Race 12 and the last of the 2010 Winter Series - incredibly not a single race has been lost in this series, has this ever happened before? Once again it was a light 6ish knot NW with strong West going spring tide. The added ingredient today was fog with visibility down to less than half a mile for much of the race. After a short postponement (for the race committee to shorten the line so they could see down it!) we were off from a very port bias line.
We started a quarter of the way up from the buoy but had Light sailing all over us ahead, fortunately we had a gap behind and tacked off early. With the strong tide it was a port fetch to the windward mark, we were first to tack and consequently made it to the first mark at the front of a closely bunched pack. A slow spinnaker hoist and Festina were through to leeward, but halfway down the run we had recovered and were back in front to be clear ahead as we approached the downwind mark. This was the decisive point of the race, with poor visibility making it hard to get a transit on the shore and with the buoy 50 metres from it’s GPS position it was hard to judge the final approach to the mark across the tide. This was compounded as the wind died 4 boatlengths from the buoy and, I think, the current increased as the buoy was just to the South of Ryde bank. Combination of these meant we were sailing deep and slow to get to the buoy and had to put 2 gybes in to get round, Festina came in at a hotter angle to slip round ahead and were gone.
Whilst we lost 5 boatlengths to Festina on that rounding I felt for the rest of the fleet who were just a few lengths behind but spent longer in the lull and were 150+ metres back by the time they got round.
Up the next beat we struggled to pick our way through the patchy wind, the fog created some strange light effects on the water making it hard to tell if the dark patches were wind or shadows. By the windward mark we were back in very light breeze, this time the fleet were sailing upwind in more wind reeling back the deficit.
The next downwind leg was all about trying to sail in pressure, which we largely failed to do with boatspeed down to just 2 or 3 knots it was going to take a long time to gybe downwind. Rapscallion sailed down on a gust and were ahead, we got past again but were locked alongside each other as we realised the course was shortened and the finish line was at the next buoy. Rapscallion outsailed us by hanging on to the tactical advantage and held us out to the right before gybing for the finish, we had no choice but to follow them across for 3rd place.
This marked the end of a very enjoyable winter series and a very hectic season for With Alacrity (Sunday was our 63rd race of the year !). Congratulations to Festina who managed to shake off their cruising boots in fine style and hit a phenomenal vein of form winning the last 8 races on the trot. We thought we were in with a shout but despite sailing solidly our results were too patchy in the middle of the series and we never managed to assert ourselves from then on. Hats off as well to the whole fleet which is looking stronger than we have seen in the last few years - if you are not in the front few boats at the windward mark it is really hard to recover as every place is fought for tooth and nail.
We have 14 weeks off now before the start of the Spring Series! Time to take a well earned break and mull over how we can improve for next year, we have few ideas for things to work on – we need to as one thing is for sure, we have to keep raising our game to stay competitive in this fleet. At least we have all managed to lull Festina Lente into a false sense of security during the Winter Series!
See you all at the Sigma 38 party on 29th Jan.