened. I sat for a minute or two as a queue gathered behind. I quickly jumped out of the car in case the car wash decided to burst into life to check the machine. It read, code accepted, please move forward to the wash area. Well I'd done that. I went back to the car and sent George into the garage to report the faulty machine. A rather sizeable queue was forming now, so I chose the best policy of a little emergency phone admin to avoid stares from the other drivers.
I heard a knock at the window, I looked up. It was the taxi driver behind me in the queue. "Excuse me love, you need to move futher forward to activate the machine." Oh. I nudged the car forward and the car wash burst into life.
Meanwhile, George stood with the garage owner who had been forced to shut the whole shop, as they watched the soapy bubbles form around my car. "Are you having me on lad?. It's clearly working". Mortified we left.
We arrived home late last night after our final big trip of the summer, it was dark at the club as we unhitched the boats. The car was once more filthy, thick with salt and sand and full of sails, bags and rubbish. We've unloaded but whether we can face the car wash yet is undecided. Oh and the colour of the car, that's totally changeable.
I feel I just been given the biggest embrace by a town and it's people. It's been an utterly unforgettable experience. Seven days packed to the brim with fun, friendship and laughter.
That town is Santona, a small Spanish town near Santander, the hosts of the 2016 RS Tera World Championships.
The backdrop was stunning, Santona sits at the mouth of the river to the sea with mountains that drop down to the crystal clear sea. The weather was varied but this made the sunny days even sweeter.
A huge marquee was set up on the waterfront which formed the epicentre of operations. The race office, changing facilities, briefing zone, bar and Ben's RS sailing workshop.
They provided volunteers in the same way as the games makers in the London Olympics. These volunteers gave their heart and souls. They worked tirelessly sung, danced and played with a troup of boys too little to sail. They became their heroes.
They looked after the competitors royally with breakfast and supper every day. Additionally there were cool bottles of water continually available on demand to all from slightly fraught parents to hot siblings.
The waterfront hosted local enterprises selling beers, cool glasses of wine, gourmet burgers, mussels and ice cream. Our every need was catered for.
The town turned out for the opening and closing ceremonies, they closed roads and welcomed us with open arms. People hung from balconies, filled the square and the mayor and local dignitaries supported.
Launching became an event in itself. As soon as they raised the D flag and sounded the hooter, the waterfront was cordoned off. The locals hung off the taped area and the volunteers sung, high fived as they walked the boats into the water. Once the last boat was launched, a whistle was sounded and the waterfront erupted into cheers. Twice daily this routine repeated.
Winds were light but racing was good. 5 days of racing, with only 1 day with a delayed start whilst they waited for the winds to build. There were more completed races than I have ever seen at a Championship which shows the determination of the competitors.
Once the sailors returned we all migrated to the waterfront, adults sampling the local cool wine, beer and anchovies. The sailors leapt of the pontoon as the sun set on Santona.
What about the winners, of course congratulations go them, but this event became more. Every sailor there had their own personal battle and the town treated them all like heroes. Newspapers and local shops reported of their bravery. Sailing 5hrs a day for over 5 days in foreign waters is not to be casually dismissed.
Each sailor was given a memento of the event, a beautifully presented pottery model of the boat mounted on varnished wood. It was made for them by the inhabitants of the low security prison in the town. Showing how far reaching the championships had become.
I looked over the water as the sun set, the local brass band played and we danced, sung and cheered and I smiled.
Next year we will be in Carnac, could it ever live up to Santona?
Some boats are more special than others. There is no rhyme or reason why. Sometimes you click with a boat, other times you find yourself fighting them. Ben Ainslie, always names his boats Rita, after his first but one of those was more special to him than most. You'll have to ask him which.
For us, Black Pig was a special boat. Black Pig was George's first boat. It was a knackered old boat bought for £200. The guy selling it famously said "It's seaworthy, but it'll never win a race".
For the first season we simply pushed George out in it, he was 6 or 7. Then we stowed it upside down in the racking and walked away. If it was lucky, it got a rinse down. For the large part it weathered out in the boat yard. One summer, George joined in Splash week, his Grandpa accompanied him and George and Black Pig gelled. They led the fleet and won the first prize at the end of the week. Never win anything, famous last words.
That Autumn we took the boat home and began to love it. It had it's bottom polished and new hiking straps. We returned back to Splash the following year. George sailed it harder and faster. So we took it home again, made a workshop for it and loved it some more.
The 3rd year it returned, it had been fully pimped, the best foils, new sail, buoyancy bags but it was still the same old boot at heart. Charlie giggled as we rolled it out again in astonishment that it was still holding together. We took it for a test run out on the water, it looked better than it had done for years. We smiled, George sailed off before we heard a great crack as the rivets popped out and the mast came crashing down. We tied it off to a buoy and abandoned it for the day. It was a sad sight.
Back up the A34 and back into the workshop it went. Grandpa worked hard to get the fixing to hold tight knowing the George was going to push it hard on the water. A few weeks later it was back, Charlie smiled once more and we launched. They had a great Splash Week on the water, once again winning races dispelling the myths.
The time had come to move on, George was growing, as was his appetite for sailing. He was ready for bigger things. Black Pig was passed to William in a grand ceremony. "Gosh what a lucky boy you are William". I think William knew otherwise, George and Black Pig were in tune in a way William never would be. William sailed it that Splash but didn't engage with it. He sailed better in his wooden boat. He had no interest in it.
Black Pig wintered in our garden next to the trampoline and we knew that it wasn't going to be for Freddie either. It wasn't a great boat, it was an old boat that George loved. How he sailed it so well against modern boats we may never know, but it was certainly very special.
It it sold last weekend to 2 young boys learning to sail. I shed a tear. I know, ridiculous. I told George who was fresh off the water from racing his 29er. I watched his face, I could tell he felt it too.
Black Pig is now a memory of the most wonderful kind.