The sun has shone this weekend in so many ways. We've been to Itchenor Schools week. A 3 day long regatta for school sailing teams to compete in.
We formed the sailing team back in September just as the summer began to fade and we were full of hope and optimism for the year ahead. We held a meeting for interested sailors one Tuesday afternoon and the weeks of training followed. Week after week in rain, snow, ice they came. Never once complaining and always full of smiles. Maybe the biscuits and squash helped. Who knows? But by the time we hit the regatta, they had firmly formed a team.
But so had we. As I boarded the school minibus to travel to Itchenor and climbed in the back, I smiled to myself for we also had Julia, Rob, Deb, Ian, Rich and Mr Reardon. What a back up team. We were putting out 2 boats with 4 sailors, yet we travelled as a team of 13. Each and everyone of us had a role to play. From coaching, launching, rib driving, feeding, tying knots, taping, you name it, we had it covered.
We had hired boats, but had never had expected to receive brand spanking new boats. Their faces lit up as they unwrapped the boat and stuck the sail numbers and sponsors stickers on. We launched them for the practice race and followed in the rib. It was blowing quite hard, we all felt a little sick, were they capable in these winds? They'd had very little practice in their correct pairings and almost none in the Fevas. Had we done the right thing? As it was an official school trip, we brought Mr Reardon, an extremely experienced master and school tripper. What on earth would he think?
We trailed the boats to the start line, 54 in total. 5 metres from the launch we spotted both boats in trouble on a safety pontoon, both of their brand new kickers had snapped. All of our hearts sunk a little. As ever, the safety team were right on them, fixed the kickers and released them. They surpassed all of our expectations that afternoon knocking out a 10th and a 23rd. We were jubilant as we came in. We could do it and we had every right to be there. The real racing was due to start the next day and an influx of another 50 boats straight from the Inland Nationals began to make it feel very real with 103 boats in total. We sat in the bar that evening, full of optimism.
The next 2 days they raced hard, we watched and counted them round the windward mark, held our breath as they launched the spinnakers and flew down the downwind leg. Between races they came along side, we fed them buoyed them on. Inbetween we laughed, joked, ate jelly babies and shared stories.
We came off the water salty, tired and changed, maybe for the better. We were exceptionally proud of the kids, they had achieved more than we had ever anticipated. Toby saved the day admirably leaping into another schools boat allowing them to sail. Final placing were one boat in the top half and the other not far behind and a final race 21st for George and Pru. I don't think we've ever cheered quite so hard.
We've vowed to come back next year, with more kids but maybe less jelly babies. It's been a blast. Thank you Itchenor, thank you team.
It's been an endlessly fun weekend. One of two halves.
Saturday morning dawned and William and I set back off down the M6 with the Tera strapped to the roof. On advice, this time I attached the painter. This meant that if my straps decided to fail, the boat should merely slide down the back of the car in an embarrassing manner as opposed to flying off the roof causing unimaginable damage.
We arrived intact and on time. We signed on, rigged and launched. I bumped into Steve and we slipped off to the chandlery. Owning a growing fleet of boats means there is an endless list of items that I require.
An hour passed in the chandlery as a growing throng of men appeared, as we weighed up the different options of creating outhaul and downhaul in various boats. After the initial cheery hellos, came the "Don't tell my wife you saw me in here!". A few giggles. The stories began to flow. "Oh you need to get your stuff delivered to work that way they don't know". "Or those new Amazon collection boxes that you find outside the supermarkets and petrol stations" another chipped in.
I discovered a whole new male underworld. The equivalent to the ladies who hide their shopping in the wardrobe and when their husbands ask where the item came from they simply reply "Oh that old thing!".
Next time I need a favour I know where I'll be headed.
After the chandlery followed a meeting, by which time I'd missed the first 3 races but my number hadn't been called out on the tannoy so all seemed to be ok.
In the chandlery Andy had promised to teach me how to splice. Yet another new skill I hadn't envisaged ever learning, so for Race 4 I found myself back in the boat park learning to splice.
The boats came in. William full of smiles. We'd both had a great days. Apart but together.
Sunday dawned and I was off to a cricket festival with Freddie for the day. Could this possibly top my day yesterday? I knew very little of the format of the game, who the players or parents were. I duly introduced myself to a player's father who replied "Jane, have you forgotten me, we sat together to watch the boys at the Athletics last week?". Fail. Big Fail.
The day was fun, the boys played well. I loved the team camaraderie and atmosphere. It was quite intoxicating. I leant on my new/old friend for advice. " How many runs do they lose for a wicket?". My questions were endless but answered kindly and carefully each time.
I needed the a nudge from time to time to remember to watch Freddie bat and bowl and as the day progressed I became more entranced and by the time team made the final, I was gripped counting the score as the game unfolded.
One ball remained in the final over, the opposing team were 1 run ahead and the only way we could win was by taking the final wicket. We silenced, the boys screamed wicket, wicket, wicket. The bowler took an enormous run up, bowled and hit the stumps. We erupted into cheers, grown men hugged and shed a tear whilst the boys took a victory lap around the pitch.
I had no idea cricket was so captivating, so exciting, so bonding. The last time I felt a similar wild mix of emotions was watching Jonny Wilkinson kick the drop goal in the final of the a Rugby World Cup.
It's been a weekend of two halves and a good one at that.
My father is worried about ageing so he's devised this test which we have to complete on a daily basis. This way we can monitor our progress and note any improvement.
The test is to see how many times we can run up and down the stairs in one minute. So after a brief good morning, we test, collapse, pour coffee and make our to do list for the day.
This weekend after a hiatus of nearly 30 years, he planned to get back into a dinghy, having enjoyed the luxury of a much larger boat for the best part of 15 years. I fear this stair test may have been part of the preparation.
D-Day has been long coming. First, we had the purchase of the buoyancy aid, then the search of the depths of his wardrobe for any suitable clothing and lastely we've been running up and down the stairs for weeks.
Sunday dawned a beautiful day, possibly one of the finest of the year, would he or would he not appear? If so, what on earth would he be wearing? Granny Helen is well renowned for being well groomed but we all feared that she might not be able to control this one. Additionally he was repeatedly warned by several of his grandsons not to embarrass them with his attire.
I was teaching on the water in the morning, followed by safety boat duties in the afternoon, so I didn't spot him 'til I came in for a quick bite to eat. He'd arrived and for the large part he was successful, although I caught William and Rich having a little giggle as he was spotted wearing a rope for his belt.
William agreed to crew for him in the Vision. The boat was chosen for it's spacious hull and high boom. At 70, my father was opting for comfort over speed and style. The winds were light so they decided to join in with the 2 o'clock race. I was on safety, so I could additionally keep an extra eye on them. Charlie and Freddie joined me in the boat as it had turned into a glorious afternoon. They soaked up the Rays and I watched the racing.
My Dad and William were last to the start line, last to cross it and last over the finish and they'd forgotten to sign on. Joking aside after 30 years he'd done exceptionally well, they'd stayed dry, had a great time and both were full of smiles as they left the water.
This morning, I opened the door to my father. "Right, stairs time". He announced. I fear he may be back out on the water next week.