Solo round the Isle of Wight
The strong tidal stream at Gurnard Buoy at mid-ebb made for a fast and delicate start, the wind at about 15 knots from NNE dictated a reach under spinnaker towards the Needles, only two boats hoisted their kites before the line whilst most waited to be clear of the pack before spreading their guns in the grey misty morning. The fleet could lay the course all the way to the Needles on starboard gybe with wind from NNE averaging 12 knots but gusting around the headlands and at the Needles. A few were overpowered and broached just after the start, producing some exciting moments but the airflow stabilised further west by Gurnard Ledge. It was a cloudy and bleak day at the start but gradually improved as the fleet rounded the island with a grand finale of multi-coloured spinnakers crossing the finish line in bright sunshine.
Several OSTAR entrants took the opportunity to put their racing skills at test on this classic course: Oscar Mead on J/105 King of Shaves, Katie Miller on Figaro 2 bluQube, Rob Craigie on J/122 Jbellino and Hannah White on her Figaro 2 Pure Solo. .
The start was split into four classes with class 3 (up to 30ft) crossing first at 0700 BST, followed by class 1 and 2, 35-40ft and 30-35ft respectively at 0710 followed by the only multihull at 0720. The first boats to reach the Needles were Peter Olden's J/92 Solan Goose, Mike Garvey's J/92 J-Arrow and Andy Greenwood's Figaro 2 Imtech.
The characteristically stronger gusting wind around the Needles presented some exciting moments when it came to recover the kites, some made excellent roundings gaining many positions in the fleet, Solan Goose, Chris Rustom's Ding Dong and Simon Curven's Voador were certainly the closest to the lighthouse.
After the rounding of the Needles the fleet could lay the course on a fetch to St Catherine's point under white sails, with an average wind speed of 13 knots still from NNE.
St Catherine's Point made for some very difficult sailing conditions as the wind died on the fleet reshuffling all positions. Those boats closest to shore kept a fickle air and inched forward with the wind coming from every direction in small puffs while those who imagined the stable breeze to be further offshore were majestically parked in a bubble.
Andy Greenwood's Imtech, Pete Newlands' Anticipation, Noj White's SX Girl and Peter Olden's J/92 Solan Goose gained the most over the rest of the fleet and kept the advantage to the finish line.
OSTAR skippers Oscar, Katie and Rob were very close to each other at this stage, but struggling to find any air to move forward. Eventually the fleet made it through the bubble, helped by the favourable flood tide and found a 9 knot breeze to fill the sails for the beat to Bembridge cardinal mark which the skippers had to leave to port.
Around Bembridge the wind was a little lighter and after the rounding the boats could lay the course to the outside of Ryde Sands and close to shore on a fetch in winds averaging 7 knots. Once at No Man's Land fort one by one the kites went up again for a very shy spinnaker reach to the finish line. Most boats managed to keep the coloured sails up to the finish line.
Line honours went to Andy Greenwood's Figaro 2 Imtech, who raced faultlessly all the way round winning class 2, followed by Pete Newlands' Anticipation, winner of Class 1 and Noj White's SX Girl second in Class 1.
The winners were announced later at the Island Sailing Club once the frustration of the park up at St Catherine's Point had wisely been washed down in celebratory drinks.
In class 1 the finish order was Anticipation - Pete Newlands, SX Girl - Noj White, and third Ding Dong - Chris Rustom.
In class 2 first place went to Imtech - Andy Greenwood , second Voador - Simon Curven, third Juliette - Rod Knowles.
In Class 3 line honours went to Peter Olden's Solan Goose, second Jarrow - Mike Garvey and third, Herve Dupriez on Penrod.
Simon Forbes on Scooby III was the only multihull.
Under IRC there is only one class across the whole fleet, hence there are five podium positions. The order was as follows: 1st Anticipation, 2nd SX Girl, 3rd Voador, 4th Solan Goose and 5th Oojah skippered by Peter Tanner.
As for the OSTAR skippers, Rob Craigie's Jbellino crossed in 7th position (16th in IRC), Oscar Mead's King of Shaves took 12th (11th in IRC) and Katie Miller's bluQube took 14th (20th in IRC). For the full results visit www.petitbateau.org.uk , RIOW results page.
There were nine new entrants to PB races and included Mike Garvey, the current Race Director of Royal Southampton Yacht Club, on his J/92 J-Arrow who finished second in Class 3. It was great to see the two water ballasted JOD35s previously owned by Petit Bateau members Paul Peggs and Graham Wilkinson rejoining the fleet with new skippers Alessandro Caricato on Audiacious and John Twiggs on TickTock (former Outlandish). Stephen Thomas, current Race Director of Sussex Yacht Club made the long journey down and back especially for the race and manage to finish 4th in class two on his HOD35 Truant. Rob Packham raced his Southerly 110 Star Dancer, Tony Rowe on his Delher 36 Fantasea, Peter Scott on his Moody Cindus, Richard Lett on his new VQ32 Velocity Girl, Barrie Harding on his Sigma 38 Bellerophon of Wight.
Peter Olden was the Race Director, Charles Allen the Race Officer, assisted by Graham Wilkinson and Karen Dolling at the race box. Mike Saqui oversaw proceedings on the water.
The next Petit Bateau event is Channel Week which starts on 29 May, any skippers interested in taking part should complete their entry on line asap and any questions re qualification etc should be directed to Peter Olden here.