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Beth, Parky and Beer

February 6, 2010


Frostbite advertised, frostbite delivered complete with frozen digits! Serves me right to volunteer as crew in January. This time aboard Beth a chartered J-109 entered in the Royal Southampton Yacht Club Frostbite Series.

J’s sail amazingly well in light winds. They’re fitted with an extendable bowsprit lengthening the yacht so it can carry a larger asymmetric spinnaker. And boy, do they shift! On Saturday we practised gybing and before we could say ‘Bramble Bank’ we were flying past ‘Ryde Middle’. Johnny Charterer (aka Neil our Skipper) sent me forward to the mast. Sail transitions on a racing yacht require co-ordination on the part of the crew. The trick is to practice the moves off-stage, so to speak, reaching a point of graceful elegance that would flatter the judges of Strictly Come Dancing!

So there we were waltzing along, doing our ‘reverse turns’ with the odd ‘cross-body lead’ from Johnny, when it all went slightly awry. Got a wobble on, bit of flog and suddenly we could see the Spinnaker Tower at Portsmouth nicely framed in mauve through a two foot tear in the sail. Whoops! Johnny Charterer was surprisingly calm, not even a Moonwalk! Is this a sign on progress we ask? With spinnaker and spirits doused we set about beating back up to the Hamble River. Beth was just brilliant, sailing in such a calm forgiving way whilst the activity kept us warm as toast. We dodged a few sandbanks at low water and headed in for tea.

J-109 Beth

Plan A: Nip into Warsash for our kit and then cross the River Hamble to the Royal Southern pontoon for the night. Best laid plans, two boat lengths from our home berth and Beth came to a gentle halt. Oh dear, no water! Oh dear says Johnny no beers either, they’re in the car! ‘Shall we try ramming speed’ says one of the crew cheerfully. Immediately, a rather worried looking owner emerged from a nearby yacht suggesting we tried the ‘other pontoon’.

Plan B: About turn and off to Hamble Point in search of warmth and a swift half. At dusk, we sneaked into Hamble Point Marina and headed up to the Ketch Rigger for our tactical beer! (Raising another £30 for Toe in the Water!). Our first round was rudely interrupted with a leer n’sneer from Parky the Harbourmaster. You can’t stop ‘ere, more than my jobs worth. Has the man no heart? What about my chill blains! In what turned out to be the most co-ordinated move of the day, crew lifted their glasses and drank up. Back to Warsash under a full Moon on a rising tide, it was so romantic with the girls in their balaclavas! Eventually we made it to our planned berth for a jolly apres sail aboard and a lovely meal at Ye Olde Whyte Hart in Hamble…log fire and food to be recommended. Later, after happily navigating a cobbled hill and negotiating a carpet of frost on the pontoon a rather cosy two layer sleeping bag beckoned aboard Beth. And I slept like a baby.

You just know there's a roaring fire in there

Now I must admit, Sunday morning was one of those sailing moments when you question the meaning of life. It was just plain cold, ippy dippy doodah cold! With an icicle hanging from my nose, I could’ve cut my breath and sold it! Without going into too much detail, I found myself at six o’clock barefoot on a carpet of frost admiring the view from Beth’s stern – in my underpants! By the time we walked back from breakfast my circulation had returned and the sun had risen to warm the spirits and reveal the most amazing frost. Another beautiful day.

For reasons best known to the RSYC Race Officer, start was delayed for two hours putting the dampener on an otherwise fine morning. However, fellow crew remained cheerful chattering about the meaning of life, flag ‘Z’ and repairing the mauve sail with some rather fetching pink sailmakers tape. In light winds it might hold. Johnny put me on the helm where I could do less damage! We had a fab start and made good speed to the windward mark. A bit of nip and tuck with an Arcona 370 and after a couple of laps our practised spinnaker work paid off to cross the line in second place, just 1 minute and 47 seconds behind the leader (4th and 3 minutes on handicap). Not a bad result.

What a fab weekend! Thanks Johnny! And to fellow crew Dave, Mike, Kas, Ray, Amanda, Linda and Mark. Neil arranges low cost race sailing weekends year round, participating in a range of events on the Solent, with an emphasis on improvement and teamwork. Often looking for crew, Neil welcomes HOEOCA members with Racesail Weekend experience. There are places available in February and March. Contact Racesail for details

River Hamble, Sunday morning

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Pam Nash permalink
    February 6, 2010 11:43 am

    Great story, fab pictures!

  2. Pam Nash permalink
    February 6, 2010 8:25 pm

    Part of a speech given by John F Kennedy at Americas Cup Dinner given by the Australian Ambassador, Newport, Rhode Island September 14, 1962

    ‘I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it is because in addition to the fact that the sea changes and the light changes, and ships change, it is because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it we are going back from whence we came.


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