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.