Our crew came from far and wide for this years Cowes Week campaign- Andy and Louisa had joined us from Australia, via the USA – and with the sun shine forecast to continue, it was shaping up to be a Cowes Week campaign in home from home conditions for them.
We are competing in the Round Britain and Ireland Race, which commences on the Sunday after the end of Cowes Week. We had planned a shortened Cowes Week campaign, to allow us a few days before the offshore race for final preparations.
We had a full crew for the training day and after a short safety brief we started to run through setting up the boat for racing. Once the boat was set up we ran through hoisting, dropping and gybing a spinnaker and got everyone familiar with their roles.
The wind was slightly higher than forecast so we put up our No. 2 jib and set our course for Osbourne Bay hoping to get a bit less wind in the lee of the Isle of Wight. We set ourselves a short windward/leeward course and sailed it a few times under just main and jib, before practicing setting the pole and finally hoisting the spinnaker. We had a great hoist and drop with no problems so we practiced gybing a few times. Everything was going well so we dropped our spinnaker and worked on some practice race starts before calling it a day and heading for Cowes and a well deserved pint.
Saturday Race 1
The race start was at the Committee boat just East of Bramble Bank. With Southerly winds forecast to veer, a course was set. We got a good start and made it round the first mark in 7th with Vitesse just in front and Gambit just behind. We had been flying our No.1 genoa but with the wind gusting over 20 knots we changed to our No.2 after the first mark to make it easier for the crew. As a front came through the wind was gusting 24 knots so we decided not to fly the spinnaker on a couple of legs. We sailed a clean race and held our place and had some great racing, we managed to pass Vitesse going upwind as they were still struggling flying their No.1, but losing to Gambit as they flew their spinnaker on every leg. All our manoeuvres were clean and we took our time so we didn’t make any mistakes. Sigmania were having a rum party so we headed off to celebrate.
Sunday Race 2
We started on the fixed line at Bramble Bank and with an East going tide all day and a South Westerly wind, sailing in the Western Solent getting out of the tide for the upwind legs was going to be key. Our plan was to start at the Committee boat and tack in shore as soon as possible. There was a bit of confusion as we didn’t tack as soon as we could and we lost a lot of time. We struggled short tacking up the coast line to stay out of the tide, which was very tough on the trimmers, but we held our own downwind with the spinnaker. We improved as the race went on as our timing in the tacks got better, we were in 10th position on the last mark and opted to sail a different course to the two boats in front. We stayed North hoping to pick up a back eddy in the tide on Bramble Bank and stay in better wind. Our decision paid off and we manage to pass the two boats in front- finishing 30 second in front of Vitesse a great day and a great final leg.
Monday Race 4
The final race of our campaign was met with very light winds so the racing was postponed while the forecast 8-10 knots from the South West filled in. When it did we had great conditions, sunshine and lovely wind. Again the conditions saw us short tacking up the mainland to stay out of the tide and we lost some ground, but some of the fleet over stood the first windward mark by some way and we clawed a few places back. Our 4th leg was a long run under spinnaker to East Bramble, with a couple of gybes we gained on the boats in front and did our best to catch them on the last windward leg to the finish. We passed Flying Formula but couldn’t catch Kindred Spirit before the line and crossed the line 14 seconds behind.
But our hard work was not to be. The race committee protested us for apparently passing the wrong side of a passing mark just before the finish. I thought we passed it to the correct side, but with no proof we have had to retire.
Our forced retirement would not put a damper on what was a very enjoyable race campaign. After dropping a couple of crew members in Cowes we sailed back to Hamble. A great few days and great bunch of people I look forward to sailing with you all again.