Our first race of the season, The Cervantes Trophy race taking us from Cowes to Le Havre, approximately 135m was definitely an eye opener for the crew. For half, this was a first; long distance non-stop through the night passage. For all; doing it under racing conditions was a first. And fabulously handled by everyone I must say.
We started in 20 knots of South East wind and headed out to the DZB Buoy southwest of Worth Matravers. Shortly after the the start the wind settled and the Asymmetric was hoisted. Straight up and filled we started to cruise at around 7knots, taking advantage of the tide in the middle of the Solent we were well and truly on our way heading west at around 9 knots over the ground. As we settled our boat speed started to increase and the work between helm and trimmer started to get into a groove. Heading past New Town and BANG! Sail everywhere, flapping and flailing. Pole snapped! A clean break straight through the carbon, no choice but to lower the sail. Slightly more complicated than under normal conditions but a little off the wind and she depowered and flew forward to allow a companionway lower via the lazy sheet. Well, that was that. Boat speed now down to 6 knots. ETA at the DZB Buoy now and hour later than planned!
To continue the issues of sails (or lack there of), the new sails for the boat have yet to materialise so this race was being done with the old (and I mean really old) cruising sails. It became a game of ‘count the holes’ as we started the long beat towards Le Havre.
As night fell and the predicted veering wind started to make its move, we managed to pick up a few places. Nighttime is the best time to catch other crews snoozing. Having been down to two reefs and a third of the jib going into the night hours, we were very conscious of the changing conditions and were quick to shake out reefs as the wind speed dropped. We also took into account the likely movement of the wind earlier than most and freed off a bit to gain boat speed, especially over the 6 hours of westerly tide when Cherbourg seemed to stay put for an awful long time!
Come the early hours and were now being carried to the finish line. The wind had eased and we were under full (albeit baggy) sails and the finish line was in sight. All things considered, this was not my finest race but it was all about finishing, gaining qualifying milage for this years Fastnet. In that respect, job done!
Next race to come is the Myth of Malham. This’ll be our first proper test. Please, please, please can the new sails be ready by then! (Oh and the minor problem of the broken pole – not proving that easy to fix.)