Aiming to have a race that it takes contestants on average a 24 hour to complete, the RORC defined the course as follows: Start at RYC Castle, an upwind buoy DZB just South of St Alban’s, a 90Nm leg almost due East leaving st Catherine’s Point on Port towards ‘Owers’. From there back up to the finish at a buoy called ‘Darling Associates’ that lies in the Solent just West of Portsmouth. In all a 110nm Race.
The Crew and on board preparations
With on board Harry, Leen, Floris, Herman, Diederik, Luuk and Florent, Winsome sets of from the Royal Yacht Squadron at 08:30. We first, conform ritual, show the Racing Committee a selection of compulsory safety equipment of their choosing (in this case radar reflector and fire blanket) and then we shortly practice manoeuvres and setting the Spinnaker.
At the start winds were very light and tide pushed us down the West branch of the Solent. Conditions were such that in case of a premature start we would never make it back to the starting line on sail. We thus made very, very sure to leave ample safety margin. We ended up thirty-three boat lengths from the line when at 10:00 the starting signal sounded.
Cutting across the last bit of the shoal at the shingles we chose to take a near-shore track. We were hoping to keep the wind in our sails and avoid the oncoming counter current as much as possible. While making our way towards ‘Old Harry’s Wife’ (this is the actual name of the shallow waters near a rock called ‘Old Harry’) we learned that our fellow sailors out at sea had made the better choice.
After a long and fruitful debate on wind, tide and boat-speed, Floris was able to summarise the discussion in one single sentence that we, from now on, shall call the mother of all tactics: ‘We should sail towards the buoy as fast possible and round it’. With this renewed and unorthodox vision upon competition sailing we continued to make our way upwind against the steadily increasing tide. We made sure there was just enough time in our last leg towards the DZB Buoy to prepare the spinnaker that was set promptly after rounding it.
As soon as we the spinnaker stabilised and we were steadily speeding downwind, dinner was served on deck
By the time we would make our way around st Catherine’s Point tides would be against us once more. Doubtful if the winds would hold, we were given two options. 1) Out to sea: seeking wind there and battling the current 2) Banking on near-shore winds and hugging the land to evade the currents. Using the MOAT* methodology, skilful calculation and careful consideration the latter was selected.
Underway to the South end of the island we gybed as if we had been practicing this since Christmas.
We reached the shore at sundown to start a truly magnificent night of sailing. Close reaching with the spinnaker and all hands on deck we dived as closely under the shore as wisdom and audacity permits. Now and then our sails are lit by the torchlights of surprised fisherman on shore. Slowly but surely we made our way along the lighthouse, rocks, little beaches and scattered holiday homes. As soon as the current let down a bit we set course straight towards ‘Owers’. Crossing the deep water route Harry was able to persuade a cruise ship to alter it’s course. The dredger that we came across was slightly more hampered in its room to manoeuvre. We had to steer up towards a close-reach in order to cross just behind it’s stern.
Last Leg and Finish
For the first time that night the Genoa was set and the Spinnaker lowered. From there we sailed in a single comfortable close haul towards the finish.
Later that morning we had confirmed that we had finished 1st in class.
Thank you Harry and all for yet another wonderful race