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A report from Callum Airlie about the maiden voyage of his new Optimist won at the Optimist Nationals in Weymouth

Thursday, 06 September 2007
As most of you will know, Callum was fortunate enough to win the John Merricks Sailing Trust prize Optimist at the Nationals this year. Logistics meant that the boat only got as far as Bath after the event. As a result, the maiden voyage for the boat took place at the Welsh Championship event in Cardiff. Since this was effectively an unprepared boat, we arrived at Cardiff in plenty of time: registration was well organised, and we could quickly get on with rigging, and finding all the little bits that still needed doing. Minor features like mast tie-down, attachments for balers & paddle, removing the air blisters from the trust stickers... We had done as much as possible before arriving (spars and sails had gone home, so could be dealt with at leisure), but there was still twice as much as usual - plus the unusual (but not totally unexpected) string of visitors wanting to see the new boat. A quiet word with the Beachmaster (thanks, Karen and team) got Callum a launch position that allowed a photo opportunity, and the event got underway. Numbers were sufficient that the entrants were split into four flights for racing, so two starts per race; three races planned; 42 boats (or thereabouts) per start. Brilliant sunshine, a light breeze (6-7 knots I believe) and a lorne-link course (that's an outer loop/inner loop for the sassenachs) saw the racing get under way. Some over-enthusiastic starts saw a number of general recalls, and an eventual black-flag start. Honours were taken by James Parker-Mowbray and Alexander Rumball, with Callum turning in a mid-fleet 24. This was obviously the shake-down race: the subsequent two races saw Callum working his way up the fleet to produce 11th and then 4th. Race 2 also showed who had paid attention to the Sailing Instructions and the briefing: this was a two lap race, and the first 10 boats forgot to include the finish mark as a mark of the course! Racing was competitive all the way around the course, with the regular Cardiff Bay power-boats providing plenty of challenges for the safety fleet and the sailors. Unlike many events where the race is won and lost on the start-line, the course was long enough and the ability mix close enough to see some good racing. Day 2 and the sailors were re-flighted based on Monday's results. A good breeze in the morning saw two races completed before the sailors came in for lunch (against the race officer's better judgement), and another two top 5 results from Callum. He has obviously got the new hull sussed out. The afternoon had one event race planned, to be followed by a 'fun' race as a media exercise for the Cardiff Water Festival (taking place on Mermaid Quay at the opposite side of the bay). Although the official race got started, the forecast drop in the wind strength happened, and the fleets ended up with a significant number getting 'W' finishes due to lack of wind. There was insufficient breeze to allow the 'fun' race to happen, so early showers and on to the evening entertainment. The final day dawned with little wind again: we turned up (at 09:30) to see the weather station showing a maximum wind speed of 0.7kts over the previous hour. With two races left, and the fleets now split into Gold and Silver fleets, this did not bode well. Luckily the breeze did fill in sufficiently, and the PRO managed to get the first race off, albeit an hour later than planned. The second race got underway only to suffer a general recall when the wind shifted through 90 degrees between the Gold and Silver starts. A frustrating hour or so was then spent whilst waiting for the wind to settle enough for a start sequence. With the latest time for a warning signal fast approaching (and some anxious parents calculating arrival times home), the wind settled sufficiently for the final race to get under way. With good starts from the usual suspects, this race was going to be all about tactics: which side of the course was going to pay; where were the lifts going to come from; could a gap be forced at the mark. Some interesting tactical decisions saw local sailor Eleni Morus take 1st place, followed by Nik Froud, Tomas Pain, David Pain & Callum. A good event, and an excellent start with the new boat. So, what does winning a new Oppie mean to us? For starters, it will make life an awful lot easier if Callum continues at his current level, and achieves a GBR squad place. We will be able to position a boat at each end of the country, thus reducing the cost of attending the training sessions. The difficult choice will be which boat to place where. His existing boat is obviously fast; whether the new boat is faster is open to debate. We will need to check the calendar and the required logistics before deciding. 5737 will definitely be used for the End of Seasons: hopefully by then all the paperwork will have been dealt with as well. Oh, and for those were wondering if Callum names his boats: the answer is yes. His original boat was 4076, Tigger, one of relatively few measured wooden Oppies on the circuit, with a rather memorable paint job; the current boat, 4948, became Tigger Too (can anybody spot a theme?). 5737 has been named: it is T... Well, you'll have to wait and see!

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