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.
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.
This weekend has been long marked on the calendar. A sort of D-day if you like. Way back in the depths of winter Kathryn sensibly suggested that we plan our first event in the 29er. Something to aim for and work towards. Time has a nasty habit of marching on and you find yourself at that date quicker than you expected.
We bought the boat early January after a brief discussion in the clubhouse over a drink. The boys had been out in the Feva together and it was obvious that they gelled on the water. It was a large jump for both boys, but they both seemed hungry for a challenge.
In the early weeks, Tom was on hand to help us rig and to take the boys out. They spent more time capsizing than they did sailing. It was hard for us all. We shared many firsts, including breaking the ice on the Mere so that the boys could sail. I will never forget Kathryn and I looking at each other as we did this, wondering how our lives were changing.
One Sunday Rich turned up to the club after a spell away, full of knowledge, enthusiasm and ideas and took the boys on. That was one of our better days.
Saturday of the race dawned, we drove in convoy as the full team came to support. There's a well known African proverb "It takes a village to raise a child" and it couldn't be more appropriate. So many people had helped them along the way and everyone who came had played a part in getting them to this point.
The racing was delayed as they waited for the winds to build. It was a welcome delay, as it gave us a chance to feed them before they went out and to settle our nerves. The boys as ever, were brilliant. They weren't frightened to get in the mix with older and more experienced teams. They weren't pushing the line but they sailed longer, harder and faster than that had ever done before. They proved they could do it and they came off the race course with beaming smiles.
Driving back I proudly announced how I had found the weekend relatively stress free, shared load and all that. I felt full of energy and ready for the next adventure. Oh how I was wrong, last night I had an overwhelming exhaustion sweep over me, I fear I may have been running on adrenaline all weekend and finally crashed. I crawled into bed at 9pm and slept for the next 11 hours.
I sat with my friend Kate and thanked her profusely for lending the sail. It had done the job last weekend before the disaster with the boom. I recounted the tale of the boom and showed her the pictures of the underneath of the boat. "Oh my" she exclaimed, "I think it's time for that to go to Boat Heaven". Well words of a similar effect.
Last weekend, once the tears had stopped, I needed to take stock and see what repairs needed doing. The boat was turned upside down and it appeared to be a little more broken than we had anticipated. Quite how he, not only sailed, but won, I truly don't know. I felt bad. Really bad.
Rich, as ever, was upbeat. We can fix it. Sorry, fix that?
The list of upgrades and repairs seem endless, additionally, the 29er needs new sails at an eye watering price, and then there's the Tera and the 2 Oppies that are sailing in my back garden. The boys are growing faster and improving quicker than I had envisaged and it's hard keeping pace.
However, Rich worked his magic that week and salvaged a very poorly boat. George smiled. I was speechless.
We re-launched the boat and politely asked George to be gentle with it, as he was getting a bit of a reputation.
The winds were mixed, ranging from light to rather gusty, but that is often the nature at a small pond. Racing was a welcome break from revision, exams were looming Monday morning. George was sailing well, the repairs were holding and Kate's sail was in great shape. I walked to the OD box to get a better view of the racing and catch up with friends. As they passed round the first mark we cheered and waved.
On the second lap George shouted up to the OD box "My kicker is broken". Seriously? I was beginning to wonder if Kate was right and the boat really needed to go to Boat Heaven. I walked back to the clubhouse to brace myself for the upset and busied myself by making a cup of tea and doing some unnecessary phone admin.
The race finish, he had held his position. How? We rushed up to inspect the damage. " What happened George.". "Oh the knot broke, it's ok, I've retied it".
I'm not sure how my nerves are going to hold out with this racing business, this weekend they are racing the 29er at Grafham, get the gin at the ready...
"The problem with you mum is that you are inconsistent". William boldly stated. The problem with having children is their unfailing honesty. "What do you mean?" I begged. "Well sometimes you are shockingly late and other times way too early. Sometimes you remember to do things, other times you forget. Totally inconsistent" he replied unflinchingly.
That hit hard. I don't intend to disappoint, I just find myself juggling so many things at once, sometimes something has to give. This weekend was no exception. For the 4th Saturday in a row I found myself driving down the M42 with a Tera strapped to my roof. We were heading to Barnt Green Sailing Club for the Junior Invitational Open. A great annual meet for 5 local clubs, juniors and adults alike.
We arrived on time, intact and with the requisite no of children and boats. That's 1 - nil I believe William.
The others arrived and we merrily chatted as we helped rig each other's boats. Rob kindly tweaked a few of the controls on George's pre loved laser. It does need a lot of work but it's not his main boat. Priorities and all that. He spotted that the fixing on the end of George's boom was half hanging off. It needed re-riveting but we neither had the tools or the time. We all crossed our fingers that it would hold out for the day's racing. I hoped William hadn't clocked that one.
The team had a wonderful day racing in a mixture of conditions, the fixing held and all the juniors exceeded all expectations and sailed their hearts out. George won the Gold Fleet and William won the Silver Fleet. Abi came a close 3rd much to everyone's delight. All the juniors did us proud.
Sunday took us back to Olton Mere where we had a mixture of training and racing. The comedy duo took the 29er out then raced the afternoon in their Lasers. I sailed the Vision and William was back in his Tera. It was a glorious afternoon, wonderful for the spectators. The winds picked up in the afternoon and I left George in Rich's capable hands to spend some time with Freddie who I had finally managed to drag off the tennis court.
Ping. My phone beeped. A message from Rich " You may have tears when he gets home". Ping "Broken Boom".
Oh man, in the excitement of yesterday I had totally forgotten about the boom and sent him out in heavy winds with the fixing hanging off. He arrived. Tears, floods of them. Buoyed by yesterday's success he was having the race of his life, he'd been leading, it was all going to plan. Then Bang the boom went. Bad, bad mother.
I felt dreadful. Many children have these wonderful boats and I'd failed him. William I'll hand it to you. Inconsistent.
This is William. He's not one of those kids that tend to carry their problems. He's fairly relaxed.
This weekend, William was sailing in the RS Tera Start of Seasons. A great event, a squad selector and the first event after the long cold winter's training. William is fairly new to the class, so for him, it was a matter of completing the event and learning something new.
I was William's plus one for the weekend, as the others were off on rugby tour and a D of E weekend. So we had each other exclusively. This could go one of two ways. Brilliantly or hopelessly.
We set off, car loaded up. William excitedly sat in the front. Then opened his book. "William, darling, would you mind awfully putting the postcode into the satnav? I've got to concentrate." Driving with the boat on the roof makes me terribly nervous. I have visions of it flying of half way down the motorway. So I've learnt that the best policy once you've checked, double checked and tripled checked it, is to panic about it continually until you arrive safely. "Sure, no problem." He replied.
Ok, silence save for the odd page turning. "William, would you put the radio on? I could use the company." (Monster hint). "Sure, no problem" replied William as he twiddled the stereo without his eyes leaving the page of the book. Marvellous, thanks darling.
The forecast for the weekend, being the end of April and all that, was cold. Artic winds coming from the North. How joyous. After what has felt like a very prolonged winter, we are all desperate for a little respite. However the sun shone. All day. I helped out on finish line which was great fun as we got to cheer all the kids as they came over the line. There were 72 competitors, a super bunch, full of smiles as they crossed the line. A great day.
I treated William to a curry that evening. Just the 2 of us at the local curry house. I brushed my hair and William changed his socks. They treated us royally. The book was banished and we had a wonderful evening discussing the days highlights.
The next morning dawned. I was woken by the cats, that William had insisted I needed last night in my room. It was like sleeping in a zoo. We set off, William pulled out his book and I begged for radio company. We arrived, with 20 minutes to spare, only to be greeted with the sight of the boats launching off to the race course. Some brilliant friends rigged William's boat whilst I pulled his wetsuit on and taped chocolate bars to his boat. They were doing 4 races back to back. I had to radio a rib to take me out to the finish line. I arrived as the starting gun sounded. A little close to the wire. Maybe William and I shouldn't be left alone too often.
Not only did we survive, we thrived. The car was possibly a low point for me, watching a boat that isn't going to fall off, isn't good for the soul. William sailed well, learnt lots, largely pulling in his main and eating the chocolate bars that I had lovingly taped to his boat. We all reunited with a family dinner and swapped tales.
It's Monday morning, I've at least 5 loads of non standard washing to do and my machine is broken. It has spent the last 8 hours on the final spin and I know deep down that it is broken. Smelly dripping wetsuits, towels and tennis gear are waiting to be renewed for the next adventure. Deep breath, open the secret hatch my mother once showed me, eyes closed and hand in. It turns out the filter is utterly and disgustingly clogged. Pleased that all the synchronised swimming training has not gone to waste as I hold my breath and shut my eyes whilst I clean the filter. Washing machine mended. Monday Morning Success.
A rare feeling. I'm rather more used to the Monday Morning Crash. I'm rather wondering whether I'm just an adrenaline junkie or that I find life a bit scarier than most.
This weekend was no exception. Although it was non sailing weekend for me. It was a big one for the boys. We were all off to Rutland Water. George and Simon were taking the 29er for their first big sail and William was off to Tera Boot Camp. There were plenty of things for me to worry about.
First off, we needed to leave by 6.50am. For those of you that know me well, I'm not a morning person and that itself was challenge enough. To top it off it began snowing. In April? At 6.30 in the morning? Rude.
We arrived safely and on time, the boys rigged, William skipped off to boot camp, Simon was straight out on the wire, massive grins all round. The boys had a brilliant morning, we stopped for lunch, thanked the coach and awaited the big moment of setting them free under only the general safety cover at Rutland. The winds picked up and the Tera kids stayed on shore. George and Simon set off under strict instructions to stay within the agreed area.
They had some fantastic runs with the kite up, going further and longer than they had gone before. we whooped and filmed until a monstrous squall came through. Bang over they went. Here was the moment of truth. We were helpless we had to sit and watch as they repeatedly capsized time and time again. Rain came with the squall which made visibility impossible. We had to trust them out there. We asked the shore team to radio for help our hearts raced. Kathryn and I stood helplessly, both terrified. I wiped the binoculars and saw the pair of them stood together on the dagger board. Sensible, boys well done. Safety reached them, George had to cut the main halyard with his knife as they were over powering the safety boat. They then brought them in.
Rich was messaging, how were they getting on? Watch out they might have an adrenaline crash. They might? I think we might... Kathryn and I hugged each other mightily relieved glad to see them safely back on shore.
Back at home, I drunk a gin and tonic faster than I ever had done. I fear Kathryn may have done the same.