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Ospreys at the Weymouth Regatta

by Alan Henderson 14 Jul 2015 09:26 BST 11-12 July 2015

Attack of the killer jellyfish

Six races in big waves, open sea, and 20 plus knots for both days, you might think that the 16 Ospreys at Weymouth Regatta had enough to keep their hands full. But no, Dorset's Jurassic Coast continued its tradition of savage beasts, but in this case underwater ones. Vast flotillas of killer jellyfish swarmed into Portland Harbour and Weymouth Bay to greet the sailors, and to feast on their appendages.

Take Osprey sailor Richard Cumberbatch for instance. The killer jellyfish had already ripped off the transom of his usual boat just a week before the Regatta, but finding a crew position on another Osprey, he resolved to join battle with the cantankerous coelenterates.

Wave upon wave of killer jellies greeted the sailors as they sailed out of the harbour into the bay, where at least the jelly density was a little lower, and for many sailors coping with waves and winds replaced worrying about avoiding the jellies.

Gear failures were common, not all jellyfish induced. Paul Heather and Jonathan Osgood in Light and Bitter made a heroic 3 mile beat back to Castle Cove under jib only after a mainsail problem, fixed their breakage, sailed back to the start area but unfortunately just missed the last race of the day.

On the Sunday, also blowing 20 knots, another Weymouth boat unfortunately had its transom removed. But not this time by the killer jellies, this time the Light and Bitter boys' boom was said to be in very close proximity at the time. Never seen a transom removed by a boom, but there you are. The jellies were meanwhile feasting on the T foils of Cherubs, which were a nice easy target compared with the simple foils of the Ospreys.

But for Richard Cumberbatch, having recently suffered the loss of one transom, this outrageous behaviour by the jellies was just too much. How do you best give a fleet of jellyfish a sound thrashing? He chose an unexpected method. Encountering a sudden wind shadow, courtesy of those Light and Bitter boys again, always near the scene of a crime, Richard went for a severe tea bagging. At first he went for the traditional walk on the wild side, flying towards the forestay, then he caught the jellies by surprise by somersaulting, still on the wire, to launch into a flying head butt on the beasts, diving down close to the shrouds, before performing an elegant turn and resuming his upright stance and returning to the boat.

His dive at the jellies was with such force that he lost a contact lens, but later found it elsewhere in his eye socket, but sadly folded by the impact. You've heard of folded masts, booms and transoms, now here's an original injury suffered while sailing. We're not sure if he managed to land any blows on the jellies, but perhaps the deterrence effect worked, because no further transoms were lost.

Meanwhile there was some racing, with Terry Curtis and Peter Greig prevailing over Chris Gould and Nick Broomhall, with Kevin Francis/ Phil Male in third. Nobody had an easy ride, with capsizes and gear failures common, while Terry Curtis complained of rudder cavitation. Are those pesky jellies adapting to blowing bubbles up and down rudder blades, rather than just eating them?

Next year, the Osprey class will greet the new Mark 5 Osprey. Details of the design are closely guarded, but are said to include an open transom. After Weymouth, buyers of a nervous disposition are a little unsure of whether an open transom is a good idea. Will the jellies leap in over the back, and bite your ankles instead of your foils? Only time will tell.

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