RORC Cowes-Cherbourg Race on Ker 40 Magnum 3

RORC Cowes-Cherbourg Race on Ker 40 Magnum 3

Monday September 9 2013 Author: wouterverbraak Location: United Kingdom

RORC Cowes-Cherbourg Race on Magnum 3


 Friday September 7th, and the forecast for the last RORC offshore race in and around the UK for this season looked tricky. After the amazing summer with lots of sunshine and gentle winds, this race from Cowes to Cherbourg had something different in stock for us.


The start of Cowes at 19:10 was still in pristine conditions. Downwind, 18 knots of breeze, A0 reaching spinaker, and all of us at the back of the boat hiking. Perfect! Leading the other boats in our class for a long time, even holding off the much bigger Tonnere, gave us a good start of the race. After the 10 miles out of the Solent however, the next leg to Cherbourg was a 70 nm beat....Collars up and hoods down. No way this is going to be a comfortable ride.


The big thing for the race was a big strategic choice to make early on; digg in under the shore and short tack along the cliffs to avoid the current and then go for the better wind direction to the West of the front, or go South to go for more wind and a left shift ahead of the front? Early models favoured the westerly option, but the evening model and the observations showed much lighter winds to the West....decisions, decisions....In the end we decided for the less risky option, and go for the wind and left shift ahead of the front. 


Going South, soon a rather black cloud on the horizon announced not only the predicted first part of the front, but also trouble. Quickly we changed jibs to setup for the increasing winds. No sooner had we done that, as the wind started to pick up. Lots. And with rain. Also lots. Change jibs to an even smaller one, or survive through the squall? We hung on and after twenty minutes the wind dropped back from 25kn to 18, so back in range for the jib. Hindsight thinking would say that next time we should try and reef the main; with the narrow bow on these boats, having one or two guys on the bow doing the change is veeeery slow for a loooong time...


Onwards and upwards, at least we could see again, and we could all dry up again (especially the guys who were still in their starting setup without foul weather jackets). As predicted, we held the wind, and also got a good lefthand shift. Nice! We tacked early to use it to get to the right, as the game plan was to approach Cherbourg from the West. 


In clearing conditions we kept going right and right, and after an hour we saw a marked cloud line ahead of us. Tonnere tacked on the first header ahead of it, but we we determined to cross it and get to shift on the other side. Would there be enough wind behind it?  Observations and the model said that there was less risk of light winds behind the front now that we were South enough. The answer was, PLENTY! We got the forty degree shift we were looking for, and now with the current pushing us up to the mark as well, we were pointing straight at the mark. Making hay!


With Tonnere splitting tacks and disappearing over the horizon, and the light of the other boat that was close to us also disappearing, we were on our own again. Always a rather nervous situation, as with the unstable weather there is always room for a Black Swan...Did we do the right thing?


Not until four miles from the finish did we see another boat. Then coming towards us from the left, there was one....Who is it? Big or small? It looks like we are crossing ahead of it at least...In the end, when we saw the light blue hull, it could only mean one thing; Tonnere. Good news, as she is much much bigger...we might have done ok.


With a last little spinaker leg along the breakwater to the finish, we blasted over the line at 06:30 in the morning. Line honors for the mighty Magnum III. A first this season. Good effort, happy team. Brilliant!


As in the Fastnet, now the wait was for the other smaller boats in our class. Our sister ship Hooligan was not to be seen at all, but then our main French rivals on Inis More appeared over the horizon. Mmmmhh, yes they are certainly a good upwind boat, and did well. Are they going to pip us to the throne in class? I am afraid they did, which put us second in class. For the overall some of the smaller boats got us on handicap as well, putting us in fifth overall. Upwind races favour the small, we all know that...


All in all, another tricky, challenging but fun race with a determined, well oiled and fun crew on the Ker 40 Magnum. A good way to end Magnum’s offshore season of 2013. The big boat series are on in a bit less than a month and then let’s see what next year has in stock! 


Loved it!


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