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speed trial - portland, sept '98

The weather forecast for Sunday 13th. gave northerly winds of 15 - 20 mph along the south coast, with gales off the Scillies indicating that we might expect seriously good winds later.

Peter Slump and I left Bristol at 7.30 on a clear, bright windless morning wondering if the forecasters had it wrong. We decided that it was not worth even stopping at Phil Baker's house to collect the speed course buoys. By the time we passed Hardy's monument there was noticeable movement of leaves and branches and we felt more optimistic. That most reliable of anemometers, the Midi van steering, was indicating barely force 3. We parked in the boatyard at

We parked in the boatyard at 9 where a handful of people were already rigging up; the sail of choice was a 6.5 m2. The wind direction was due north, as on Saturday, unusable for speed trials. Peter rigged a 6.0 sail on the infamous Wayler and I set up my 7.5 Retro on the Xantos. Setting out from the beach we seemed to be well overpowered until I found the first hole in the wind and fell into it.

We headed out to the breakwater, planing 90% of the way, spinning out a few times and hitting the lulls just when we thought that we had this planing business cracked. We returned to the boatyard to find Brian Derrick and Roger Blake rigging 6.5 sails. Brian set out on his 276 Gecko but quickly decided that the wind was not strong enough for it so he changed to his long board.

We went out again to the breakwater where the wind appeared to be strongest and most reliable. I was beginning to have difficulty holding on to the 7.5 and returned to the beach to change down. Meanwhile Brian had decided that the stronger wind justified the Gecko being relaunched. At about this time Nigel and Rebecca Rudgyard found us. Nigel climbed unflinching into his wet wetsuit and set off. I finished rigging my 5.8 to find that the wind had dropped to about force 2, once more illustrating the perfect reliability of Sod's Law. Nigel continued sailing, wind or no wind, while Peter, Brian, Roger and I sat waiting and willing the wind to blow.

Realising that we were wasting the afternoon, we returned to the water and pottered for an hour. Peter tried out Brian's Gecko and found it very enjoyable. The fact that Peter is 20 Kg lighter than Brian, made a big difference. Brian did not take up the chance to try Peter's board as he realised that sailing the Wayler is a very missable experience. Peter and I were about to leave the boatyard when we saw Jon White who had arrived in mid-morning and enjoyed the best of the wind and made satisfying progress on his short board.

Jon told us a cautionary tale of a friend who was messing around off the beach, saw Jon approaching and decided to tip him off his board. In the resulting scrummage, Jon's fin caught his friend in the face leaving a cut under his nose. A close enough shave.

On the journey back to Bristol we felt that the wind was getting stronger as the van progressed with a series of force 4 and 5 lurches. We learned later that Brian, Roger and Nigel had stayed on after we had left, the wind increased to give them the best 2 hours sailing of the day While we at Portland were struggling to get planing on 6.5 and 7.5 sails, Adrian Johnson was struggling to hold on to a 4.7 sail off Minehead.

Clearly, we were not likely to undertake speed trials at either venue, perhaps the best answer is to speed trial in the Red sea.

(the late) Steve Wynne-Roberts

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