Necra what, you ask…..Necraphilia…Philia is the Greek word for Love, and necra is the acronym for North East Cruiser Racing Association.
On Friday 21st June 2013, I entered Kandula into her first ever Necra event. The race was from Sunderland to Whitby. There were 12 boats entered. From RNYC there was us and Shotgun 6.
We were entered into Class 2. (Shotgun 6 was in Class 1) There were two other boats in Class 2. ‘BACK OF THE NET!’ Podium finish on the cards…we just had to finish!
Kandula’s crew consisted of-
Me – The grumpy kipping skipper
Brian ‘Bad back B’stard’ Thornton
Steve ‘Too many names’ Meakin
We set off into a headwind. This was to be the only constant of the weekend. When there was wind, it was on the nose. No matter where we wanted to be, that is where the wind came from; until we eventually got to Middlesbrough, where there is no wind. Ever.
We found two very useful means of navigation. The first was to point the boat directly into the wind, for this was inevitably where we needed to go.
The second was a little more unconventional. It got us to Sunderland though. We just followed the trail of Stella Artois bottles. It was like a scene from ‘The Alcoholic Hansel and Gretel’
Shotgun 6, which travels at 6 bottles an hour must have ran out of Stella by Sunderland, because that is where the trail ended.
We got to Sunderland (the start of the race) by about 20:40. The race was due to start at 21:00. We prepared ourselves by reading the race instructions. We found the start line and waited for the countdown to begin. We took the auto helm off, stopped the engine and set the sails. Brian distracted me, took the tiller and was never to let it go again!
The start was controlled by the usual sound signals and also a countdown over VHF. What a great system.
During the pre start 5 minutes we tacked back and forth a couple of times. It became instantly obvious that there are two different styles of tacking a boat.
My way, (as prescribed by the RYA of course)- 1. ‘Ready About’ 2. ‘Helm down’ 3. ‘Lee Ho’
Brian’s way- ‘TACKING’!
After a little confusion we got our act together, managed to shout ‘STARBOARD’ a couple of times and found ourselves a little space on the water to attack the start line. With 20 seconds to go, we were on starboard tack, heading at speed (relatively) towards the line and an ever diminishing gap between 2 boats. Shotgun 6 was to leeward of us, but being a gentleman (The first and last time Dave Morgan will be so described) Dave Morgan did not push the issue and allowed us some room. There was a boat upwind of us, but had no interest in giving water.
Brian (on the helm) shouted,” I am going for the gap!” I nearly swallowed my tongue.
“What gap?….Er….. NOOOOOOOO”
I don’t know what happened next. We made a clean start at good speed. We were mid fleet. I missed it all, because I had my eyes shut.
We settled onto the first beat. It was going to be about 10 miles before we needed to tack!
It is a little know fact that the first troops to land at GOLD BEACH during the D-Day invasion were the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division.
They hit the beach, and instead of charging into the enemy positions, 25’000 men dug in and, in the face of heavy enemy fire, stuck up two fingers and brewed tea!
The British army has, ever since, relied upon Tea in times of tribulation. Now I have set the scene, you can probably see Kandula in your mind’s eye. Under heavy enemy fleet activity, we hunkered down in the cockpit and brewed Tea!
We were under constant bombardment by a low flying Seagull, which circled us for hours, before screeching in at head height, and then pulling away just short of spearing the horse shoe life belt.
Steve ‘Gunner’ Meakin took over as the Bofors pasty launcher and kept us entertained for hours.
Kandula was holding her own, in the mixed fleet. There were Class 1 boats to Leeward and the other Class 2 boats were to Windward of us. We were sitting mid fleet and matching them for boat speed.
As the dark descended, we started to lose sight of the other boats. Navigations lights started to spring up all around, but it is quite difficult to judge distance at night. The Tea however continued to flow.
We were passing time by having deep philosophical discussions. The main subject headings were-
- Do Camels float?
- If they do float, is the hump ballast or buoyancy?
- If a Giraffe walked into deep water, would it invert?
- Could the Loch Ness monster in fact be a Giraffe?
- Can anyone name a Stone Roses track?
We also passed a very enjoyable hour, be only reacting to requests which were sung in an Opera style!
As we approached Hartlepool and Middlesbrough, the skyline was illuminated by a million twinkling lights from heavy industry. The sky was a swirling mass of smoke rising and twisting into a malignant cloak, spreading out over the bay. The vista darkened, and the air became still and warm. The smell of sulphur drifted out to us. We were ghosting along in a surreal seascape, straight out of a painting by Hieronymous Bosch. We drifted slowly in a little breeze for about an hour. As we approached the wind farm, the air started to move, and so did we.
This sparked the conversation as to whether the turbines generated power from the wind; of did they in fact generate wind from power?
The race continued (what else was there to do?) and so did the Tea. We watched as the Sun sneaked over the horizon. The gloom turned into a light grey. At this time, it would be nice to say that the morning broke clear and bright. It didn’t!
The rain clouds became clearer. It also became clear to us that we could now only see two other boats, One in front and one behind. Off in the distance we could see Whitby. Like a beacon of Chip shops and dodgy boozers, it stood sentinel.
We celebrated sighting Whitby by having a cup of Tea. We continued to beat up the coast. We were about five miles off shore. It took us two hours to close the shore and make out the finishing line. We were now in a head to head race with Blue Max, a boat from Class 3, who was also making for the finish line. They seemed to have gone a long way East to make the finish. We were closing in on them quickly. We watched as they tacked; and missed the finish line, they tacked again and again. This time they made it around the buoy. They sailed off towards the piers at Whitby, and we continued on our course towards the Upgang Rocks. We tacked at 4 meters of water. We were on a perfect course to the finish line.
We passed the finish line buoy and furled the fore sail, physically spent. A nagging thought entered my brain. There was another buoy; closer in and nearer the race office on the cliff. We hadn’t finished at all!
Back out went the fore sail. We tacked again, spotted the correct finish line, tacked again and made it. We took our own time. 8 hours 54 minutes. SLOW!
Blue Max sailed over to us and shouted that we had not finished! They were shouting at us, telling us that we had not been around the North Cardinal Mark. That explained why they had sailed so far East, during their approach. We shouted back that the North Cardinal was not in the sailing instructions.
We entered Whitby Harbour, just too late to catch the bridge swing into the marina. It was 05:45. We tied up to the waiting pontoon. We slept.
At 10:30 the bridge opened and we went into Whitby Marina. We tied up alongside a motor boat and went in search of breakfast. We found a cafe within 100 yds of the marina and had a full English breakfast.
We then took a stroll along to Whitby Yacht Club. The bar opened at 12 noon. At 12:01 we had a pint of Grolsh. After that it was a rapid decline into drunken foolery. Little sleep and strong lager do not make good bed fellows. We were of course hilarious. Outside the Yacht Club there was a bus. On the top deck (open) I saw what is quite possibly a world record nose. I hope the guy didn’t have a medical condition. It was the singular most amusing thing I had seen in my life. It looked like a comedy prosthetic. I was so taken by it, I actually took a picture. The thing even wobbled when the guy moved.
We left the Yacht Club, in order to get changed and attend the barbecue, which was due to start at 18:00hrs.
We didn’t make it. There are, I discovered, lots of pubs between Whitby Yacht Club and Whitby Marina. We went into them all. I must say, what an education into the culture of Yorkshire!
We met other yacht crews on the way. You could tell they were yacht crews. They had sunglasses on their heads and were wearing matching racing jerseys with the name ‘CREW’ on the back.
I think that Brian may have upset one of them. I have no idea why the chap took umbrage at being called a part of the male anatomy. (A very specific part only found on males). It was in jest, but I think that the chap may not have had quite as robust a sense of humour as Brian. Nor anywhere near the same amount of drink!
It was all calmed down, when Brian demanded that he shake hands with him. Brian then pretended to write another name on the back of his jersey. I cannot repeat what it said.
We found our way back to Kandula where I made food.
When I say, ‘made food’, what I actually meant was that I heated food that Karen had already prepared for us. Thanks for the Chilli, it was fantastic. There is one thing about Kandula; you can always be assured of good food!
We planned our evening’s entertainment. Oh the plans. We were going to go on a further pub crawl adventure to the South side of the river. I sat down on my bunk to change my trousers. I woke up the next morning, apparently having given up half way through the manoeuvre.
Breakfast consisted of a shower and a pot of porridge. I had the shower and Steve threw the porridge over the decks!
We just made the bridge swing in time. We headed out to sea in bright sunshine and a nice westerly breeze. We put our sun cream on. As it transpires, we need not have bothered. But at least the sun cream was waterproof.
We had an average start. We were heading in the right direction, near the back of the fleet. It was nice sailing weather.
As we beat up the coast once more, we trimmed the sails and did our best to make ground on the fleet. We were doing OK, making up a few places. As the fleet started, one by one to tack, the fleet spread out. We could make out the wind farm again and tacked back inshore. We had made up a few places and were having a good tacking duel with some other boats (including Blue Max), but not the grumpy ‘CREW’ boat.
As we approached the Middlesbrough / Hartlepool bay area, the Smoggy Dementors came back out. The sky darkened. It started to thunder and lighting. The wind died and the rain started. We sat drifting about 20 yards from an anchored bulk carrier. After about half an hour of sitting in this, we decided that enough was enough. We declared ourselves out of the race.
We raised the spray hood, started the motor, furled away the fore sail and headed for home. We had a cup of Tea!
As we got North of Hartlepool , the sun came out and the wind returned (I kid you not!)
We motor sailed North, enjoying the journey. The wind was still on the nose, but the sea was flat and the sun was out.
We reached Whitley Bay, before the wind started to build. The sea was building too. We got back to Blyth at about 20:00 hrs. The wind was blowing 30kts and the sea was covered in white horses.
We had a blast. A great time. Kandula is back on her home pontoon. We are definitely doing more NECRA stuff though.
However, I have promised to do a lift out and clean before the next event.
Although we retired from the second race, we did manage a third in class for the first race. Not bad eh…Third! Shotgun 6 only managed a fourth.
Granted there were only Three in our class.
I need to get a few jobs sorted before we ‘race’ again.
The hull needs to be cleaned and re anti-fouled. My instruments need to be fixed, so that they display correctly and I need a volunteer to go back up my mast. Brian went the last time, but as usual he went up the wrong’un. Tadaaa!
Some events may have been chemically enhanced, omitted or edited to protect both the innocent and guilty alike.
Middlesbrough eh!? A fine place!