SPIT, DON'T SWALLOW!!!!

(The Mantra for the Girlie's annual outing to Grafham!)

What, you might think, goes on at a girlie's outing with a title like this?! Well, it's really quite innocent (Yes!) and tells part of the story of the annual trip by Merlin girlies to the RYA National Women's Championships at Grafham. It relates to the water that we were sailing on but more about that in a moment!

This year only two Merlins out of a potential five made it to the Women's Champs at Grafham, namely Lou and Claire in She's a Cracker (3550) and Jude and Rach in Boadicea (3592). Chrissy Burgess was also there, although she was sailing her Laser. The event was down a bit in numbers at 59 boats this year and (as usual for this event) the sky was grey and the wind was blowing when we arrived. We sailed 5 races over a trapezium with remote sausage course and amongst a variety of other classes, had to contend with 420's planing upwind, previous winners of the Burton Cup and Burton Week from the N12 fleet and B14s/29ers that reached upwind, reached along the reaches and reached down the runs!

At the briefing, three things were stressed:
1. There was also a fishing competition going on and we had to keep clear of fishing boats by 20m (that's an awful long way!)
2. Blue Green Algae was present in the water (the water was completely green)
3. Dogs weren't allowed on the site.

Firstly, we couldn't understand the banning of dogs because there were so many geese and ducks around that the slipways and foreshore were, shall we say, somewhat slippery; and secondly, the water was so green with Blue Green Algae that there was absolutely no desire to drink it. A faceful of water meant you didn't even want to lick your lips, let alone swallow it. So if you're doing the Inlands next weekend - remember - spit, don't swallow!! Lou and Claire found the antidote - they had heard that Coke neutralises the algae and so took bucket loads out in the boat with them. Flat coke was ceremoniously dumped on Sunday morning, but maybe we should have kept it to wash the boats out at the end of the day!!

And as for the fishermen - we understand that there was not only money, but also a free holiday at stake for their winner - how come sailing doesn't offer these rewards?! During the first two races, they didn't bother us at all, but just before the start of the third race on Saturday, it was like Dunkirk happening all over again! Whether someone suddenly decided there were fish on the far side of the pond, we don't know, but the whole lot of them (30 odd fishing boats) just stormed through the fleet on their mission, as though we weren't there. So much for 20 metres - it was more like 20mm in some cases!!

And what about the sailing, we hear you ask? Well, the sailing was good! Once the wind dropped a bit and the 420's couldn't plane upwind any more, the N12's were the only real threat. Having worked out that Boadicea was only beaten by a N12 by 4 seconds in the 3rd race, her mantra became "four seconds is all it takes" and that was chanted very loudly when the rudder fell off in the middle of the 4th race, so much so that 4 seconds was all it took to get it back on again!

At the end of the event, Boadicea won the double handed classes overall, clocking three firsts and two seconds and Jude and Rach are very proud to have their names on the trophy alongside the likes of Cathy Foster, Mimie Currie (crewed by none other than our very own Jill Blake) and Bethan Raggatt. She's a Cracker came a very creditable 7th, showing a much improved performance on previous years, to the delight of Lou and Claire.

So all us girlies (and that includes the Philly Factor because he's an honorary girlie, being of the sisterhood and all that!) have to say to those blokes (and we now know who you are!) who very kindly attached an L-plate to Boadicea at the Merlin Champs for slightly dodgy starting manoeuvres, is that the afore-mentioned L-plate is now well and truly in the bin. The starts at the Women's Champs were extremely civilised and distinctly lacking in testosterone - long may they live!

Lou Johnson and Claire Stopps	  3550	  She's a Cracker
Judith Massey and Rachel Cooper	  3592	  Boadicea

Photo: Champion Photography