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?