Osprey’s join in the fun at a Very Windy Bloody Mary

Scribblings & photographs by Kev Francis

It’s Saturday 11th January and most Osprey folk are tucked up at home awaiting the return of warmer weather before once again donning the wetsuit to do battle, but not for a hardy few. On arrival at Queen Mary Sailing club no less than 5 Osprey’s were present, along with 1 or 2 other boats…..

The roll of honour reads: Martin Cooney & Peter Frith in the class Association Osprey 1360, Alex and Nick Willis in the tried and trusted 1291, Roger and Iain Blake in 1369, Richard Marshall & new crew in 1373 and winter series regular Phil Meakin and Tommo Tomson in 1347.

These brave souls committed to racing the pursuit event with the wind already howling across the dinghy park with forecasts for it to increase throughout the afternoon. Occasional showers did not dampen the spirits and with the clock ticking down the time came to launch, or shall we say the first trial commenced.

photo - Hanging in there Osprey style

Launching into a very strong head wind between pontoons was going to be no easy task. To make matters worse the first casualties of the event were returning literally in pieces to the same pontoons. Carnage ensued and much manual labour was required to get the Ospreys clear of the debris. Finally everyone was away except for Mr Marshall who encountered terminal string problems with the boom and had to sit this one out, probably a very good move as it turned out as their combined weight would have been less than that of the mighty Mike Greig.

The start and the course was confused by the many boats and general state of most of the fleet, I had no idea where the Ospreys had gone or if they had made the start on time. Huge unpredictable gusts were the order of the day with lines of boats being knocked over line dominos leaving the reservoir looking like a winter Lido at times!

Whilst I waited for my first glimpse I heard words like extreme, epic, and survival and that was from competitors that had already pulled stumps. The safety teams were at full capacity and the title sponsor GJW must have already setup the automated claim hotline to deal with the influx. The crews finally honed into view down the run heading for a gybe, oh goodie I thought, but wait no excitement here as the teams sensibly decide to tack around rather than risk it all in the gybe. For the largest part the course was almost out of view and so impossible to see what was going on. I
grabbed the camera and tried to get some shots but just holding the damn thing steady was a task and I was a long way from the action. Sometime later I saw an Osprey running for home and realised this to be Martin and Peter. Camerawas hurriedly packed away and I turned my attention to the recovery of the crew and the boat. Soon enough they were safely secured to the pontoon, several swims had drained the energy and with the wind increasing the sensible decision had been made. Soon afterward Roger Blake also returned to shore leaving just 2 Osprey’s on the course, these going
on to complete the race, a great achievement in itself.

Phil had cleverly employed a cut down main sail to remove the need to use the flattener, you can see in the picture below how this affects the boom height making it easier to negotiate the boom in the tack whilst still keeping kicking strap firmly on.

Photo - 1347

There was no time to be lost packing up the boats before the rush and in no time we were back on the road heading for
Dorset. The class boat had performed well with no breakages reported and Martin and Peter getting a feel for the
differences from their usual mount, which were surprisingly few. The swims also gave them some experiences from
that perspective and here there is some difference from the wooden boats but nothing that could not be adapted to. The
mainsheet system on the class boat is 2 -1 rather than the 1-1 on some of the boats, this is great at reducing the effort
needed to control the main but in extreme conditions like this could not dump the boom quick enough to save the
occasional swim. It is not expected to be a problem under normal sailing conditions and can be adapted if required.

Photo - Ospreys approach the wing mark

Photo - The Class boat