Raptor UK canoe sailing

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April 2010

After the winter's lay-up, the OCSG Rutland Water meet gave me an opportunity to check out my boat and sharpen up my sailing reflexes. Rutland Water and Bala are the two furthest meets I have attended to date. They are comparable distances from my house and fuel costs alone make them expensive outings (about GBP140/$200 for the round trip). This year I chose to attend the Rutland Water meet only since it was the first of the year and I was able to combine the meet with other personal business I had nearby on the Monday after the meet. Normally I try to

extend my stay at a sailing site to make the trip more worthwhile but this isn't possible at Rutland Water since camping is only permitted beside the reservoir for two nights (Friday and Saturday). Rutland Water has the added disadvantage of not permitting launching directly from the campsite, so boats have to be left unattended overnight at the Whitwell Creek launch area 4-500 metres away. There is always the slight concern that they will be tempting targets for mischievous youths but in the event there were no problems. Some chose to secure their boats to trees etc. using cable locks but I didn't bother.

I drove down from Scotland on Thursday, 15 April and spent the night with a family member who lives in the south. This allowed me to arrive early (before midday) at Rutland Water on Friday. I checked in at the water sports centre and paid the launch fees for both Friday and the weekend (currently GBP10 and GBP21 respectively). Camping fees (GBP20 for the two nights) were paid directly to SteveR, the meet organiser. Rutland Water is more regulated than most of our meet locations, with various 'no-go' zones (bird sanctuaries, within 50 metres of fishermen), with the requirement to sign in and out at the water sports centre as well as on the OCSG sheet, and with access to the water prohibited when the water sports centre is closed (so no early morning or late evening outings allowed). The comparatively high costs of this meet are probably justified for novices due to the presence of safety boats. It is also an easier journey for OCSG members living in the southeast of the UK.

This year the OCSG was allocated the (small) westerly end of the campsite, while the bigger central area was reserved for a group of anglers. Much of the western area is steeply sloping so not ideal and, as our group appeared to be the bigger one, most late arrivals ended up siting their campervans, caravans or tents in the central area. No one from the site administration seemed to check who was where. After I had pitched my tent, I drove back to the launching area and started

assembling my boat. RoyB arrived and did the same with his boat. He had chosen to stay in a local B&B rather than camp. Conditions were good and we both had a very enjoyable sail on Friday afternoon, the best of the weekend. While not as fierce as in 2009, the wind speed was enough for some exhilarating sailing. This was the highlight of the weekend for me as the wind strength reduced progressively in the following two days, culminating in the usual Sunday 'race' conditions, where the wind barely ruffled the water's surface. I attained my peak speed for the weekend (10 knots/11.6 mph) shortly before 3 p.m. on

Friday and had plenty of practice flying my ama, which I find excellent for getting a feel for my

Raptor and improving my reflexes. It seems I had fewer cobwebs this year as I managed to avoid any unintentional capsizes.

Frost on the grass on Saturday morning explained why I had felt so cold the previous night, although another member complained he'd been too hot in his goose down sleeping bag. My Snugpak Softie Premier III synthetic sleeping bag is supposed to have a 'comfort' temperature rating of -15C but I certainly wouldn't have been comfortable even at 0C without wearing thermals as well. Maybe one day, if it becomes damp, I can be smug at my choice, as it is supposed to retain "a lot of its thermal properties when wet" (unlike natural down and feather sleeping bags). In the meantime, I can't help but think I'd have been better off with the latter, which are also much more compact, together with a good dry bag.

I was first on the water as most members assembled their boats. Steve asked us to stay close by in the morning in order to give support to new members. In the end most seemed to sail a triangular

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