Cherubs and FDs

It's a strange experience, sharing an Open meeting with FDs. Like the Cherub, it's a two crew one trapeze and spinnaker monohull. And that's it. Other points of similarity - none.

And so there you are. It's one of those horrible Solent Slop days. The nasty irregular broken-up remains of Atlantic Waves, funneled down the Channel and past the Isle of Wight, heaped up and irregular, dying on Lee on Solent Beach. Every inch of the beat is a struggle, desperately trying to keep that little boat planing, slamming into waves, thump, thump, thump, each knocking you back, another lump to get round, another hole to crash into.

Then, it just hisses past you. The long elegant shape of an FD, effortlessly sliding through the waves as if they're not there. Higher, faster, totally uncompromised by the conditions, it seems as if it's the ultimate sailing machine. One goes past, then another. It hardly seems worth trying to protect yourself from an inside overlap, so you just let the FD through as you grope up to the mark. The windward mark. And suddenly it's another game.

The FD is off down the reach, you've got to bear away onto the run. Don't power up, as the FD hoists its kite, let it slide by inside as you go for the pole. Wait on the hoist till its past and you can bear away. Until its past. It's not going past. That long elegant shape has folded away its huge genoa and hoisted a tiny pocket handkerchief of a spinnaker. It makes no difference, it just carries on at exactly the same speed. Leave the halyard, sheet in the main, two sail reach past it bear away and chuck up the kite. The little Cherub, with its dramatic acceleration onto the reach, is faster with the white sails than the FD is with the coloured ones.

Up with the kite and it's another world. Now the Cherub springs into life, dancing from wave to wave, hurtling down the waves and up the next one, riding on its knife edge of balance, steadied with the kite and the few square feet of hull still in the water. The FD, no longer elegant and graceful, seems dead in the water, lumbering down to the marks. It's little more than an obstruction, like a mark or a fishing boat, another solid object to keep in mind as the Cherub recklessly careers over the suddenly calmed sea, skipping from the wave tops like a skimming stone.
And then, douse the kite, tidy up, back up the beat. Crash. Bang. Trapeze wires jerk and mast bounces. And there goes the FD again.

© Jim Champ, 1991, 2007

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