A light hearted report from the Race Box
Having watched the weather forecast for the previous couple of days we were concerned that the winds in the Solent would be too strong for racing, so with some trepidation the race team of John, with Susan, Sue and Mike, unlocked the four padlocks that guard our race box (beach Hut).
Then the process to empty the Hut of all the equipment inside and set up the boards and post, hooters and lights before we can get inside to check the important items, the kettle and tea bags. All the paraphernalia on the sea wall often interests the local dog walkers, what are they doing they think.
We then turn to look at conditions in the Solent. The wind is from the west and Bramblemet says 14 knots of wind. The tide is flooding so there is a flat sea, and from the shore out to the outer distance mark, the conditions look good. Susan and Sue then start to identify the boats coming out, will anybody turn out, are they all hiding up the river. The ladies have now made an art of spotting boats even before they emerge from the breakwater, especially as the Club has now provided some really good binoculars. (thank you treasurer).
The first two boats appear, the new entry, a J22, ‘La vie en Rose’ very sporty and despite telling us its sail number is FRA118, actually has NED 1351, is he trying to confuse us. ‘Tarim’ is already there, over the weeks you notice ‘Tarim’ is always out on time, watching the opposition perhaps. And then the rest emerge, the Commodore tucked into the shore, thinking perhaps, ‘what am I doing here, I am a cruising man’. ‘Haggis’ is there, always looks professional, main up and sailing various ways to check the wind conditions. They are fresh from their successes at Cowes week, with a trophy on the sideboard at home.
The sportier boats appear, ‘Sendit’, an SB3 with Derek Saunders at the Helm, adjusting to sailing a boat somewhat smaller than Venom, his 60 foot race boat. ‘Reasons to be cheerful’ is out, a mini tonner also fresh from Cowes week, now skilled in sail handling and ready to go. There is ‘Dodgem’, the ladies always spot the boat with the red hull, but the conditions are not in his favour, one of the smaller boats, great in light airs but 15 plus knots will be interesting.
And then there is ‘Brassed off’, should be his weather, if the race team set some long legs it will be to his advantage. Finally, the last two boats are spotted, ‘Spring Tied’ is out, main going up, probably pleased that the weather will not favour his rival ‘Dodgem’. And there is Tom and Julie, they have chosen to sail ‘Calypso’, always difficult when you have a choice of yachts.
Ah, yes, the race, difficult when you have such a spread of boats with widely differing handicaps. We choose a downwind start to the East, out to West Ryde Middle, then to the Bramble Bank out of the worst of the tide, but fighting to get back to the Island shore for Trinity, followed by some leeward windward marks on the Island shore. A good start by everybody, with spinnakers going up and nobody recalled. And yes, with our new binoculars we can see ‘Spring Tied’ has set her new jib boom, worth every penny. ‘Sendit’ leads, these are her conditions, and on the reach across to the Bramble Bank she extends her lead, but the J22 is not that far back, with ‘Spring Tied’ in front of ‘Dodgem’, who looks at times overpowered, hard work for the crew. Difficult to see the boats out over at the Bramble Bank, but there are tactical decisions, when to cross for the Island shore. Some go early and some hold on to get close to Trinity, but at the Buoy it is ‘Sendit’ round the mark, followed closely by the J22 and ‘Haggis’. We decide to shorten course and ‘Sendit’ crosses first, but the J22 looks like it is going to miss the mark, realises late the problem and frantically gets her spinnaker down, which means on the line she is only 8 seconds in front of ‘Haggis’. And so, the other boats beat up to Trinity for the run back to the line. ‘Spring Tied’ finishes next, and on handicap beats ‘Haggis’ for third place, it must have been his crew sitting out on the rail that helped!. ‘Brassed off’ and ‘Tarim’ finish close together, only 28 seconds apart.
A short interlude and then the warning signal for the second race, we send them to the east, around the corner at Norris, hopefully with some shelter from the increasing wind, the odd force six gust reported by Bramblemet. A couple of boats query the course, just to keep the race team on their toes, nice to know people check the course they are given. A clean start by everybody, Calypso has now joined in for this race. Spinnakers up for those boats that have them, ‘Brassed off’ has her large headsail goose winged and appears to be flying. Eventually all the boats reappear passed Norris, beating up the shore, out of the tide but do not lose the wind or go aground. Finally, a downwind finish, with Sendit having line honours but beaten by the J22 on handicap by 1 minute 32 seconds. The other boats finish, and on handicap ‘Brassed Off’ is only 28 seconds behind third place ‘Haggis’. Finally, a thank you to the unsung heroes on ‘Danny H’, out in all weathers, trying to shelter by the break water for a long day. And then some excitement, most of the boats must have heard the ‘Old Gaffers Association’ race going on, with lots of retirements blocking the radio. Some competitors may have noticed what was happening, the well known Gaff rigged Cutter, Jolie Brise, 74 feet overall, whilst racing sailed onto the Shrape and put herself aground, healing right over, before eventually taking down all her sails, rather the end of her race. But how to get off when pointing at the shore. Lots of engine did not work, but then ‘Danny H’ motored over, and with a line attached pulled her bow round out to sea, with the crew of Jolie Brise sitting on the end of the bowsprit to lift the stern. The crew of ‘Danny H’ were too polite to claim a reward but great to see them help a boat in trouble in a professional manner.
Thank you for all who took part in the Regatta, both on the water and ashore.
Rear Commodore Sailing.