RORC Channel Race report
This was to be the last qualifying race before the Fastnet, unfortunately 5 of the Fastnet crew were unable to make the race but we managed to persuade a couple of other to join us so we set off for the race with a crew of 7 rather than the normal 9.
We knew it would be challenging as most of the crew hadn’t sailed together before but it gave the more experienced Fastnet crew the opportunity show what they knew.
The race started at 10am on Saturday with 2-4 knots of wind and a lot of tide. We elected to stay well clear of the start so we didn’t cross the line early as sailing back against that tide would be impossible in the light winds.
We struggled to get the boat moving so elected to head north of Ryde middle to get the strongest of the tide and hopefully a better angle in the north easterly winds to sail towards the forts. This as it turns out was a big mistake. The wind filled in from the South East (not forecast) which saw the boats to the south of us sail of into the distance leaving us in a group of 15-20 boats and a long way back.
We managed to make it past Bembridge just as the tide turned and hoisted the spinnaker for the run to St Catherine’s Point. The wind quickly increased as a squall passed over and veered to the South so we dropped the spinnaker and welcomed the 16 – 26 knots of wind. It wasn’t to last and soon we became becalmed again. With 3-4 knots of tide we soon lost steerage and became a passenger, at least the tide was taking us in the right direction.
The main fleet were by this stage 5 miles further West and the forecast was for the wind to fill in from the West, so we lost out again and dropped further behind as the wind slowly built to 18-22 knots. We changed from our no1 to our no 2, and started to claw some miles back. Yoda, another Sigma 38, was only 1.5 miles ahead so they became our target to beat.
The wind fluctuated between 240 degrees and 300 degrees so tacking on the shifts kept out VMG as high as possible and the crew worked well trimming the boat and changing sails as the wind decreased. The hard work paid off and we soon had built a small lead over Yoda. As night fell we noticed the first spinnaker sailing back towards us having rounded Poole Bar beacon No1. We rounded the buoy just before 11pm as the tide changed, and hoisted our spinnaker for the run back.
The forecast was for the wind to back to the South and increase as the night went on so we elected to sail a little more South than we needed so we could try to hold the spinnaker as the winds increased while leaving room to bare away. The wind did increase and we had a couple of broaches as some of the crew were resting, this soon got everyone back on deck, and with some weight on the rail we managed to hold the spinnaker while sailing at 9-10 knots over the ground. The wind started to gust over 20 knots and with the main and spinnaker under trimmed to stop us broaching we decided re-hoist the no 1 jib and sail under whites to make it easier.
Unfortunately we had a small issue with the jib which meant we couldn’t hoist it until we dropped the spinnaker. This was made all the more difficult as it was night and although the moon was full it gave us no light due to the thick cloud cover. We performed a kiwi drop (snubbing the spinnaker between the boom and the main sail) which the crew have not done before, but it all went to plan and we only lost a ½ knot of boat speed with only the main up, and were soon going faster and in more control when the jib went back up. Once our boat makes its max hull speed no amount of sail will make it go faster, and it meant a few crew members could get some rest.
Apart from an unexpected broach as we neared Bembridge the remainder of the race was uneventful. It took 13 hours to get to Poole and only 4 hours the get back, we finished at 0311 managed to stay ahead of Yoda, and finished 1 hour and 15 minutes behind the next Sigma 38, so well done everyone.
For the crew doing the Fastnet it was great to have to sail the boat in wind speeds ranging from 0 – 25 knots, lots of lessons learnt – Roll on the Fastnet!