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.
It's been a busy long week, a good, busy week, but for 4 days, I didn't stop for breath. Kindness came in huge waves. My mother took control of my credit card and shopped, Grandpa Peter cycled, threw cricket balls, hit golf balls and played board games with Freddie and Rich spent a busy crazy day at Captain Kid picking, folding, packing and dealing with delivery men. And finally, my washing machine broke..
However as paybacks come, this weekend didn't fail. We were down at Hayling Island for both Tera and 29er racing and we had wall to wall sunshine. Rich and Kathryn were looking after the 29er boys, so I only had William to focus on.
William and I are both fairly relaxed characters, possibly not the best combination at an event, so we both quite surprised ourselves as we found ourselves one of the first to set the boat down ready on the beach. We both took a moment, I slipped my shoes off and wriggled my toes in the sand. It was glorious. The sun glistened on the water and my spirits soared. Last time I was on this beach we were gripping onto boats as they flew across the beach in wild winter winds. This felt a million miles away.
Time pressed on and I sent William to get changed and I waited by the Tally board. I listened as the radio crackled. Just Tally 130 missing. "Sorry" I said, "Could I just check which child that relates to". "Oh yes" the reply came, " It's William, 2162. Do you know him?". A cough, a shuffle. "Yes he's my son, I don't suppose you could check the gents for me please?".
No sign of William anywhere. I found myself telling the story of how we were one of the first on the beach and that we weren't normally that unreliable. A search ensued, safety started scouring the beach only to find him sitting nonchalantly on his boat asking where I'd been. Mortified, I apologised and sloped off.
I launched him and sent him off for the day with his chocolate bars and squash for sustainance, every little boy's dream menu.
He had a great day on the water, but was nearer the back of the fleet. He turtled on the start line of the last race and he found the waves challenging. Over a fish and chip supper on the beach I bribed him with monetary reward for better races on the second day. Shameful you may think, but each child ticks differently. William's a charmer but he isn't a merit chaser at school, nor a people pleaser so I find a little incentive can change his perspective on things.
Sunday dawned and we were not going to make the mistake of the previous day so we both tallied out (130) and sat ready on the beach. I took my shoes off and paddled in the water and chatted with the safety boat. William focused and a raced hard and had a great set of results. We high fived, he posed for photos and we merrily dragged the boat up the beach and washed it down and started to pack it down for the journey home.
William was full of stories from the water, his own personal war stories if you like. I checked his goodie bag. Only 1 remaining melted Wispa and no juice. He'd been wise enough to take care of himself. A good day I think.
Someone tapped me on the shoulder. "Excuse me". I turned round. My heart sunk. It was the safety team. "Are you tally 130 young man?" "You are our missing tally." Profuse apologies flowed. Mortified, totally mortified.
"William", "Yes mum". " Let's get an ice cream".
My house is a mess, my hedges have gone all hairy and my front lawn looks like a local nature reserve. My poor mother has even given up hope. My life has been turned upside down by sailing. It has sucked every last minute of my life and I love it.
These last few months I have spent hours and hours on the water, I've burnt my lips, I've weed off the back of a boat and my hair has been one giant tangled mess. Sailing strips you bare. After face planting into the water and finding you want to weep, you learn there is no room for egos.
Friendship and teamwork however. It's there in spades. I've laughed so very much, been cold, been frightened, but found there as always been someone to share the moment with and help you along. You pop out the end stronger, better, wiser and more enriched by the process.
This weekend the boys had 29er training at Rutland. The 29er is a 2 man single trapeze, high performance sailing skiff. It challenges crews to be fit and co-ordinated, they require athleticism due to it's instability and high speed. It will often exceed the wind speed when planing both up and downwind. In laymans terms this roughly translates to a very wobbly high speed boat. Every mothers worst nightmare. I often have a quick pray to Neptune, and then to Poseidon for good measure.
The boys however, love the thrill of the boat and they are slowly learning how to control it and to work together as a team. On Sunday I was lucky enough to accompany the coaching team out on the water and to watch the sailors close up. These kids are brave and strong. No complaints, just smiles. They have to learn to work together as a team from the off. Cries of "Who is balancing the boat?", " Work together".
They had a wonderful day out on the water learning to push the boat harder, longer and faster. I too had a great day, it's honestly a privilege to watch these kids and I was allowed to drive the rib for a part, something that always gives me a thrill.
The boys came off water quite broken, tempers a little frayed. They've learnt how to deal with each other and know when to walk away. We could all learn a little from them. As we arrived home, they cheerily waved to each other "See you next week."
It's Monday morning, the sun is shining, a little bit fell off my washing machine this morning but it still appears to work and my hedges are still hairy.