Coming out of Cowes, forwards

I’m back from our sailing trip, and I’m not dead. A few days ago this was all I was wishing for, really: ending up in the Solent in my post-influenza state would’ve left me a bag of shivers and rattling teeth at best, wrapped up in blankets and drinking from the hip-flask that in the end I didn’t touch all holiday. But nobody fell in, not even our office accident-prone, on the time of whose inevitable man-overboard I was tempted to run a book among everyone else. We all had a good time, more or less (I think the hurly-burly of the last day’s races wasn’t to everyone’s tastes) and pulled together in an example of teamwork that these sort of things are meant to be.

On the first day we motored from Hamble-le-Rice over to the Isle of Wight, to have dinghy races between our three boats: ours had a valve problem and very nearly sank. Under sail we made a berth in Cowes for the night (a lovely if slightly League-of-Gentleman little place, with a high street like no other town’s). The next day poor early winds forced us again to use the engines to get to the open water; we rafted at the buoys in Yarmouth, to climb up our masts and watch the lifeboats firework their way out into the channel; finally the wind was enough to blow us over to Portsmouth, and we spent the night under the Spinnaker Tower. On the final day we raced in early-morning gusts until the winds dropped, but caught a final, perfect breeze to blow us back to Hamble.

In the end it was a wonderful experience. To say it was life-changing sounds a bit histrionic, but I’m the sort of person to revel in the knowledge that, if push came to shove, I could reach my place of work seven miles away under my own steam by at least three different methods (cycling, main-road jogging and cross-country hiking). Travelling a good hundred miles, by nothing but wind power (and admittedly the trickles of petrol that got us out of port, so small a quantity that the skippers claimed it barely registered on the 20-gallon fuel gauge) and the muscles and ingenuity of the combined crew, made a lightbulb flicker on over my head. A lightbulb powered by renewable resources, naturally.

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