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lepe - april '98

The club night on Thursday was well attended at the Lock Keeper, with quite a few people hoping to get down to Lepe if there was going to be some wind. Unfortunately it was on that note that the away day hit a stumbling block. The forecast was less than promising - if the low pressure came slower than expected it would be dry but there would be no wind; if it came quicker, then there would be some wind but it would be raining. Neither of the forecasts were what I was looking for but the second option was better than the first, so I went for it, hoping for a quick low pressure.

Since there wasn't likely to be much wind until the afternoon Neroli and I made a late start and got down to Lepe around mid day to find Steve Wynne Roberts and Peter Slump out on the water. They were both planing on and off so it was a matter of guessing what size sails they were using and getting out to join them as quickly as possible.

From where we were standing I guessed Steve was using his 6.5m sail on the Rhumba but since he was only planing some of the time I decided to rig my 7.9m on the Screamer2 and just set it extra flat ready for when the wind picked up (ever optimistic). Neroli rigged the 5.8m accordingly and all was going well until we were just about to launch when Peter and Steve came in and revealed Steve was actually using his 8.5m sail and was still under-powered. Neroli and I picked Steve and Peter's brains on the conditions along with another sailor from Winchester before we headed off to find out for ourselves that yes, Steve was under-powered.

We then spent the next hour sailing back and fourth along the sea front across the entrance to Beaulieu River trying to head up wind sufficiently so that when a gust a suitable wavelet arrived you could bear away and pump like a mad thing to get the board planing for the rest of the run. Excellent practice for your early planing skills but hard work in a winter steamer on a spring day, particularly when Steve would plane past you on his just as you have given up your latest attempt, knackered.

During the course of the day we were joined by a number of other local sailors, all using boards around the 295 mark with 7m+ sails which meant everyone was having similar troubles getting on the plane. It seemed that getting on the plane was more of a question of being in the right place a the right time rather than possessing some unfair ability to pump a short board on to the plane. On a number of occasions through out the day someone fifty yards away from you would get planing and come past you while you felt no change in the wind at all, then a few minutes later the opposite would happen

One of the local sailors was very interested in how we all faired relative to early planing and carrying big sails on short boards as he was contemplating buying a new board, however he eventually decided that the localised nature of the gusts made it almost impossible to make any sensible comparisons and so gave up.

Having planed past me a few too many times, Steve eventually had mercy and offered to swap kit for a while, a request I eagerly accepted. It was quite amazing the difference between our sails. Mine was still rigged very flat because I had been too lazy to come in and let off some downhaul, and Steve's was set very full. Consequently Steve's sail had much more power than mine (not a total surprise as it was also 0.6m bigger) and it really brought home to me that I should have made the trip back to the beach to adjust my rig - had I done so the rest of the morning probably wouldn't have been as frustrating. Unfortunately I didn't learn from my lesson because when I did a deep water change back of equipment with Steve, I still didn't go in and let off my downhaul and Steve continued to go past me.

Around two o'clock the gusts seemed to be picking up in strength slightly and it was getting easier to get on the plane at last. The wind had swung slightly more southerly and it was looking as though the predicted change in the wind was arriving. By half past two we were planing most of the time and once you got a gust to get onto the plane it was relatively easy to stay on the plane for as long as you liked until the inevitable happened when you tried to gybe, consequently people started sailing longer legs.

The first heavy rain squall came across around three o'clock which then made planing effortless, a welcome relief for tired arms, however visibility dropped very quickly and the rain hitting your face started making it difficult to watch where you were going - usually a good thing to do when sailing in the Solent. When the rain stopped the wind died back a bit so I decided to call it a day. Neroli, Steve and Peter had all stopped by now and were warming up with teas and coffees in the vans.

It rained relentlessly all the way back to Bristol so it was probably just as well to stop when we did. Overall a welcome chance to get sailing as neither Pete, Neroli or I had sailed for some time. Peter spent an amazing amount of the time on the plane considering he had a similar size board and sail to Neroli but probably weighs considerably more. There hadn't been any wind when we left Bristol and there wasn't any when we got back, I guess most people decided to make the most of a lie in on the Sunday and decided they hadn't missed much, however it was certainly better than house so I was glad I went.

Ian Long

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