Saturday, June 25, 2011

Round The Island Race 2011: third in class

With last year's second in class to equal and better, and tough conditions from the outset, we were all feeling the pressure as we set off for the start line.  By the end of the race, we were nursing a holed boat with a damaged spinnaker and thinking we'd been very lucky to grab third...

But ah, what might have been...

Brian helms SSD Hurricane down the startline (image: Paul Wyeth, used with permission)

Brian Thompson helmed us into a superb start, sailing right down the line and rounding up to cross literally as the gun fired, putting us into the leading pack from the very beginning.  As we started to tack up into the very choppy, wind-over-tide conditions down the Western Solent, we held position among the front of the fleet without any great difficulty.

SSD Hurricane (lower right) leads down the Western Solent (image: TH Martinez/Sea&Co/onEdition; free for editorial use)
But just off Hampstead Ledge, we were rammed and holed by a port-tacker (yes, it was a Sunsail F40).  In the subsequent protest hearing, the offending yacht was disqualified but there was no redress given.  We shoved oilies and other convenient items into the hole and mounted the best fightback we could.  At that point, we could still claw our way back.

Above two images:  The fightback begins...and we're not even at Hirst yet! (images:  Beken of Cowes, used under licence)

Above two images: Punching upwind in the Needles Channel (image: Pixstel/Colin K Work, used under licence)
Once round the Needles, we were one of the first boats to hoist our spinnaker and we were soon back with leaders.  Our problems were not over, however.  In truly challenging conditions after St. Cats, we totally messed up changing foresails, in the process ruining the smaller spinnaker and jamming the jib in its track.  With no choice but to run before the wind under reduced sail, while we sorted out the problem, we wasted 40 minutes sailing further and further off the rhumb line to Bembridge Ledge, watching in frustration as the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth-placed yachts sailed off into the distance.  Finally, we got the larger spinnaker up; and all credit to a very wet, tired (and partially seasick) crew, we set about mounting our second fightback of the day.

SSD Hurricane powers up the Eastern Solent on the final leg (image:  Beken of Cowes, used under licence)
We usually do well on the last leg, when other crews are tiring and losing concentration.  This time was no exception and we exploited some pretty daring tidal strategy (ever tried sailing right up onto the beach at Ryde in a 45-footer?) to get ourselves back into the leading group, retaking some of the lost positions and finishing a safe third.

We were amazed, frankly, to get a podium position after all that we'd been through, but that didn't take away a sense of frustration:  the time difference between third and first was very small,  and but for our own errors with the foresail, even the earlier collision wouldn't have prevented us from scoring a class win.

Oh well.  Better luck next year...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Round The Island Race: practice

A good day out today, practicing for tomorrow's RTIR.  I'm tac/nav aboard SSD Hurricane, the same Elan 450 as last year, which is once again skippered by Brian Thompson, and chartered via Ondeck. Most of last year's crew are back, too.

We managed second in Division 1C last year, so we have a tough target to beat.  And the weather forecast is looking....interesting....

(Click on images to view large - all images © Paul Wyeth, reproduced strictly by permission)