23 September 2019
Friday night we were supposed to be sailing to Cherbourg, the last offshore race of the JOG season . We had a new crew member Matt joining us for the first time who was dreaming of warm Croissants in France on Saturday morning. We had even all remembered to bring our passports. The forecast was not looking too friendly with 20-30kts easterlies so the race officer Martin took the wise decision to switch it to a day race to Weymouth instead. Friday evening was therefore spent with my head behind the electrics panel trying to fathom the installation whilst Rob was supervising with much sucking of teeth and mumbling about negative terminals. Anyway we labelled a few connections and fuses and put it all back together again ready for the early start.
When the alarm went at 6am I have to say there was a brief moment when the bunk felt cosy and the prospect for getting out of it was not so appealing. The weather forecast was still 20-27kts from the East/ South East so a downwind sleigh ride was on the cards.
We got to the start way too early and hovered around eating cereal. I wanted to put up the full main but knew as soon as we hoisted we would have one feisty animal to be trying to control. We finally put up the main and immediately had to reef as we had no manoeuvrability. 5 minutes to go and Matt noticed we had crossed halyards so we weren’t as close to the line as we would like but we were off with the A5. The 20kts of breeze then died so we had to quickly unreef the main and start chasing. The A5 has previously been called the naughtiest sail on the boat due its love of wrapping itself round the forestay so it was in the last chance saloon this race. Any wraps today and it was threatened with being marched back to Robs storage shed to languish with the 24 other old sails that live in there.
Surprisingly the A5 got the message and behaved impeccably. Even allowing itself to be poled out and hitting 165’ downwind without a flutter of instability. Maybe we’ve just got better on the helm!
The wind was was variable in strength with plenty of 20kts plus gusts which made for for very fun sailing as we went past Jelenko but unfortunately it went more East so a gybe was needed to hit Hurst narrows. We should have gybed further towards Lymington as although we hit Hurst on the West side it was not west enough to really get out of the foul tide and Jelenko and Scream came past us.
The original plan was to snuff the A5 and just have white sails for the short downwind leg to North head however fortune favours the brave so Matt and I overruled the voice of experience (Rob) and kept the A5 up and gybed down the north channel. Again the A5 was behaving well although we were snuffing and gybing to be a little safe and we got pretty slick at the manoeuvre.
The wind increased and went a little south and we were now fully powered up. We were sailing at 130-140’ to 26kts of breeze , this is ideal 3200 conditions and Purple Mist was flying along. We were surfing , we were planing , we came thundering past Double Trouble and Sheevra and we had Jelenko back in sight. We hit 14.9kts boat speed and mostly we were going the right direction at over 11kts. Matt was suggesting lots of big boat fully crewed techniques so the three of us were fully occupied with trimming, pumping, helming, easing with the occasional spin out of control as despite 2 hands on the helm and maximum pull the twin rudders finally lost grip. Waves were thundering past, spray was flying and I can honestly say it was the most thrilling sail ever on Purple Mist. Hardly time to take drink or a bite to eat.
About St Albans Jelenko was finally overtaken, they had a dodgy broach, we surged past ....job done !
The final leg was going to be 110- 120’ to the finish just short of Weymouth pier. Could we carry the A5? It was going to be tight. Most boats ahead had dropped the kites but we thought we would try. At first we were ok but we were broaching a bit too much to stay speedy so we decided to drop and switch to the J2. First error was the tylaska on the J2 popped open half way up the hoist . I’d obviously not totally closed it so we lost that halyard up the mast. No worries we switched to a Spi halyard and the J2 was up. Then came the drop of the A5, clearly Purple Mist was not onboard with the idea we should drop the A5 so she jammed the halyard. The A5 was snuffed (thank goodness) but the big flappy sausage of fabric was stuck up the mast. We did our best to keep up but airflow over the J2 was compromised and we could only keep pace with Marta and Sidney 2. Jelenko meanwhile flew the spinnaker, caught us back up and came past at a rate of knots.
At this point the wind had subsided a little and we could have unsnuffed the A5 again but knowing it’s halyard was jammed and there is not much room at the finish before you go onto the rocks we decided we better keep the A5 snuffed for safely. There are tales of a boat called Amy Lou hitting the Weymouth rocks under spinnaker and we didn’t want to repeat that experience.
Matt and I hiked out in a last attempt to get speed and we finished within seconds of the other boats.
We came into the harbour and Matt went up the mast to investigate and found the Spi cover had slipped effectively jamming the halyard. It took a good 15mins of chopping to release it.
The J2 also had damage on the leech, it’s on it’s last legs anyway after 2 seasons on old Purple Mist and 5500 miles on new Purple Mist. At least as the damage is at the edge if the sail so I can repair it myself, not the prettiest of stitching but it works.
The evening drinks were at a busy Weymouth Sailing club. It was great to meet up with everyone especially to meet Al from Jelenko who equally enjoyed our match racing. He assumed I’d beaten him not aware of my rubbish IRC rating that comes from recycling the J2 from the old boat. I promised Purple Mist that is we missed out on a podium position due to the rating she could have a new J2 ...so that’s a decision made, a smaller J2 is required.
We were 4th in class out of 4 though we beat boats in classes 3 and 5 including two Sunfast 3600 which we beat even before handicap was taken into account so all in all we were happy with the speed and performance.
We had dinner filled with salty sea dog tales with Kathy (Arcsine) and Pippa and Jonathan and crew (Sheevra).
Looking forward now to next weekend with the final 2 races of the JOG inshore season , a talk at Rorc from Will Harris Figaro sailor and a tour of the Classic boat museum.