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April 2009

After six months' lay-up, I had my first outing on my Raptor last weekend. It was a six hour drive down to Rutland Water from my house, the longest journey I have made to attend an OCSG meet. Friday was cool and breezy and I made a clockwise circuit of the lake, taking photos and a short video. It felt good to be back out on the water. Although I only partly unfurled the sail, I still recorded my highest speed to date while beating northeast back up the lake: 11.6 knots.

I again found it almost impossible to tack in an anti-clockwise direction, something I had first noticed at Windermere last Autumn. In a strong wind, there appears to be too much wind resistance tacking this way, and the situation wasn't helped by the reduced sail area, reducing momentum to carry the Raptor through the turn. When stuck in irons, the wind always blew me back onto a port tack, irrespective of what I did with the rudder. I had to use my paddle to complete the turn.

I was surprised at how much swell built up in such a small body of water. When on a starboard tack this was quite unnerving as it felt as if the ama would continue on over when it lifted on a wave crest. I had my first capsize for some time. My reflexes were too slow and I didn't react quickly enough when hit by a gust. I had the foil deployed but had too much sail out. This was lots of fun while on the port tack, but too much on the starboard tack. There were lots of rescue boats on the lake and they were busy on Friday. One came alongside almost immediately but I was able to right the boat myself using the ama tether, although it was not easy pulling the sail up vertical in such a strong wind. The boat had turtled almost immediately. Luckily I didn't have any additional weight on the sidecar. After this incident I furled the sail more and didn't have any further problems.

Rutland Water has non-sailing areas to the west and north which are marked with lines of red buoys. These are designated nature reserves and bird sanctuaries. The rescue boats double as park rangers, advising trespassers of the restrictions.

Most of the group arrived later on Friday. The campsite is only available for use on Friday and Saturday nights, and then only by groups, it's not open to the general public. The wind was less strong on Saturday but still more than enough to provide an excellent day's sailing for us all. A yacht club situated on the south of the lake was holding a regatta, however, which made access to the lake much more restrictive. I completed another circuit of the lake, this time in an anti-clockwise direction, gradually improving my technique and deploying more sail.

On Sunday morning we had a single race three times around a triangular course marked by three buoys, close to the campsite. Unfortunately wind was much lighter. I feel the Raptor is at a competitive disadvantage in light winds, compared to some other OCSG sailing canoes. I had my usual dismal start and managed to hit the start line buoy while trying to avoid another boat, so had to do a 360 degree turn before setting off. I could make little progress in the light winds but fortunately some stronger gusts came along, driving me through the field.

On the second leg of the first lap (between buoys #2 and #3) it was interesting to follow the eventual race winner (SteveR sailing a Solway Dory Shearwater) as I found I was able to match his windward performance without problem. I only deployed the foil on one of the three laps during this second leg of the course, when beating on a starboard tack. The rest of the time I simply flew the ama when a gust of wind hit, controlling the trim with the mainsheet. The foil adds too much drag and is only worth deploying in a race if the winds are so strong that beating to windward is impossible without it. The race took less than an hour to complete so I was able to pack up and left the lake before 3 pm.

I need to make further modifications to my boat carts, as both sets of wheels still have the tendency to slip round the hull when turning corners. This was highlighted at Rutland Water, as there wasn't a lot of space and so more manoeuvring that normal was required.

More photos of the meet are in the Meets section.

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