Falcon sailing @ Bala Open, UK

Paul & Ann, fellow Falcon sailors in the UK participated in the Bala Open this weekend. They had a great time and sailed a bullet in the first race. From then onwards tough it started blowing very hard and racing was postponed. The next day they ventured out again to find even more wind an gusts. But I'll let Ann tell her story herself below! (she posted this on Catsailor, I took it over here)

It is a great story to read! I hope Ann doesn't have to many bruises from all the capsizing!!! :-) This story reminded me of the video they shot in Zandvoort (Global Challenge 2007) with a camera on the mast of their Blade F16. I dug it up and here it is for you to see for the first time or to rediscover viewing this great video before!

This year we arrived in Bala in the light – much better than darkness for squeezing the boat over the stone bridge to get to the water and the campsite. It’s pretty tight, only a couple of centimetres gap each side. We arrived to a friendly welcome from Bala Cat Club members and then found Rutland A sailors Dave and Gordon enjoying a lazy evening – so set up camp and joined them.

Saturday morning was sunny with a stiff breeze, so we put the boat together and looked forward to the event with anticipation. There were 21 catamarans signed up to take part – great! The first race started promptly at 12. The wind was great for us, and we were third round the upwind mark close behind Gordon on his A, and one of the local crews on an F18. The rest of the lap was a tussle between us and the lead F18. We finally got them on the next upwind. We kept the lead through the second lap, but the wind was building and we saw several boats retire. The third lap was hairy – the wind was stronger and still building. There were capsizes all over the course. We managed to stay the right way up, but didn’t push it. We won the race! An excellent start for us and the F16.

Unfortunately, after lunch, the wind was still too strong to sail safely, so racing was postponed, then postponed again, then finally abandoned for the day. We enjoyed a couple of drinks and a meal at the pub.

Sunday morning looked more promising, a nice breeze, perhaps a little more gusty than Saturday. Unfortunately, the wind kept building again. By 11 when the racing was due to start, several crews had decided not to go out. Paul and I decided to go out and see. It was certainly gusty! We had an average start, but were doing well upwind. The course was different to Saturday though, and on rounding the mark, it turned out there was not enough water to get the kite up, so a gybing/raising mess ensued and resulted in a capsize! Damn. We were dangerously close to the shore, so getting the boat up and away without damage was a bit fraught. Just as we were getting going, we capsized again through a gybe. Again, far to close to the shore. We’d lost a lot of time, but decided to carry on since boats were going over all the time, and we might make up some ground. We limped down to the downwind mark, rounded and got ready to get back into the groove going upwind. It was impossible. The gusts were crazy, the wind shifts were almost tacking us. It wasn’t fun any more. We decided to call it a day to avoid breaking the boat or us! Only 5 boats finished the race. Racing was abandoned for the rest of the day. We dropped to 5th place.

Monday morning we decided to start early, hoping the wind was lighter, and we’d get some races in. The conditions were similar to Sunday, perhaps a little less, but still with fierce gusts coming through. We decided to go out and see. We nearly didn’t start since we had a few failed attempts at bearing away until the gust had passed! We had a terrible start, but kept going. Managed to almost complete the downwind leg of the first lap until a gust hit as we were gybing. Despite being almost dead downwind, we did an almost perfect pitch pole! Both hulls buried, a nose dive – complete turtle! Both unharmed, we set about righting the boat once more. Again we started drifting towards the shore, and had to call the rescue boat for help. He grabbed the spin pole to try to pull us out of danger. It snapped. But we were saved from the rocks. We limped back to shore just as the race was shortened and sailing abandoned again. Only two F18s finished the race! Bacon rolls were most welcome.

So, we came 4th out of 21! And were rewarded with a box of chocolates – more for giving it a go I think! First place went to an F18 crew from Glasgow St Helens who had managed to keep their boat the right way up all weekend, and one of only two boats to finish all three races.

Despite the lack of sailing, it was a great weekend. Wonderful hospitality, great company and plenty of sunshine. And some great capsize and righting practice! Thanks Bala Cat Club - we’ll be back next year!

Ann and Paul

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