The opening race of the Solo Offshore Racing Club 2010 program, solo around the Isle of Wight, was a cracker with the entry list of 25 to 40 feet boats full. There were 25 starters from Richard Whitehouse’s 25ft Westerly Tiger up to Marco Nannini’s Class 40.
On Friday night before supper in the Island Sailing Club many benefited from an excellent 20 minute weather forecast AV presentation by expert Chris Tibbs – easterly light winds, more on the south of the Isle of Wight and then going southeast and dropping later in the day with poor visibility.
The 7am start at Gurnard was down tide with the predicted 7 knots easterly, the fleet setting port pole spinnakers. A few struggled with assymetrics as winds lighted further and Simon Curwen on Voador then led a few onto starboard gybe away from the island towards the middle channel.
Stephen Thomas on the HOD 35 Truant crossed to the mainland shore with less tide, but a little more breeze paying dividends. Peter Olden on Solan Goose and Chris Rustom on Ding Dong worked the strongest tide in the middle. Next were the J/122s Jbellino (Rob Craigie) and Oojah (Peter Tanner), Marco Nannini on Sunguard Front Arena and Mike Saqui tagging along with his Mustang 30 Restless.
Having returned to the island shore, Voador made a big gain from Hurst to the Needles. With 3 knots of tide and very little apparent wind many were caught out, having to turn hard left not to get swept beyond the Needles. Once around there was a welcome 10 knots easterly, as forecast, giving a beat up to St Catherine’s increasing to 15-18 true. This leg put the fleet back into a more normal order with Noj White on SX Girl, Herve Dupriez on Penrod Beneteau (“avec les nouvelle North sails”), Carl Wilcox on Wee Bear all trucking off to windward enjoying the decent breeze.
Numerous boats got 'caught' by Isle of Wight fishermen when heading into the shore along the south side. The numerous pots, nets and buoys, many poorly marked, close to the shore and further out, created some very frustrating moments.
Round the Island is rarely straightforward and the expected bear away at St Catherine’s or Ventnor was not to be! Instead the wind clocked left making for a continuos beat up to Bembridge and then dropped to nothing for some in Sandown Bay. Boats that took a wide route around the corner found some wind further out, notably Penrod, Katie Miller on the Figaro 2 BluQube, John Twiggs on HOS 35 TickTock, Barrie Harding on the Sigma 38 Bellerophon and Rookie winner Simon Mitchell on Aquillo, a Beneteau 31.7.
Race Officer David Giddings shortened the course at Bembridge to enable as many to finish as possible. The battle at the front was won by Race Director Peter Olden’s A35 Solan Goose finishing a minute ahead of Ding Dong and SX girl after 8 hours 40 minutes. Overall IRC winner was Herve Dupriez on Beneteau 31.7 Penrod, second was Stephen Thomas on Truant and third Solan Goose.
The next race is on 8 May to Poole with a return leg the following day.