Race Weekend 1 12/13th April 2014
The forecast for Saturday was sunshine with a light to moderate Westerly wind building through the day. Our race start was to the East of Bramble Bank and we arrived in plenty of time after spending some time practicing a spinnaker hoist, gybe and drop. The tide was going to be Westerly for most of the day so there were a few OCS (on course side) at the starts of the previous races, due to the tide pushing boats across the start line early.
The Sigma 38 fleet was to be started with IRC3 Class as the number of Sigma’s entered was low (possible due to another bad winter slowing up boat works). With most of the crew new to racing, we were keen to make it cleanly around the course.
We got into the prestart sequence and managed to find some space. With the West going tide the decision was to start as close to the Committee boat as we could. Sigma 38 Gambit had a similar plan but we managed to hook up underneath them and then had right of way as we were the leeward boat. This meant that we were able to sail as close to the wind as we liked and Gambit had to stay out or our way. We pushed them high and managed to squeeze them out at the start, but were slightly late at the line.
The course was a short sprint to the first mark, which suits a well-drilled regular crew. We lost a bit of time but rounded the top mark only a few boat lengths behind Gambit, with Panda, Light and Persephone off in front. We had a good spinnaker hoist and watched Panda, Light and Persephone gybe and head North. I double checked with Gareth, who was in charge of our navigation and tactics, and was told to stay on the current gybe as he felt there would be no benefit to be gained by heading North to left side of the course, this also meant we didn’t have to gybe. We had a good leg, catching Gambit in front and both of us catching the three other Sigma’s. We had a clean spinnaker drop but weren’t able to do enough to catch Gambit on the next two legs, although we did managed to stay close. In summery a good race for us, no major mistakes but things to work on for race two.
A similar course to race 1, a short sprint upwind and downwind with a short second upwind/downwind leg. Again we got a good start but Gambit were OCS so they had to restart- as long as we sailed a clean race we should be able to stay in front. We had a problem dropping our spinnaker so couldn’t use it on the second leg, but we had a big enough lead on Gambit that we didn’t need it and completing the race under white sails was enough to beat them to the finish line.
After 2 good starts I was perhaps over confident for the start of race 3. Persephone were going for the Committee boat end of the line like us, but this time Persephone hooked us and pushed us out. We turned as quick as we could but our boats touched and we got a penalty. After a bad start I was glad to hear the race was cancelled due to the windward mark being dragged. Regroup and ready for race 4.
The wind started to pick up but we decided not to change to a smaller jib. While waiting for the race Committee to tell us the course we noticed the class in front of us getting ready to start, a quick check of the radio revealed that the channel had been changed. So 5 minutes before the start we didn’t know the course, we decided that we would start anyway and follow the boats in front. The race went from bad to worse, we managed to hoist our spinnaker but a problem with the jib hindered the drop. We managed to get the spinnaker down but with no jib we decided to retire.
Having had 4 race starts I thought that would be it for the day, the crew worked really hard and were getting tired. We started to head back to Hamble when the race committee announced a very short 4th race. We might have been able to make the start but decided that an early beer was preferable so kept heading for home. Claire who was on the foredeck had taken a dunking during the bad spinnaker drop so she was happy to be able to get changed.
We had a table booked in the King and Queen, we were seated beside Panda so had plenty of opportunities to swap stories over some good food and a few drinks.
Sundays forecast was again for good weather but with less wind. We headed to the start line, with Race control promising 2 races. Again a strong weather going tide was going to play havoc on the start line and cause boats to be OCS at the start.
We managed to get good clean start from the Committee boat end of the line. The tide allowed for one long leg on Port tack to take us to the mark. We rounded the mark just ahead of Light and behind Panda and Gambit. Persephone was OCS and had to restart but was catching the rest of the fleet fast. There was a short reach and a few boats tried to fly their spinnaker but struggled, we decided to wait and hoisted at the next mark. There was a long downwind leg that split the fleet- we opted to stay right with Gambit and Panda while Persephone and Light went left. We had a good leg and managed to be within one boat length of Gambit at the leeward mark, but confusion on the rounding saw us approach with no pole so we couldn’t hoist the Jib as it was on the wrong side of the boat. We struggled to hoist the jib so had to drop the spinnaker without the jib up, this gave Gambit a bit of breathing space that we couldn’t recover. It was another learning experience for the crew and a lesson not to leave the decision so late. We had a short upwind and downwind leg but couldn’t catch up with Gambit. The crew did a great job and keep improving.
Again a great start saw us leading the group briefly on the first leg but coming in to the mark on Port always has a risk and we found 3 boats on Starboard so a quick 360 to avoid some boats finally got us around the first mark. During the spinnaker hoist the Starboard sheet caught on the guard rail, the result was a very large flag flowing out the front of the boat. We decided to sail on the jib and drop the spinnaker, the crew worked well and was soon ready to be hoisted again. We had a long downwind leg and decided to get out of the tide and hug the coast. The plan was sound but the wind died and we slipped further behind the main pack. We gybed hoping to find some more wind and were soon sailing at 7 knots towards the next mark with the wind on the beam, but it was too little too late. As we approached the mark we had even more bad luck a line caught the jib sheet and it took a few minutes to sort out- we soon got back up to speed and were heading for the finish line.
A huge well done to all the crew, lots of positives to take away from the weekend, let’s hope the next race weekend is as sunny as the last.