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.