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We were all up early this morning for the last day’s sailing. It was really windy – the wind was whistling all around the masts in the harbour.

This morning was spent in the harbour hauling up a sail in a sail bag – to recreate a spinnaker going up without actually putting a spinnaker up. Either the wind was too hard, or the skipper doesn’t trust us – wonder which? Bearing in mind we all had to be on the winch to get the sail up, it meant that we all had to “sweat” the sail up several times. I tried to point out that I had very short arms, and when I was paired with a very tall person I needed a technique that would allow me to be useful. I was told that there was no problem with short arms and long arms pulling together, although it did feel as though I wasn’t quite doing it right. But after several times of pulling up the sail bag I was ready to drop anyway. As were most other people! The importance of putting it up and getting down with utmost efficiency was mentioned again.

By the time we had got the sails out and we were ready to go the sun was shining and the wind had dropped and the sea was calm. We had a “Race/Collision Rules” lecture this afternoon – with twelve boats on the start line and a “preferred line” to take it might involve a few near misses. Well – let’s hope near misses and not collisions! We also went through sail changes – apparently the record number of changes in 24 hours is 31 sail changes. My god – I should think everyone was exhausted! One per shift would be enough for me – I could maybe squeeze another one in towards the end!!

The skipper decided that now was the time to put the spinnaker up. The wind had dropped to virtually nothing now – seemed like a safe bet with us lot. We got the spinnaker out, and don’t think made too much of a meal of it putting it up. It went up in one go, “popped” at the right point (it was rolled up and had wool ties every few feet, that when the wind caught it snapped the wool and opened the sail). If the wind catches the sail too early before it is up sufficiently, it may even blow completely away – as one had done in a previous level three training earlier this year. Big tick in that box then. The bit I was doing (sheets) wasn’t being done quite right though, so the skipper took over. Not a big tick in that box then!

The skipper demonstrated for about twenty minutes how to “trim” the sails, and then decided we had had enough of that and we had to take it back in. This was another tricky bit. It had to have a “Letter Box Drop”. It was taken down and drawn through the space between the boom and the main sail. There was a lot of material that came down through, and it had to be held to stop it blowing away. I was on top of the hatch trying to keep it all together, then passing it down the hatch. It seemed to get down OK – until it came to sorting it out to put it away. If we had known that one “leg” had to go towards the sail locker, one leg down the port side to the nav station and one leg down the starboard side to the nav station it might have given us a better start. As it was, it was all jumbled up and twisted round and took us over half an hour to get it straight. Someone then had to make sure the edges weren’t twisted over before we “wooled” it ready for the next time.

It had to be rolled up very tightly, and then a piece of wool wrapped round and tied every few feet. This all culminated in the “nappy” section in the middle, where there was an awful lot of bulk. It all got rather silly at one point, with renditions of songs that I had never heard of, involving throwing your granny off a bus. Oh dear! We did eventually finish – in one hour and 14 minutes. We were then told that the target time to do this in the race was circa 10 minutes. No tick in that box either then!

We sailed back into Gosport Harbour at around 7pm – all ready for an evening at the pub! What are we going to do on the race when there is no pub at the end of the day!

On my debrief I was left in no doubt that my abilities this week were not up to scratch. Feeling rather dejected, we had a final coffee the following morning before we all headed off our separate ways. It seems everyone had been given a D minus or worse. At least we were all in the same boat (so to speak). I think I may have to do this one again.

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