Great weekend racing in the East Solent. Dawned on me when motoring out of Portsmouth Harbour entrance that we actually haven’t sailed since February. Probably part of the reason we’ve bought a boat! (more on that in another post)
Day One – 12th July
A nervous start to the day crossing the start-line mid-fleet, light airs (c10knots) and slow beat up the Solent. Rounded the first mark in 6th and hoisted the kite. First one of the day so feeling happy that she was up and filled within a few boat lengths. Headed inshore to avoid the tide and Gybed back to hit the leeward mark, gained a couple of places on those who stuck it out mid channel. Nice lower, rounded the mark and headed westward to the finish. Held onto 4th as we crossed the line. Long race for the start of the day but the wind started to fill in so the prospects for the next races were good!
Getting back into the grove, the start of the second race was spot on, powered up as the gun went, clean air, starboard tack. The wind had increased to about 15 knots and we had her setup well, very balanced. We used the tides nicely to carry us westward and rounded the windward mark with a clear lead. The course had been set with a couple more marks as the wind had filled in giving two clear spinnaker legs and a couple of gybes to perform. All nice and smooth. Gained a few more boat lengths on the fleet due to maintaining clear air and took line honours.
Another clean start and the tide really was flowing in our favour. Made for an interesting run up to the line but we nailed it! By the first mark we’d opened up a lead of 10 – 12 boat lengths. Everyone was working smoothly together and the spinnaker was flying and filled within 2 boat lengths. The importance of maintaining that lead and clear air became more evident the further down the leg we went. The two boats behind us were battling for 2nd place and allowed us to open up a bigger lead. Smooth gybing and lowering before rounding the leeward mark left us clear to make our final charge towards the line. Another line honours and a very happy crew!
The wind was nice and steady at 18 knots, however the tide was really ripping us over the line and everyone took caution with their line position to ensure they were not swept over. Being at the pin end on Port tack, intending to tack onto Starboard for the start, I realised there was enough of a gap to simply maintain full speed on Port and cross ahead of the fleet. I genuinely couldn’t believe my luck! Two tacks later and we arrived at the windward mark with a margin of about 20 boat lengths.
Then disaster! Spinnaker hoist that had gone so smoothly all day suddenly went awry! Debrief still hasn’t bottomed out exactly what happened, however the Spinnaker halyard released and the kite took a nose dive into the water, under the boat and out the back. Suddenly we had a 128m2 drogue off our port stern! That put pay to that. Recovery was hard work but controlled. Following a forced gybe (no point fighting that much water), we released the halyard and slowly repatriated the sail with the boat. Race over!
Even with the retirement, enough had been done to go into the second day joint leaders. Time to head to Cowes and get a well earned beer!
Day Two – 13th July
Before the start to the racing we had a minor rig repair to carry out and a new spinnaker to collect from the committee boat. We left Cowes at 0830 and headed to the designated start area just outside Portsmouth Harbour entrance.
Covering the joint leader at the start of race five we approached the line half a boat length ahead and just to windward of her. The wind was hovering around the 12 knots mark but something wasn’t right. She didn’t feel good. We were loosing 1/2 to 3/4 knot of boat speed on our rival. Frustratingly we checked the rig and setup and started to tweak. The wind was dropping and the tide was against, now the dilemma. As she sailed away from us into less and less wind, I took the decision to tack out to stay in the wind. Wrong move! The wind filled in towards the shore and our rival stole the lead. No, worse than that, we rounded the windward mark in last place! Now we had our work cut out. The wind filled in a little and the tide was taking us to the next mark, mid channel we go. Supremely quick spinnaker hoist rounding the mark allowed us to gain three places. Now we had to out manoeuvre and catch the leaders. Trim, trim, trim. We squeezed every last drop of power from the Spinnaker, leveraged the tide to our advantage and rounded the leeward mark in 3rd. Unfortunately for us we couldn’t gain enough on the two lead boats and remained 3rd by about 15 boat lengths all the way home. Still a 3rd is better than last and after the first leg I was thought our chances of qualifying for the final might have slipped away.
Starting to regret the spinnaker mess in race 4, which had we won would have meant we would have secured the regatta victory already, the pressure was on for the last race. We still had upwind boat speed problems. A good start put us in a good place but we were still a good 1/4 to 1/2 knot down on the overall leader. Lesson learnt here; always mark up your settings so you know exactly what tensions you have applied, recreating or adjusting is then from a known position rather than tweaking as you go. No matter, we secured the 3rd needed to qualify for the finals and well deserved it was too. Good racing all weekend and we’ll take the lessons learned into the November weekend and hopefully pull out the win when it counts!