UK Solent Race
UK Solent Race
With my port winch breaking within the starting sequence and being over the line, it was not the best start to the race but we quickly re-crossed the line and worked hard to catch up any distance we had lost. The winch issue however was a bit more terminal and we short tacked our way out of the Solent against the tide with only one winch. It was a very intense start to the race with everyone tacking in as close to the shore line as they dared to stay out the strong west going tide. Any losses and gains made from one right or wrong decision became immediately apparent.
After such a bad start it was great to be leading the fleet out round the island on Sunday evening.As darkness approached we headed off round the eastern coast of the Isle of Wight, flying our spinnakers. The big decision for the evening was whether to head outside at St Cats lighthouse in favourable wind or head in at St Cats in light breeze but avoid the tide. We decided to stay out and paid for it, rounding the next mark at Poole in 4th place, 2nd series boat.
As morning approached the match race between me and Pip (743 Potting Shed) began. Pip extended on us throughout the day as she managed to carry her gennaker; her lead was 1.6 miles at one stage. We kept pushing the boat as hard as we could and squeezed out every inch of boat speed. As we rounded Eddystone late on Sunday evening the wind picked up, and to set up for what was a very cold, wet and windy evening. Despite only seeing a maximum wind speed of 20 knots, plenty of waves broke over the boat and sent cold spurts of water down the back of my neck.
Tuesday morning brought sunshine and a well needed chance to refuel on lots of snacks and dry out. However, light winds made it difficult to make progress and every ounce of concentration was needed to keep the boat going in the right direction. The final night brought some really tough racing conditions; tired after two days of essentially match racing, the conditions were light and shifty making it difficult to keep concentration. We made little progress. By this time we were also sick of freeze dried food; there was a reason why the lefts overs from last year’s food were mainly veggie casserole and chilli (far from the best flavours). The lure of real food motivated us to sail faster.
As we made our final approaches into Plymouth, the fog thickened to 100m visibility and we were surrounded by the sound of fog horns. There were a few nervous moments as we tried to pick our way into the harbour avoiding the shipping traffic; I was very happy to have the AIS up and running at this point, to identify our location to other ships. We approached the line at the Royal Western Yacht Club with no idea of our position, and it wasn’t until we were over the line that it was confirmed to us that we were the first series boat to finish! It is a brilliant first result for the season in what was a tactically tough race with some tricky sailing conditions. As ever, the RWYC provided us with a great reception offering hot lasagne and a beer, a perfect way to celebrate our achievement.