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RS Sailing 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Zippy's Adventures at the Menai Strait Regattas

by Zippy Zero 16 Aug 2023 18:54 BST

Ahoy there Mateys! Gather round and let me spin you a tale of high winds, sandbanks, whirlpools and buoy blunders from the prospective of yours truly, Zippy the D-Zero 333. I've been through quite a fortnight of drama with my trusty Owner and skipper Liz Potter, at the Menai Straits Regatta in North Wales.

The Regatta has a long history, originally dating back to the 19th century, when daring sailors and their trusty vessels braved the swirling waters in search of glory. Over the years it has become a colourful tradition that celebrates both skilled sailing and the joy of camaraderie. Our escapades are just a drop in the vast ocean of tales that this regatta has witnessed. So here it is; the tale of the 2023 event from the little boat that was there.

The opening day was a blustery affair, run by the Royal Dee Yacht Club. I launched in the lee of Beaumaris Pier in a nice little breeze, which, within 20 metres became a honking, big wave, tidal 20-knotter.

Owner was delicately perched over my transom, tending to my rudder, when I careered off in a plume of spray and foam to let her know what we were really dealing with. The message from the engine room read "Rough passage ahead. Fasten bra straps. Remove dentures and sunglasses." Luckily there were no false teeth or sunglasses, as the drizzle was making the visibility quite a challenge.

Only two dinghies; me and the GP14 sailed by Tim and Paul Scott-Wilson plus a handful of keelboats braved the scary conditions. It was a very wet 34 minutes of ploughing beneath waves and flying over crests, which ended in a deafening bang. I checked my body parts and all were still intact. Owner was also in one piece and incredibly, still on board. Then I realised it was a canon and I'd finished. It was a win for me and a second for Tim.

The next morning was the turn of Bangor Town to run the races. We started from Beaumaris and raced towards the bridges on a windward/leeward course, finishing at the Gazelle Hotel. There, we had a wait in the shallows, whilst the race team started the sequence for the second race back to Beaumaris. The overall results put me in second, just behind Tim's GP14 who took the win, with Mark and Phil Finch coming third in their Wayfarer.

Tuesday had been a long day out at sea before starting out on the epic 20km race to Caernarfon through the Straits the following day. I was enjoying my snooze on the Green that night and was rudely awakened at 5am on Weds morning by Owner stripping off my cosy covers and whipping my trolley from underneath me like some cheap tablecloth trick. Off she went with all my stuff and trailer, to relocate my bits to Caernarfon ready for my planned arrival later that day. The wind was forecast to be light, so the organisers postponed the start by an hour to allow the big spring tide to work in our favour.

It was awesome sailing beneath the first huge bridge and I gave the bridge pillars a lot of room as the tide swirled fiercely around them. During the crossing of these tidal swirls, know as the Swellies, I gave my cockpit a thorough washout in the crazy whirlpools, which had kindly been provided for us, presumably by the Nelson Man on the plinth overlooking the water park. I also spent some time collecting foil-fulls of flowers (seaweed) for Owner in appreciation of her thoughtful spa treatment for me.

It was a beat for the next two hours and I'd already caught up with most of the keelboats from the previous half-hour of starts before we cleared the second bridge.

The Straits shot by in the ever-increasing current and my flower collection was now streaming out behind me like ribbons on a maypole. I barely had time to flap my leech at my friends at Port Dinorwic Sailing Club, before we were making the final approaches towards Caernarfon. The cannons fired at me to signal the end of my day, giving me a 3rd place on corrected time behind the Finches Wayfarer in 2nd and Scotts GP in first.

Caernarfon Castle is the home of the Royal Welsh Yacht Club, who were our hosts for the evening. They provided the competitors with a generous buffet after racing and the singing of the Welsh sailors could be heard from my overnight berth on the banks of the Aber Foreshore over the river.

The next morning it was the wind that was howling like an overenthusiastic sea shanty and we were back to some severe toestrap weather. Our race set off on a very long one-sided beat towards Y-Felinheli. All the handicap dinghies were quite close. Once we rounded the mark, I sped off on a broad reach, with my white-eyed owner rapidly becoming a no-eyed Owner as the spray increased.

After our long reach-by-braille, the wind shifted to give us a fetch and reaching course, where we were able to lose the rest of the fleet and win by a considerable margin. The Scotts GP was second, followed by the Finches in the Wayfarer and then the Albacore sailed by Andrew and Caroline Willatt in fourth.

The stories in the boat park that night highlighted the trickier aspects the mark roundings behind me, as the tide strengthened. The Wayfarer and Albacore both struggled to lay the windward mark and had to tack several times to lay it. On the first approach, crew Phil of the Wayfarer called out to helm Mark "Have you seen the Star (boat) to the East?". "Yes, I see it" said Mark. "Then follow the Star" said Phil.

Unfortunately there were two Stars and Mark hadn't seen the first one. By that time, they were one wise man and a few sheep short of making a neat bear away to duck its transom, so a slam tack was performed and another attempt to round the mark started. Needless to say, they were last to the Inn after sailing, with little gold left but plenty of mirth.

The next day, the wind was still blowing onshore, which meant a short beating and long reaching course and a repeat of the previous days racing. It was a little lighter, but still Zipping conditions and we went on to win that one too, with a repeat of Thursday's finishing positions for the rest of the fleet too.

Storm Anthone was due the following day and the racing at Port Dinorwic was cancelled, meaning we'd wrapped up the first week's series with a win overall. The boats were packed up and the Owners were treated to another evening of beer and food at the Castle, as they had every evening in Caernarfon. Well done RWYC - great hospitality!

I was allowed to rest on my trailer for the weekend before the start of week 2.

A few more dinghies had arrived on the Green; another GP14, a Laser 2000 and three Yellow Perils - Fireflies from Liverpool University, which were being sailed by a selection of 9 students; recently graduated from American Universities, who had been on summer tour in the North of England competing in various sailing events. The Young Ones brought with them a wave of youthful positive energy and I loved them even more when they came to admire me in the boat park. They all promised to buy D-Zeros when they returned home mid-week.

The positive vibes on that Monday morning were short-lived for us. After a great start, we made a final tack to round the windward mark, which was positioned on the edge of a visible sandbank.

I felt the telltale scrape beneath me. Yes, my friends, we had run aground! I imagined the sand grains chuckling to themselves as they held me captive for an extensively embarrassing time. Despite raising daggerboard and rudder, I just found another bit of land clinging on to me.

Owner eventually got out into calf deep water and waded about a bit, whilst I built a sandcastle, ordered an ice-cream and played with the seagulls. By then we'd given the rest of the fleet a reasonable time to get away. It took us an hour to get back with the pack and I worked very hard downwind to gain some distance ahead. There was more drama to come.

At the leeward mark, the keelboats were rounding it to starboard and I was reaching in on port to round to port. There was only one very slow Menai Strait One Design boat which seemed to be timed for trouble, but he still had a kite up and wasn't looking like he was up for a neat mark rounding at all. Yeah, you know what I was thinking. Nippy Zippy right? I decided on a little prayer to help with proceedings but could only remember one and the words "Lead me not into temptation" didn't seem very appropriate given the manoeuvre I was about to perform, so I settled for "Deliver me from Evil", which should at least keep my insurers happy.

I picked my wave and moment, carve gybed into the still available space beside the buoy and waved politely at Mr MSOD, who gasped as he saw me for the first time. I immediately tacked onto starboard and looked ahead to see the entire Fife fleet approaching me downwind on port tack - a sea of kites and masts and not a single face in view. The hailing was hopeless and my grey sail was in stealth mode.

Owner held her nerve and weaved through them in a Zippy near-death experience, only remembering about the final turning mark (which we had since passed) once the horror was over. We tacked back and reached to the last mark, writing off the whole experience with a 5th place discard. The race was won by Jean Louis-Simmons in the GP14, followed by one of the Yellow Perils in a Firefly, sailed by Michelle Lahrkamp in second. Third was the GP14 sailed by the Scott-Wilsons.

At last, one of my favourite days had arrived. It was the play with the seals day and occasionally puffins too, if in season. The wind was zephyringly light and we all hugged the shore before the start of the famous Round Puffin Island Race. There was a fierce tide running towards the Island, which was good, but not helpful for the start.

We timed the 180 degree turn to run across the start line, allowing for a considerable safety margin, as an OCS was effectively game over. The Firefly sailed by Michelle had a spot on start and sped along with the tide to lead the dinghy race until just short of the Island, where they over-stood the channel mark and lost ground reaching back.

At this point, there were two slower keelboats ahead of me, which had started some half hour before. I overtook both before Penmon Point and proudly led all of the fleets around the Island and home. I was not allowed to play with seals and the Puffins were on holiday abroad, but Owner shared her biscuit with me and spilt considerable coffee over my cockpit, so I guess we had a good time.

The handicap thing put us in 6th place and the 1st and 2nd places went to Yellow Perils of Michelle Lahrkamp and Ciara Rodriguez Horan - go ladies!!!

And in third place, the Finches Wayfarer enjoyed the long spinnaker run home.

Another day, more wind and the turn of Hoylake Sailing Club to run the racing. It was a low tide affair, with plenty of sandbanks on offer. My bucket and spade were unpacked by Owner, while she gave me a bit of a pep talk. Then we launched into the strong, still ebbing tide. A number of dinghies were OCS and we had to tack up the bank to make ground. The Scotts GP14 was braver than me and went further inshore beyond Bangor Pier to take a lead around the first mark. It was a dead run and very gusty, so I shot off with Owner holding on very tight.

A glorious reach across the channel followed; all of 3 or 4 minutes of pleasure followed by another long beat up the sandbanks. After 2 laps, I still hadn't made enough distance from the GP, who took the win, followed by Lahrkamp in second and me in third.

The final day of racing was super light. We started after several postponements and inter-fleet confusion about whether mark 10 was part of our course or not. The extra buoy had appeared on the shore course boards before our start, but wasn't on our dinghy whiteboard when we signed on. I sailed around to do a quick poll of what everyone thought and then, as we would likely be lead boat, decided not to include it.

At the start gun, the Albacore sailed by Andrew and Kathryn Willatt found a very narrow conveyor belt of favourable tide and, like Aladdin on his magic carpet, he shot off into the distance, where he found some wind to increase his lead.

The rest of us bobbed around in no wind, gently floating on a bit of tide in the right general direction. I took Owner over to the right of the course, where I could smell a little breeze arriving and we took that with us to the windward mark, followed closely by the GP sailed by Jean-Louis and Izzy Simons and the Wayfarer.

Once around the mark, the Albacore went and parked up in the big hole that we all had been sitting in. I hung onto my breeze on the other side and the Simons GP followed not too far behind with the help of its kite. It was a long slow run to the next mark and any boredom was broken by unexpected events, such as the Milnes needing to cross me to go around mark 10 (which was grumpy because we'd boycotted it).

The moment I gave him permission to pass me, the wind flipped around 180 degrees to a beat. We skipped off and his heavier keelboat did some sail-dancing, without moving its feet. It was a relief to see the shortened flag up, and the GP14 finished close enough behind me to finish first on handicap. The rest of the fleet wallowed some time longer, with the Laser 2000 of Stan van den Berg and Sheena picking up a third.

So ended the fortnight, as strong winds returned for the last two days causing abandoned races. The event was won overall by Tim and Paul Scott-Wilson in their GP14, by one point from me and my Owner Liz Potter. Mark and Phil Finch came 3rd overall.

As Zippy, the D-Zero boat, I've weathered these humorous misadventures with my skipper Liz. And while victory may have eluded us this time around, the memories and laughter we've shared on the Menai Strait with our fellow boats and Owners will be forever etched into our fibreglass hulls or wooden planks and into our sailor's hearts. Until the next regatta, fair winds and blue seas my friends!

Full results for all fleets: www.menaistraitregattas.org.uk/results%202023.html

Handicap Dinghy Fleet Results:

PosClassSail NoBoatHelmRDYCBangorRThruRWYC1RWYC2MBBCBeau-marisHSCRMYCNet
1stGP1413513Sea LordTim Scott‑Wilson21122‑3‑41‑69
2ndD‑Zero333Zippy ZeroLiz Potter12‑311‑5‑63210
3rdWayfarer7286Sunny Side UpMark Finch(DNC)3233‑43‑4418
4thGP 1413113WUFJean‑Louis Simons(DNC)(DNC)(DNC)DNCDNC176137
5thFirefly18Project PrincessMichelle Lahrkamp(DNC)(DNC)(DNC)DNCDNC212DNC38
6thAlbacore346Lyra SilvertongueAndrew Willatt(DNC)(DNC)(DNC)4DNC797543
7th20002527ShaheenStan van den Berg(DNC)(DNC)(DNC)DNCDNCRET85348
8thFirefly17Crews UnionCiara Rodriguez Horan(DNC)(DNC)(DNC)DNCDNC62OCSDNC51
9thFirefly16Singles ClubPiper Holthus(DNC)(DNC)(DNC)DNCDNC85OCSDNC56
10thFirefly6 George Atwell(DNC)(DNC)(DNC)DNCDNCDNCDNCDNCDNC66

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