Sunday 22 February 2009

One more cup of coffee

Years on decaf have undermined my threshold for caffeinated coffee to a miserable degree. In a cold sweat after one cup, jittery after two and grinding my teeth like an amphetamine charged clubber after three, logic and perception are also affected. In an attempt to retrieve the morning and meet myself somewhere halfway towards normality I laid into the wine. This approach, I have learnt many times, is flawed; alcohol doesn’t lessen the effects of caffeine but merely heightens the overall high. This is why people drink revolting combinations such as red bull with vodka.

Then, the day already derailed, an engagement fell through and there was absolutely no excuse not to go sailing, except of course that by the time I got the boat to the beach my eyes were popping and my hair standing on end. Looking to windward, attempting to judge how best to rig the sails I seriously wondered if I would remember how to sail OB. But single reefed and zipping towards the horizon at five knots I found, with relief that I was in control and enjoying myself as ever. The wind continued to rise and even when it hit a solid 18 to 20 knots I continued with a single reef, albeit pinching slightly and spilling wind, amazed at how secure OB seemed and how detached I felt. I eventually put another reef in the main, struck the mizzen and flew off downwind.

But due to the caffeine and alcohol in my system I am unsure of my evaluation of the new, smaller rudder. On that last downwind leg it certainly felt less heavy than the previous one. But in the lighter winds earlier had I detected a lack of grip, a slightly more slippery stern and a more pronounced tendency to turn to weather? I don’t know, though sober logic would seem to support that behaviour.

The trick is obviously to try it over a longer period and, if those findings appear consistent, decide if it’s worth sacrificing some upwind speed and ability for downwind assurance in strong winds. In my limited experience cruising this area there has certainly been plenty of upwind sailing, but there has been even more rowing and several white-knuckle downwind rides when I would have seriously appreciated less rudder.

The new mast, which was also on trial, behaved impeccably stepped with slightly more aft rake. But arriving back at the shore I found that with adrenaline injected into the coffee and wine cocktail I was doubly wired and only a timely domestic crisis prevented me lopping 5cm off the bottom of mast to achieve a lower boom.

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