Round the Island race report

Round the Island Race 2013

On the run up to the race the forecast looked good, northerly winds would make for a fast trip around the Isle of Wight. Perfect conditions for the AC45 of Sir Ben Ainslie.

We had a training day before the race, this allowed us to go out and practice before the big day.  The winds were light and the sun was shining as we practiced hoisting, gybing and dropping the spinnaker on the pontoon before setting out into the Solent to try it for real.

We got our sails up and started to sail up towards Southampton so we could get a bit of room to hoist the spinnaker.  For the majority of the crew this was going to be the first time they had sailed under spinnaker so the conditions couldn’t have been better, enough wind to fill the spinnaker but light enough to make the manoeuvers nice and slow.   After a few attempts at gybing the spinnaker the crew got into a nice rhythm and started to work well as a team. Knowing that Saturday was going to be a long day we dropped our spinnaker and started to sail back towards Hamble, giving us some tacking practice.  We finished up the day with a few pints in the Victory pub, and a good meal, with everyone fed and watered we got an early night.

With a 05.40 start time, the alarm went off at 03.00 and we left the pontoon at 04.00, with the kettle on and with Kevin on the helm I nipped down to get the bacon rolls on so we could have some breakfast before the start.  We managed to catch sight of the AC45 as it screamed across the Solent; unsurprisingly it went on to break the record. The winds were a little stronger than forecast but nothing for us to worry about, if anything it would make us get round the course a little faster.

Start tactics were simple; to be close to the Isle of Wight at the start to get into the strongest tide as soon as we could. The problem was us and the 120 other boats in our start group had the same idea!   We had a reasonable start; we had clear air but with so many boats participating we were unable to find a space in the lead pack and crossed the line 30-40 second late. The clean air came into its advantage and we were able to build up some speed and started to catch and pass the boats in front.  Thomas and Merve were trimming the jib and Stephen was trimming the main sail, with the winds shifting 20-30 degrees they all did a great job and all the hard work started to pay off as we caught and passed a number of boats that should have been faster than us.

As we approached The Needles we were able to bear away a little off the wind and a couple of boats hoisted their spinnakers around us, we held off as we were still going faster, but they soon started to catch up so we decided to hoist our spinnaker.  Rounding The Needles we found ourselves sailing within conversation-distance to Vitesse, a fellow Sigma 38 and our neighbour in our marina. We then gybed the spinnaker and started to head towards St Catherine’s Point the most southerly point of the Isle of Wight.

The wind was on the beam and we still had the spinnaker up, but with wind gusting to 20+ knots it was going to be an interesting leg.  Boats were losing control and broaching around us, but with all the crew sitting out we managed to surf our way at 9, sometimes 10 knots towards St Catherine’s Point, only losing control a couple of times.  We managed better than some, a few boats tore their spinnakers in the gusty conditions.

As we rounded St Catherine’s Point we dropped the spinnaker and started to make our way towards Bembridge, hugging the coast to get out of the adverse tide.  We were up to 6th or 7th in the Sigma fleet and holding our own in IRC 2.

The final leg towards the finish would be tacking up the coast staying as shallow as possible, Nick was calling the tacks trying to keep us out of the tide as much as possible.  The tides toward the end made getting to the finish line very tricky. With Alacraity was the first Sigma 38 across the line at 13:13, closely followed by Mefisto 13:18, and Panda Nova II finishing 3rd at 13:25.  There was a close battle for 4th with Light beating Pavlova III by just 17 seconds, we crossed the line at 13:44, 10th in the Sigma class with only 4 minutes separating 6th – 10th place.

We came in 80th in IRC 2, and 280th overall.  A huge well done to everyone onboard Rho, a great result and close racing as ever in the Sigma 38 class.

We rafted up on E pontoon in traditional Sigma 38 fashion, and then headed into Cowes for a well-deserved drink and a BBQ at the Royal London Yacht Club.

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