(Oban Times headline: ‘Glencoe Sailors Follow Lost Fly’)
Glencoe Boat Club’s racing season continues to be bedevilled by lack of wind, with only the first race of the Summer Points Series having provided anything approaching a steady breeze. The fourth and most recent race of the Series may, however, be remembered as the night Fly mistook the course, only to be followed meekly up the garden path by the other three starters.
In practically no wind, a course including the mark at St John’s seemed improbable and, having misinterpreted the number on the course boards, Fly’s brainstorm took the fleet straight round Eilean Munde and off to Callert. Drifting fifty yards downtide of the Callert mark in absolutely no wind, her by then considerable lead began to be eroded by Didima IV, Fascinator and Squirt, who had managed to find something more than completely still air towards the end of the leg. With, however, a long-awaited hint of a breeze from the south, and the leader in sight of the ‘finish’ after having covered a mile and a half in something like 100 minutes, a message that all four boats had sailed the wrong course resulted in a quadruple retiral and the technical abandonment of the race. Hopefully everyone could see the funny side of things, with the one considerable consolation being that anyone who had correctly gone to St John’s would have had virtually no chance of finishing anyway.
The evening got off to an uncomfortable start when I slipped from the stern of the boat while trying to board the dinghy in pouring rain and crashlanded my sternum on the top corner of the pushpit.
Almost no wind, and the race officer puts up a couple of boards showing ‘2S’. I have a brainstorm and think at least he’s not sending us to St John’s and, when a couple of other competitors (four boats out) ask where we’re going, I tell them confidently twice round the dinghy course with the option to shorten to one round.
7 o’clock, and we start in very little wind. Fly is first round Eilean Munde and off towards Callert leading by half the course. Other sails eventually start to appear from behind the island. Even less wind, and the tide takes us fifty yards past the Callert mark after we’ve executed what would normally have been a textbook rounding. Boats we’d left for dead start to close as the wind temporarily gets above 0 knots, but we’re well over towards what we presume to be the finish after having covered a mile and a half in something like 100 minutes, when out comes Dave Hanna in High Tide to tell us we’ve all done the wrong course.
Moment of truth sinks in (guess who devised the courses and wrote the sailing instructions), but then I have an idea. On goes the engine, up goes the protest flag and off we motor to tell the others that we’re retiring and that they’d better too or we’re protesting them and they’ll be disqualified (which carries a heavier penalty in our series). So we all retire, and the race is technically abandoned, but at least we’ve had the fun of thinking we might get round. The irony is that, if anyone had correctly gone to St John’s instead of following us (and that includes Fly), they’d have had no chance of finishing anyway. And perhaps now they’ll read their sailing instructions or ask the OOD instead of always relying on me (just another competitor!) to know.
Course 2 is a pointless course anyway (it’s just the first round of Course 1, which can always be shortened), and I had thought of ditching it when I revamped the sailing instructions for this year. So I wasn’t thinking straight, because nobody ever sets it (till tonight anyway), and the infamous hole in the wind at St John’s was no place to send us with no wind in the first place. If the whole thing gives someone else a bit of laugh then so much the better. I can see the funny side of it myself, and we’d fairly stuffed Fascinator in all, even if the race did turn out to be a mirage!
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