02 April 2018
All Or Nothing Cherbourg Race report
When Chris asked me if I fancied going to France for a week-end at Easter I instantly thought Paris, the Eiffel Tower…how wrong was I! Turned out to be sailing doubled handed to Cherbourg & back. No problem, I was sold on a pleasant daytime race & the weather can be pretty good around Easter...So with a 5 am wakeup call we were up & ready to go. Everyone made a cautious start holding back a little due to the strong tide, heading up wind to the east we hadn’t gone far before the shackle failed on the halyard & down the jib came, not to worry Chris put a spinnaker halyard on it & it was back up, not perfect but it worked.
With 4 Sunfast 3200’s in the race our completion was obvious, we got ahead of Nirvana & Hair of the Dog and were right behind Mzungu by the forts. Bearing away at Bembridge we put the Code 0 up & we were off. Apparently topping 10 knots, I missed that as I needed a snooze, sailing is supposed to be relaxing after all.
When I got up we’d got the J2 back up & the wind was easing & shifting further south. As I needed to build my confidence of being on watch by myself I insisted Chris had a rest for a bit. Well I don’t really know what happened but somehow I went the wrong way! Maybe it was the new touch screen plotter on deck was when I lost the plot, you only have to look at in the rain & it think’s your pressing it. I don’t think Chris was impressed! We headed back towards the fleet, but as the wind died we practically ground to a halt. Even with 6 layers on I was freezing so went below. It was turning out to be a marathon rather than a sprint. After 3 hours of no wind we were looking at around 8 hours to Cherbourg assuming the wind picked up and also the grib forecast we’d got for Sunday looked like light/no wind for much of the day. Coupled with being cold & wet we decided to call it a day & head for the Needles as we could still catch the tide up to Lymington. Once tied up; Hot chocolate, food & with fan heater on full we soon started to warm us up, well, until the fan heater broke, it was time for bed, Goodnight.
Shades of Blue Race report
We only got halfway across when somebody switched the wind ( but not the rain ) off. We drifted aimlessly for 6 hours then decided to call it a day. Cowes was still closer than Cherbourg, and somehow seemed more inviting. From Bembridge up to that point, it was quite a nice spinnaker reach, started tight then eased back to a run. Nice, apart from the cold, rain and rather indifferent visibility. Can't really think of anything else to add, Chris
Bellino Race Report
My that was a cold and wet one! The race started well for us, crossing the line soon after Dusty P and settling down to play the wind shifts on the beat down the Solent. At Bembridge we bore away and hoisted the code zero, and watched with interest as the fleet dispersed in totally different directions. Our strategy was to get South as quickly as possible, as the forecasts suggested the wind would build from the South, sticking to the rhumb line or slighty West of it to be up tide (not realising that we'd finish on the following tide - doh!). Before long we found ourselves becalmed, sitting on the deck getting rained on while the sails flogged - nasty. East of us, Bigfoot suddenly started moving at 6 knots towards Cherbourg. Was he motoring? Nope, he had wind. There was only one thing to do - rustle up dinner - Mexican pork stir fry - as the wind seems to like to pick up when you are in the middle of dinner. It worked - just as we finished eating, Diablo to our West suddenly started moving and even had heel on - there was wind. We headed towards the breeze as quickly as we could and were just debating hoisting the code zero when the wind increased from 5 to 15 knots in seconds and we found ourselves heeled over and suddenly moving - hoorah! The race was back on. We sailed fast and low, slightly overpowered when the wind increased to 20 knots, and slowly overhauled Diablo and Bigfoot. Wet and cold as we were, however, by the time our tired brains had registered that we were slowing down and should hoist the code zero we were just 10 minutes from the harbour entrance and didn't bother. All credit to Bigfoot who did and beat us by minutes on corrected time in a 16 hour race - well done.
Cherbourg - Cowes
We we got another good start to the return race (just behind...you guessed it, Dusty P) and just cleared the fleet on port. Mercifully there was more wind than forecast and we kept moving although for a while we struggled in light winds once outside the harbour watching class 4 extend their lead before finally starting to reel them in. Eventually the wind freed enough to hoist the code zero and we took it in turns to trim and bank some sleep in the relative warm and dry of the cabin. Juliette was going impressively fast under her code zero and we only finally overtook her a few miles before Bembridge. As we approached the island the wind built until we found a two-sail reach to be faster than the zero. At Bembridge we hoisted the heavy runner in the dark only to find that it was trapped behind the spreaders by the topping lift. We ran deep and eased the halyard until it freed itself and we were off. Being symmetric we were able to sail deep in an effort to cheat the tide before gybing at the fort, skirting Ryde sands and heading into the shallows for relief from the tide. Several gybes later in a building wind we crossed the line, breathed a sigh of relief and dropped the spinnaker shortly before the wind increased to 25 knots.
It was lovely to catch up with the JOG crowd in Cherbourg.Thanks to all involved in running two challenging, if cold, races, and to NJO Sails for sponsoring the race.
Mzungu Race report
Outbound: Mzungu was duly prepared and “pre-flight checked” as is only appropriate for 2 pilots masquerading as mariners. No 1 on the check list was the Eberspacher heater. Yes!, working as advertised and with sufficient fuel. As no pilot flies an open cockpit aircraft these days [although most racing sailors prefer that option], the canopy was also pre-flighted and declared serviceable, for it`s inevitable use later that day.
The well trodden track East along the Solent and down to Bembridge Ledge was unremarkable although co-pilot Dave did remark that we seemed to be going well as we led the majority of class 4 [unfortunately a temporary situation!]. Following our trusted and calculated passage plan from the newly acquired “Squid” weather planner [finally out-voted and flown in manual!] we headed for Cherbourg; all going well until we parked up along with most others and sluiced West for a few hours, then East for a few more, slopping about on a queasy sea. The fix on the chart at 1930 showed that we were in exactly the same position as at 1330. Precision navigation at it`s best! The experienced, wizened, meteorology trained eye of “the skipper” [Tony, to whom all blame shall be attached] scanned the horizon and sky for any sign of the forecast wind band; concluding that no wind was apparent and that “J105 Bigfoot”, heading South at 6 knots must be motoring as he was SE of us and could not possibly have any wind. The same applied to “Bellino” [and I know Rob never retires] also heading S at 6 knots, only 2.5 nm away. My conclusion...no wind and they had binned it. “Start the engine” announced the skipper [t.w.a.b.s.b.a] we`re retiring. The engine was put into gear and off we went for about 100 metres until hit by the first 15 knot building gust, maintaining 18-22 knots within minutes.