Unfortunately in 2005 there weren't that many local events for me, so I tried to use any and all contacts to get a place abroad. During Kiel-week I talked to some of the German judges and they told me about Match-Racing in Hamburg, in the heart of the city, on lake Alster. Hamburg is about 4 hours by car from my hometown. Perfect.
I contacted Manuel Hünsch, the guy in charge and offered to pay my own travel expenses, so they could gain an International Judge and an National Umpire for the "price" of a local National Umpire. And he said yes!
I could attend my very first International Match Race Event, the International German Championship for Woman on October 1-3, 2005
On the Aussen-Alster the Hamburger Sailing Club has a well run clubhouse and facilities and, most important for Match Racing, several Streamline boats to sail.
The event was very well organized and I learned how to operate in English and to Umpire with people I met for the first time. All were very helpful and I was invited back for a next event in November: Ladies Only Match Racing.
Since then I've been back there many times and feel right at home in HH.
HH stands for Hansestadt Hamburg.
For me it will always be the ‘helping hands’, who broke the circle and gave me my first opportunity.
But also ‘helping hands’, because I learned a valuable lesson on one of those occasions:
For match racing boats enter the race area, 4 minutes before the starting signal, by crossing a line perpendicular to the starting line, each on her own side. The Blue boat on the pin-end side and the Yellow boat at the committee-boat side.
After they have crossed, they have to "dip the starting line". That means they have to cross the starting line, from the course side to the pre-start side, between four minutes and two minutes before the start. Normally boats time this entry exactly, so they can engage in the pre-start maneuvers.
They must dip in that time!
If they are late and the other boat can prevent them from dipping, they get a penalty.
So timing - as with a start - is crucial. That means that both boats will sail pretty close to the marks, entering.
In one of these events the Blue boat entered so close, that her keel caught the anchor line of the pin-end mark. Hopelessly entangled!
In my enthusiasm and eagerness to get things going, I started motoring over to help them untangle it, so the race could get started.
Immediately the Chief umpire (Manuel) called on the radio, asking what I was doing? Helping?
No, no! I shouldn't help anyone!
The match had already started and it was the responsibility of the boat to get free.
She had already earned a penalty for touching the mark!
I felt like a beginner....
Of course! How could I forget! How stupid of me….
I motored away, and together with my fellow umpire, blew a whistle and showed the blue flag, indicating a penalty for Blue.
It felt like totally ridiculous, waiting some dozen meters away, seeing the sailors struggle to get that bloody line off their keel, doing nothing to help them.
Backward and forward, head to wind, heeling over, pushing the mark around the boat, nothing worked! That line was glued to the boat!
Minutes ticked away.
And yes, after two minutes because Blue hadn't crossed the line, we gave a second penalty.
Finally when the starting signal had gone and the other boat had sailed halfway up the beat, Blue indicated that they gave up. They lowered their sails and the support boat came over to help them to get unstuck.
We discussed the incident with the sailors afterwards. They were pretty casual about it, knew this was all in the game and it had happened before. Next time a little more distance from the mark, that was all.
I was a little more impressed by the incident.
I will forever remember when NOT to give a ‘helping hand’ in a Match Race.
Thank you, Manuel!