Above: Rounding the Needles, quite a long way back in the fleet........(image copyright Sailing Scenes, used with permission).
Above and below:...to find rather a lot of boats in front of us....(below image copyright Sailing Scenes, used with permission).
Above and below: ...and after a few hours of surfing downwind, rather of lot of them now seemed to be behind us :-)
At this point we were beginning to entertain thoughts of a very good result indeed, but it all went wrong for us on the final leg up the Eastern Solent. We found ourselves becalmed in a sea of much, much larger boats squeezing round the easternmost marker post for Ryde Sands. In all the dirty air, our sails flapped uselessly, while the big boats with their taller rigs proceeded to sailed over us, and we went backwards on the tide.
Above and below: The marine car park at the eastern Ryde Sands post (visible centre) and what it cost us in terms of progress.
We wasted an hour like that, first heading out into the main channel to see if we could get clean air but finding that the breeze had died off. Eventually, we got brave and headed back inshore, passing through the marine car park once again. We then tiptoed along the edge of the sands, once touching them and (luckily) tacking back off, until we picked up a favourable eddy right up against the Island shore. With what little wind there was, we and a few other brave souls that had stayed close in managed to pull back some of the places we had lost.
In the circumstances, we decided that getting 50th overall was a better result than we had any right to expect. But we also learned some important lessons which we will try to apply next time:
- Arabella sails so much better to windward than before as a result of her new sails. But they can't save her when she is trapped in the dirty air from larger boats. To a point, at least, clean air matters more than a fair tide. After the debacle at Ryde, we learned to cover our windward side, agressively if necessary, by sailing so far inshore that anyone bigger would have been suicidal to follow us. That policy paid good dividends as we worked up the Island shore, recovering some of the tens of places we had lost.
- Sailing inshore is not free from risk, but as well as encountering less adverse tide close in against Ryde, we also picked up a favourable eddy close inshore between Norris and the Shrape, while competitors further out were visibly still stemming the tide.
- At the relatively late stage at which we tend to reach Ryde, the flood is well established but with a few hours of rise still to go. That does mean we can have two or more metres of tide under us, with which to scrape over the sands. I think that I will recce that area in more detail in the coming months, and see whether the fabled inshore route is viable for Arabella on a rising tide. It would be handy to have that knowledge in our tactical toolkit for next time.
Conditions: NW backing SW, later veering W F1 - F4, mixed cloud and sunshine. Sea state: slight to moderate.
Distance covered (GPS over ground): 76.3 NM
Total distance covered to date (2009): 111.7 NM
Engine hours: 3.9 (total for 2009: 8.0 hours)