The Myth of Malham race is named after the, small displacement cutter that won the Fastnet race in 1947 and 1949, beating the other 28 competitors. Before this it was simply known as the Eddystone Lighthouse race.
The race was from the Solent west towards the Eddystone lighthouse and back to the finish just off the Needles. With 7 Sigma 38’s and a total of 35 boats in IRC 4 we knew it would be a tough race, but the forecast looked good for the next few days we hoped it would be a dry 230 miles. For some of the crew this would not only be their first sail outside of the Solent, but the first time they have sailed in a watch system.
With light north easterly winds we decided to start close to the Isle of Wight and try to take advantage of the back eddy’s close to shore. The wind held and allowed us to set our spinnaker as we reached down the Solent hot on the heels of Marta with Panda Nova and Meifesto just a head. As we approached the Needles the tide started to turn and as we sailed into deeper water we shot out past Hurst castle into Poole Bay.
It became a race of who could find the wind as it became light and variable. We initially decided to head south as the wind filled in from the west as the forecast showed it veering north west though out the afternoon and early evening. The wind remained from the west south west so we decided to play safe and tacked every couple of hours as we made our way up the coast.
We rounded Portland bill on the last of the west going tide then continued into Lyme Bay to stay out of the worst of the tide. As the tide turned around midnight we tacked and started to sail towards Start point, Panda must have had a similar strategy as we found ourselves only a couple of boat lengths away in the small hours of the morning. Both crews on both boats worked relentlessly on sail trim to try and get ahead, in very light conditions. As the sun rose the wind continued to fade and when the tide turned we were in danger of going backwards, so we prepared the anchor just in case, but we managed to keep the boat sailing forward, even if it was at only 0.1 knots.
The next 8 hours saw us on every point of sail with a variety of sail plans doing everything we could to get towards the lighthouse. It was a frustrating sail until the wind filled in mid-morning then as we tacked towards the lighthouse in the company of the majority of the Sigma fleet. We lost some ground on the beat towards the lighthouse, but decided to try and claw it back on the run back to the Needles.
The next 18 hours saw us sailing in wind from 4 knots to 18 knots with the spinnaker up, and a very confused sea. We made great time to Portland Bill and continued on our course which took us 10-12 miles offshore, before gybing towards Poole Bay and our final gybe to the finish.
We finished a creditable 18th in class and 54th out of 120 competitors overall, so a big well done to everyone on board Rho. There were a number of valuable lessons learnt and we hope to do as well if not better in the next race. A huge well done to all of the Sigmas who took part showing that when sailed well the 25 year old boats can still keep up with the newer boats.