02 April 2018
Shades of Blue Nab Tower report.
5 crew, most of whom seemed to be called Chris, turned up bright and early on a lovely sunny Saturday morning in Cowes, and waited for a 6th to appear, who wasn't called Chris, but thought that Ed was called Nick. After a quick run to Costa, it was established that none of the crew had ever done foredeck, and when the 6th crew failed to appear, the job went to one of the Chris's, who did, at least, know which end of the boat the foredeck was at.
The windward start, in bright sunshine with a little mist reducing the visibility, was fairly uneventful, and although we were using the extended line, most of the class 5 boats didn't stray too far from their comfort zone, and started near the Gurnard buoy. There followed a light beat in gentle and quite patchy winds, with the mainland shore favoured early on, but the Island side favoured later. The mist got a bit thicker, perhaps almost fog, and after a couple of bad tacks, Shades found herself at the wrong end of the fleet approaching the forts.
Normally, at this point of the race, you can see the Nab Tower, but this time, the visibility was down to less than a mile and we just pointed the boat out into the white oblivion and trusted to the GPS to take us there. A tack to the east seemed to improve our position amongst the boats nearby, but we enjoyed it so much that we slightly over-stood. Cracking the sheets very slightly, we sped towards the vestigial stump that is all that remains of the tower, and Foredeck Chris got ready for his moment of glory.
The next leg, up to the Winner buoy, was a beam reach and the spinnaker hoist was unhurried and uneventful. The visibility improved, and the sun came out again, making this the perfect antidote to the cold and rain of the Cherbourg weekend.
Winner turned out to be a gybe mark and the run back to Cowes began well enough, but after a while was dogged by decreasing wind, increasing clouds, and even a spot or two of rain. Approaching the forts for the second time, we could see that there was more wind at the Horse Sand end of the gap, so headed in towards Portsmouth. A couple of gybes in the company of Prime Suspect took us round the stationary boats further south, improved our standing a little and we then pointed the bows at the finishing line, grabbed a slab or two of Cath's chocolate brownie, and hoped that it was a straight-line trip back.
Of course, nothing is that simple, and nearing Cowes, the wind died and went further aft, necessitating a few more gybes and a close encounter with a car transporter ship, eventually crossing the line just under 6 hours after starting. The full deterioration of the weather waited until we were tied up, when several downpours interrupted the tidying up process, driving us below for more chocolate brownies.
Many thanks to the race team for organising a excellent race, and the good weather too, and to the 70 other boats out there making it quite a spectacle and a great start to the JOG inshore series.
Red Arrow Race report
RAF Sailing Association Offshore Racing Team raced in the ‘Nab Tower’ event on Saturday on board RAFSA Yacht “Red Arrow”. This was a 35 mile race across the Solent as part of the national ‘Junior Offshore Group’ series of races. After the crew had a very early start transiting to the start line at Cowes, the wind was much lighter than forecast at 1-12 knots and they were blessed with sunny spells which occasionally stopped them from shivering. The Team had a great start just to leeward of a competitor yacht “Just So” and punched out ahead of the fleet into clean wind. “Red Arrow” dropped out of the top 5 on for the majority of the race, leaving others far behind in what was a highly competitive class. The boat speed was consistently 0.5 knots over the predicted rate, the boat felt very quick with the crew working hard! Rounded Nab Tower and hoisted the new RAF100 spinnaker for the downwind run. The team pushed through the yachts that started prior to them and soon found their way to the front of everyone along with the rest of the top 5 in class 4.
Just as Red Arrow approached the Horse Sands and No Mans Fort gate the wind shut down to just 1 knot allowing the fleet to concertina. “Just So” gybed out about 100 meters in front of Red Arrow and went to the north side of the Solent, albeit slowly. “Just So” was now being swept down tide, side on.
Painfully the wind filled back in on the north side first allowing “Just So” and followers to eat up the last 8 miles whilst Red Arrow drifted. Had a fantastic gybing duel however with another competitor “Jybe Talkin’” all the way up the south side in the last 2 miles until they got a spinnaker wrap and dropped back and ended up suffering from an exploding kite halyard! A great race for the team despite the wind reducing.
RAFSA Yacht Red Arrow races every weekend in both inshore and offshore races. We are looking forward to JOG St Vaast!