BPYC Christmas 2016 Race – An Outsider’s View
Sometimes it’s easier to be an outsider. We had an invitation to compete in the BPYC Christmas friendly race and came along because we heard BPYC is a club of serious drinkers with a sailing problem.
We come from Greenwich Flying Squadron and sail in Red William. She is a Sparkman and Stephens 34 – the highest tech sail boat – in 1969! Not much has been done to her since.
We found our way to the start line in good time but where were all the other boats? More used to a fleet of 50-plus boats the Lilliputian scale of BPYC was a surprise. OK, you have to admit – it’s pretty weird that the start boat is one of the competitors but hey – we are pretty open minded, and it is their club.
So the countdown to the start begins and – not surprisingly – the start boat is first across the line (these guys really know how to rig a race) but in short time One-Mo-Time is navigating our wake. Everybody else seems to regard crossing the start line as optional as they casually head towards it, probably delayed making another roast beef sandwich with lashings of mustard washed down with French champagne.
Out in front downwind and thinking this is pretty easy, until we turn upwind at Spectacle Island when the sorting of the men from the boys starts. Hard and heavy going into a gusting 20 knots plus. Martela finds the groove and we had to cross behind her after only the second tack. On the third tack Martela gets stuck behind a barge heading west and we are out in clear air again. We feel sorry for Martela – for about a nanosecond. We thought about indicating our emotions with the middle finger but decided our welcome at the lunch later might be compromised by such irrational exuberance.
As they turn upwind, the rest of the fleet appear to be dithering – probably having trouble with champagne spilling from their flutes.
Martela picks up her skirts and is about to cross in front of us again when she puts a spreader right through a beautiful-looking genoa. Too bad guys! With supreme effort, irrational exuberance is again kept in check. Clear air for Red William again - and plenty of it!
Cranking the genny on a 1960’s IOR racer wears out one of our crew members and a quick rotation sees “fresh legs” at the winch (if you know what I mean). We get lucky and just squeeze past the correct side of the Balmain Dolphins without needing an extra tack. Martela has their act together again and we start nervously calculating the distance to the finish line. That’s a problem for us since we don’t know where it is! Eventually we radio in and say we are across the line (we know how to rig a race too boys!) and its back to Lavender Bay for lunch.
On the way, we see the magnificent sight of Steel Sapphire, picture perfect and beating upwind with every stitch of sail up.
What a lunch, and what a great group of people – no talk at this Club about protests, and no sulky losers. It’s all sun and food and wine – my kind of club!
Editor’s Note: The author apologised that reference was not made to other boats in the fleet, but this is entirely understandable, given Red William was so far in front of them that reading names on sterns was impossible. Well done Red William!
Congratulations also to Megisti Blue, who won one corrected time by just 5 seconds from Red William. And commiserations to Steel Sapphire, whose daring gamble to fill their water tanks on the day of the race, thereby taking on 1.2 tonnes of ballast, failed to pay off.