Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Who'd have thunk it?

We finally bit the bullet and entered a regatta a few weeks ago.

Team: Katie (skipper), Tony Browne (tactician), Tim, Laura and Biba (willing crew).
Dogs: Louis, Mollie and Schoona.

Course: Tivat opposite sailing club - Verige channel - Perast islands - Verige channel - Zaliv Tivatska - Zaliv Hercegnovska - Igalo - Herceg Novi breakwater

I have always been somewhat reticent about entering a regatta due to our lack of tactical sailing experience and I didn't want us to look like total dicks. However, the addition of our tactician, Tony, and Laura (experienced crew) gave us the confidence to bite the bullet and enter the race.

Half an hour before the race, Tony was hoisting our spinnaker (which we'd never used before) and fashioned a quick bodge on our slightly broken spinnaker pole. The winds were light as we crossed the start line, but with our fab green spinnaker out front and the addition of 600 litres of water we'd just put in our tanks that very morning (always a race winning tactic, that one), we made good ground and were doing pretty well.

Once around the islands off Perast, we started the beat back up Verige channel and the weight of our boat compared to the (empty) plastic fantastics began to show. A heart-stopping near collision with Pedja, Tim's ex boss, added to the drama as we squeezed every inch out of every tack. Then into Tivat bay for several hours of floating about in dead air, time for a quick swim, some food and all the boats began to bunch up.

Tony's ever-ready, eager approach and constant monitoring with the binoculars gave us the edge for some of the time, finding the tiniest breaths of wind here and there but overall, it was a long slog up to Herceg Novi.

Then the nail-biting finale began, with us just ahead of the rest of the cruising yachts (the racing boats had come in ages before). A misunderstanding about the location of the finish line almost fooled us into thinking we had won - but upon realising we had to round another buoy, we gritted our teeth and with every single ounce of our psychic energy, we urged Monty B forward.

A last minute tactical and silent tack, fooled the boat nearest to us and we inched ahead towards the line, willing the boat to move faster, and as a beautiful breath of wind caught our sails, we crossed the line.
And won!

With legs like jelly, my hands still grasped around the wheel like they were frozen, I couldn't quite believe it. Cheers and clapping from all the other boats - all the local sailing guys, some of the first Montenegrins we had met back in 2007, the Yugoslavian army teams, all the blokes who reckoned that our boat was an "old timer's boat" or a "nostalgia boat" - we beat them all.

And me, a female skipper - a first in Montenegro, that is for sure. Plus the locals think we are utterly bonkers taking 3 dogs on the race too.

A brilliant job by the whole team but most of all to Tony for his brilliant tactical awareness and sail-trimming skill - we learnt so much that day and we all said that it was one of the best days we'd had in years.

And then I woke up and it was all a dream.