Skipper- Nick Woolven
Rho was only just ready for the Sigma 38 Nationals – we bought the boat in March and have been working on her almost everyday since to get her ready for racing after 10 years of use as a family cruiser. We failed to get the boat back in the water for the 14 April Training day, but we were determined to make the Nationals – and we did, just. Our first sail on Rho was from Hamble down to Lymington on the Friday night, arriving just in time for the Chairman’s drinks.
The core crew has sailed on Vitesse for two seasons and we are training for the 3 Peaks Yacht Race in June where the max crew is 5 – but we managed to get a few extra hands for round the cans, a crew of 8 for the Saturday, 6 for Sunday and a couple of additional novices for Monday.
Saturday morning was the first time some of us had met so the crew were fairly anxious – but the mood lifted with the 08:00 briefing where it became apparent that it wasn’t just us who didn’t understand the Race Officer’s briefing. Race 1 started with us going through the fleet cleanly on port, to everyone’s amazement – but we were promptly squeezed out on the first rounding of the windward mark. On our next beat we noticed that the leaders were passing the other side of the Committee boat than the race officer’s course diagram – or at least my record of it. So a rapid tack and we lost a few more places. We then got squeezed badly again at the second leeward mark and ended up rounding with the spinnaker still up – which stopped the boat very effectively as we turned into the wind. We were relieved to finish, and were still franticly packing the spinnaker whilst trying to get the starting sequence sorted for the next race (another distinct difference between my note of the race briefing and the actuality). But at least we were no longer race virgins!
The second, third and fourth races were less frantic as the crew adjusted to the course and each other’s styles. We also managed to confirm that the depth gauge was exactly correct when, in race 4, it was reading 2.1m as we nudged the sand just east of Hurst spit.
Saturday evening was very relaxing – enjoying the fantastic showers in the Berthon marina – and then the BBQ at the RLYC Club House.
Threat of a windless afternoon caused a shortened course for the Sunday race, up to Bramble bank then zig-zagging back down to Lymington. We started OK and we managed to stay in strong positive tide in the beat up to the East until Gurnard Ledge when we noticed the tide had already changed, which was our “Solent tides learn experience 1”. Then hoisting the spinnaker for the run back West we learned how difficult it was to drop the Spinnaker short handed – each mistake cost us 1 or 2 places until we made it to the finish. The early afternoon finish gave us a great opportunity to visit Lymington’s chandleries and address various problems and breakages from the day. Whilst Paul, Rocky, Marie and I replaced the mainsheet, genoa car pulley lines and stripped the spinnaker pole trip mechanism – Mark and Karl did a hard 12 out to Hurst Castle and back.
On Sunday evening we skipped the formal dinner because we had been expecting to be exhausted after a round the Island, so we settled for a curry on-board the joined the diners for a couple of beers before an early night.
The Monday races – featured a very strong tide across the start line, so we arrived too early and had to lose most of our speed. We tried to learn from our experiences in Saturday’s opening races – but we were tripped up by some new challenges in calling the lay lines and getting the boat to settle in some changeable wind. I think had just about started to get the hang of it when the last race finished.
The fleet returned to Lymington for a prize giving, where we were very surprised to get a “best newcomers”. Then we sailed back to Hamble where we had a Macaroni Cheese fest with Jon England and the Vitesse crew to give us enough energy to complete our list of boat chores and drive home much some much needed sleep after an excellent weekend.