Ken Dumpleton travelled regularly from his home near Dublin (where he also has a flying fifteen) to sail with us in Mallorca, and was always a competitive sailor, with many enjoyable stories. He still sails from the National Yacht Club in Dún Laoghaire, Ireland – where last year’s Worlds were sailed.
In his own words…
I first started sailing in 1992 (at the age of 42) and my first boat was a flying fifteen. Little did I realise at that time, what fun, excitement and pleasure lay ahead. flying fifteen sailing has taken me all over the world and introduced me to new friends in a wide range of places. Along the way I have experienced some hilarious and exciting moments, brief episodes that are a cause for great amusement even to this day. Not all of them happened to me but here’s another:
“Near Death in Durban”
In a previous piece for the magazine, I mentioned my Irish Granny and her catalogue of useful but at times incomprehensible “sayings” (or pishogues as we call them in Ireland). One of her favourites, usually delivered in times of trouble went something like; “Go down on your knees and thank God that you are still on your feet”… but more of that later.
In 2001 the flying fifteen World Championships were held in Durban, South Africa, hosted by the Royal Natal Yacht Club. It was my first ever visit to S. Africa, but not my last, as I have revisited many times since. I had bought a new Ovington 9 specifically for the event in 2000 and teamed up with a good friend Ben Mulligan as crew. The location was terrific, and the race area was wonderful with warm Indian ocean rollers every day and steady F2-F4 breezes. If there was a downside it was the fact that access to the race area was awkward to say the least.
RNYC is located in Durban harbour, South Africa’s busiest port. The entrance channel to the harbour is extremely narrow for commercial shipping, with very little margin for error. It is so narrow that a “Traffic Light” system operates … you come in or leave the mile long channel on red or green lights displayed from the heights of the “Bluffs” as the channel is known. Each day, we were herded into a bunch by support/rescue boats from the SA navy prior to a mad dash down the Bluffs channel (usually under spinnaker) on getting the Green Light from the Harbour master. After sailing the reverse was the case with a long beat back up the channel, sailing in convoy.
Ben and I had some great fun during practice and the pre-Worlds but results were not fantastic … the boat was fine, the problem was mine alone … poor starts and taking fliers … they never pay off.
On the day the Worlds commenced we left with high hopes for the Race Area determined to do better. The wind had piped up over the previous 48 hours resulting in a really big swell on the Race Area. Immediately prior to the start we had been tacking poorly and something did not feel right … I was shocked to discover that the tiller extension was hanging on by a thread and could snap at any time. In a large competitive fleet, in strong breeze and a significant swell it could result in damage if we lost control of the boat … and it could fail at any moment. We had no option but to opt out of the race and return to the RNYC Marina … through the Bluffs.
Sailing up the channel was difficult as the breeze had increased and was blowing straight down the Bluffs requiring a lot of tacking, using the tiller directly rather than the tiller extension, which meant I couldn’t hike. All seemed to be going well as we progressed up the channel, we were practically 50 metres from the harbour proper when a VERY BIG freighter came around the corner of the harbour to make her departure!!!! We had two choices … turn around and sail back to the Ocean (the sensible and safe option) or grab hold of a huge tyre hanging from the pier wall and hold on until the freighter passed.
My call, we would hold on. Ben positioned himself lying forward on the deck as I shot the boat to weather for him to grab the tyre. At this point the freighter was blasting her horn non-stop and we were between her and the quay wall, a distance of maybe 10 metres!
The breeze was funnelling between the ship and the quay wall and really gusty, as a consequence … we missed the tyre and the boat flipped over onto the other tack. We were now heading for the ship’s screws, which were visibly churning away in our path. I actually thought that we would be killed. Somehow or other we managed to gybe in the confined space … our boom passed under the stern of the freighter … we had made it.
We didn’t say much as we made our way back to our spot on the marina … in fact the only sound was probably that of my knees knocking together. Having secured the boat I stepped on to the marina pontoon and went down on my knees ……… and chugged the contents of my guts into Durban Harbour.
Later that night before bed I did go down on my knees and thanked God that I was still on my feet.
Always listen to your Granny.
We’ve had a bit of family sailing over the past month, but no racing; hopefully that will change soon, and we can get back to what we all love – sailing!
By Stephen Babbage