Yesterday was an extremely windy day, with the wind was consistently over 25 knots, with the weather station at Royal Melbourne recording gusts at 47 knots (87 kmh) during our race. An idea of how windy this is, there was spray being blown off the surface of Albert Park Lake, and the boat got tipped over from just the wind getting under the hull of the boat. This is with me hiking out fully on the side of the boat.
So myself and 7 other foolish fellows took off and tried to sail in these conditions. The number one thing was to keep the boat moving and try to avoid being knocked over too many times. Nobody on the course managed to keep it upright all the time, but each capsize took a bit more out of you, and dulled your reaction times that little bit, making it more likely that you were going to capsize.
I noticed that as I got tired I was more likely to tip over, and every capsize takes a fair bit out of you. The final nail in the coffin was having my mainsheet coming undone at the bottom mark. Jumping in the water to retie this and then get back on the course was just to much. This was also the point that the 47 knot gusts started coming through.
From there it was just a battle to get back to shore. I wasn’t going to repeat the mistake of a few weeks ago and doing some high speed reaching at the end only to break my boat (Impulse that time). Through the strongest gusts it was sometimes prudent to just hold on, avoid capsizing without moving upwind.
I would definitely say that the day showed up my dropped level of fitness. So the next couple of weeks/months will be trying to bring that back up to scratch. As for boat handling, I was relatively happy with that, there isn’t to much you can do when the boat is being blown off the water. Of course more heavy weather sailing will always touch up the skills of handling the boat in these conditions.