A few weekends ago, I was invited to crew on a Flying 15 for Oceanbridge Sail Auckland.
Crew… As my close friends will know, this position isn’t my strength. My fragile office hands which usually tap keyboards are not trained for the hard world of rope pulling. But alas, I was stoked to be away from the glare of a screen, so I rubbed my eyes, found the coolest sunglasses available, and hit the water with my friend, colleague, mentor, sailor buddy Jenny Price.
The event to be contested was Oceanbridge Sail Auckland. The FF15 fleet (the short term for Flying Fifteen for those not in the know), were located at Gulf Harbour. The main event was at Murray’s Bay Sailing Club, however it’s a bit of a struggle to launch these micro keelers on the beach. The small yet extremely competitive fleet settled into the Hibiscus Coast location ready to race.
Being paired with a super organised sailor, Jenny and I, along with on water rivals, Sally and Neil, decided to get to the location early, get the rigs in, tidy up and still have a chilled out Friday night wine and general banter.
Then the morning was upon us. Nerves kicked in as I guzzled a beetroot smoothie (all the rage amongst the FF15 sailors). It was time to get into my brand new Zhik skiff suit, lifejacket and booties. If anything, I was definitely going to look the part. We launched the boats, made our way to the racing area scooting along pristine blue water practicing the odd tack, gybe, set and drop in the process. After about 15 minutes, our training was done and we were ready to race.
Sharing a course with the Paralympic and Sailability classes made the day even better. Heck, if these guys and gals can get around the course, surely I could without too much injury!
The race committee got us away on time. Our first start was pretty good by rookie standards, and we were mixing up with the high flyers. I think we were about fourth or fifth around the top mark, and when the shoot went up, I was propelled back to my Laser days and started pumping like a maniac hoping that no one, including the jury, would notice. All that hard work didn’t really seem to make much of a difference! We pretty much held our place. The finish was close. So close that we do infact believe that we pipped Jenny’s Dad Fred and his crew David on the line. We knew it, Fred and David knew it, but it would seem our depth of field differed from those on the finish boat. We placed seventh in that race.
A quick stretch of the back, some much needed chocolate and it was time for race two. Stuff happened, we did some tacks, we did was gybes, we ended up seventh… Again!
Into race three and more chocolate was needed. These boats really do take it out of you! We changed a few gears, flattened off the main and prepared ourselves for the building sea breeze. The aim was to finish better than seventh.
I think Jenny and I raced pretty hard, because it felt like we had conquered a marathon! Holding our own again, we managed to pull off some pretty swift moves, but when it came time to eventually cross that finish line, we found ourselves in seventh heaven yet again. Hey at least we were consistent!!!
Back on shore and I felt my body start to fail. The days of being planted behind a screen were wrecking havoc upon my battered body. And my thumb. Oh my thumb. I pulled ropes so hard that the skin of my thumb had been wrenched away from it’s fellow epidermic layers. I had a thumb blister. I was injured.
The taunts began as soon as my new Zhik booties hit dry land, how on earth does one get a thumb blister? My fellow back of the fleet companion Brian suggested that I was sucking my thumb, sad because of our back of fleet results! What a thing to say considering we did beat him and his wonderful wife Bridget in the final two races! The banter was harmless and definitely encouraged. No friends lost, but great memories made.
A BBQ back at the lighthouse saw a feast of champions prepared. Hankered around the plates of protein we fed ourselves to replace the energy lost from the day. The conversations were flowing, the laugher was infectious, or at least that’s what I was told. With my eyelids winning a losing battle to stay open, I fell asleep in the crowded room and didn’t move an inch for the remainder of the evening. I’m actually surprised that I survived the night and woke with my eyebrows still intact.
Day 2 and rain began. The humid, sticky and not at all appealing weather would force our fleet to be shore bound for the day.
We searched for ways to keep ourselves entertained. Brian spent his time studying everyone else’s boats, but I thought I would check out the boots of cars. Sailors really do pack a lot of “stuff” into our vehicles! Lucky I had my Hyundai – plenty of room for everything in a Hyundai!
The Flying Fifteen New Zealand fleet is currently AP'd on shore for Oceanbridge Sail Auckland. So I thought I would check out all the crap that in the back of everyone's cars. Hand up if your boot looks like this! And can you spot the nail polish remover? #carboot #sailing #backofthecar #sailinggear #sails #crap #nailpolishremover #toolbox #mess
Alright I'm off! Crewing on a #flying15 at #oceanbridge #sailauckland out of #gulfharbour. Pretty rad that @royalakaranayachtclub and @hyundainz provide me with a kick ass #santafe to ride around in. It's the perfect beast for towing! Bring on the racing!!! #sailakl #sailing #tow #towing #towbar #towtowtowyourboat #hyuhdai #hyundainz #roadtrip #yaching #livesaildie
Finally the decision was made to call it quits with no chance of the breeze developing above the 2 knots that it sat at for hours. By 3pm we were packing up and calling time on our weekend (or rather day), of racing.
So that was it. Three races done, eighth overall, and my first official appearance in a Flying 15 was over. I have to say that it was an epic weekend. Full respect go to those that campaign a Flying Fifteen. They are a challenging boat to sail properly, and watching the talent on the water was inspiring. The sailors are now training hard for the upcoming worlds, to be hosted by Napier Sailing Club in early 2017.
Thank you Jenny for being an super fun skipper to sail with. You were awesome! Thank you also to Sally and Neil for giving me a place to stay and to Sally for introducing me to the beetroot smoothie. Thanks to Brian and Craig for the ongoing banter, and to Fred for putting me in my rightful place.
But I must warn you… I intend to make another Flying 15 appearance in the not too distant future!