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49er Team Anderson - Conlon end of season report

We had done it. Against all the odds we had got our new carbon rig ready for the first race of the last event of the season: the 49er inlands. The mast went up, and with it our spirits; we had got the boat ready on time, we were a little rushed, but there was nothing to prevent us making the first race and doing the best we possibly could. That was when we noticed the long, shiny bit of D12 lying on the floor; much too new and long for an offcut.

'Where's the jib halyard?' David asked.

Running a 49er campaign on a student budget and timetable is never easy. We had just about squeezed together the fundsto buy ourselves a second-hand carbon mast (this one was even brand new, but lying as a spare in someone's garage) and sails, but not having the leisure of being full-time sailors caught up with us. The only time we could pick up this mast was on Friday afternoon in Hamble. I was in London, so David went from uni in Portsmouth to Hamble and got hold of this mast, still in 3 bits. We met up at a friend's house not far from Grafham, where we would be sailing, and stayed up until midnight putting the halyards through all 3 sections of mast, taking immaculate care not to twist them. Wethen got up at the crack of dawn and took the boat to Grafham, doing as much as possible until the arrival of Chris Turner of Ovington Boats who we thought would have everything we needed to bolt the masttogether. Naturally, he didn't quite have everything (we were lacking an irritating type of counter-sunk bolt) but we finally managed to find it with the aid of Simon Hiscocks. By this time we were already behind schedule but finally got the mast up, at which point we realised our afore-mentioned mistake, which was simply due to us forgetting one figure-of-eight at the end of the halyard!

We resigned ourselves to missing the first race and managed to bodge a makeshift jib halyard system together using a bit of rope through the shroud hounds and a spare block (thanks Allen bros!). The shiny almost-new sails went up, the kite was rigged, we threw on our kit and were on the water. The wind was up at this point, giving virtually every other team the edge over us, as despite going to the gym almost every day for a month in an attempt to put on some weight, the net result was about half a kilo since leaving the 29er. We managed to stay upright most of the way round, until a small slip was punished with a swim, meaning we trudged over the line in last place.

We hadn't been expecting much from the weather gods at this event. Since leaving the 29er we had taken the 49er out maybe 10-15 times, and not once had we had a steady breeze to get some decent training in: it was either shifting up, down and all over the place, there was nothing at all, or blowing an absolute gale. However, they had a change of heart, and the breeze dropped off by around 5 knots. This gave us slightly more margin for error (of which there are still quite a few at this early stage in our 49er career) and left us less over-powered. Despite a very dodgy start we sailed a steady race, with good downwind speed, and crossed the line 7th. This cheered us up and gave us a bit more confidence for the next race.

Another interesting start followed, with boats looking to just power over the top of us. However, we knew the wind had gone a bit left, so tacked off onto port, ducked the fleet and were lifted up to the mark. As we approached the top mark we were pretty pleased to see only one other boat in front of us; considering the competition, 2nd was a very respectable place to be in. However, David knew how demoralised all the excellent sailors behind us would be if they saw us go round in front of them, and so, gentleman that he is, dropped the tiller just as we were about to bear away! A nifty bit of teamwork meant that we didn't quite capsize, but we found ourselves a way down the fleet, leaving us in no doubt how mistakes (or gentlemanly behaviour) are punished in this fleet. Despite this, we managed to find a couple of nice puffs which we rode downwind, and despite struggling upwind, these good downwind tactics helped us across the line in 8th.

As soon as we got off the water, we had no time to spend on the boat as David had to get to our club laying up supper, and I had promised a friend I would get to his 21st; my friends don't particularly like the fact I spend every weekend sailing anyway, but had I missed this I think I would have been shunned from all land-based society for many years. So I drove to London, got to bed pretty late, slept in my car and woke up fresh as... well, not quite a daisy, but I did manageto get up at 6 for the drive to Grafham, where I was informed that the clocks had changed, so I had another half hour's kip, then stumbled out of my car and dropped the mast, as the several hours before the start made me think that I would be able to fix the jib halyard.

I won't go into details, but starting meant racing down to the committee boat with the kite up, dropping and rounding about ten seconds after all the other boats had gone. Wind conditions barely making 4 knots, we sailed free and fast, and went round the top mark just behind Rick Peacock and Ian Martin, and around 5th overall. We overtook one more boat downwind before the wind dropped off to literally nothing. We were in the same spot for around 15 minutes before the race committee wisely decided to abandon, and we pumped our way back to the club.

This left us in tenth place overall, which for our first open meeting in the 49er (we attended Thorpe Bay a few weeks ago but broke a shroud and didn't complete a race) we thought was pretty respectable. It was the last event of the 49er season, so we are going to spend the winter training and hopefully bulking up by a few kilos. We want to thank everyone who helped us get on the water for this event, and we want to say an extended thanks to everyone who has helped us through our most successful season's sailing ever, despite our difficulties concerning time and money. The highlights were an amazing 29er Euros in Spain (my first international regatta), where we were 19th out of 115,and Nationals in Pwhelli, which we went to hoping for a top ten, but somehow managed to win. Our friends have always been incredible, even rigging up our boat on the first day of gold fleet racing in Spain when I had misunderstood an indefinite postponement to mean a one hour postponement, which very nearly ended up in disaster! As we were too old for squads, we formed our own with all our friends in a similar predicament, promising to help each other both on and off the water, which we named Team Dave after a particular helm (my own), and they were massively supportive throughout the season. Likewise our parents were always there when they were needed, which was all too frequently. Then we need to thank Gul who, much to the disappointment of others, enabled me to step out of my Dad's windsurfing wetsuit from the 80's (which was a particularly alluring shade of florescent blue), and especially to Allen Brothers, who supplied us with blocks, cleats, shackles etc. to help us make our boat one of the fastest (and best looking) on the water, and who sponsored us when the sum total of our 29er achievements was an open meeting win at Thorpe Bay in 2009 and only good memories otherwise. We cannot stress how much we owe to all these, and many others, for helping to keep our obsession alive throughout testing times!

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