Garmin Hamble Winter Series  - Day 1 – 4th October

With Alacrity Race Report

The winter series got off to a cracking start with eight S38s turning out for 2 races in a slightly flakey 9-14 knots westerly breeze. Great to see Rapscallion and Billy Whizz joining the action and sailing well, I suspect both these boats will get stronger and be the boats to watch as the series progresses.

Race 1 was a 2 lap sausage course along the edge of the Bramble bank between East Bramble & Flying Fish. At the start the tide was just turning to the west but on With Alacrity we did not have a clear plan on which way to go upwind, watching for clues from the fleets ahead had not been conclusive. In the event a bad start meant we were forced to tack off early to get clear wind, after ducking several transoms we settled into a long port tack towards the Bramble bank figuring we could pick up the slightly bigger arrows on the tidal chart for the early turn of tide inshore. Despite tacking on a few good shifts by the windward mark it was clear the left had paid as Persephone and Light steamed in on Port to round comfortable ahead. We learnt from this mistake on the second windward leg and headed out to deeper water and the strengthening tide – along with a favourable lift on port into the windward mark we were back in the mix rounding close to Light and narrowly ahead of Persephone. 

Then disaster struck as the spinnaker halyard was wrapped behind the spreader (how do you guarantee this will never happen?) and the seconds ticked by agonisingly as we swapped halyard before being able to hoist the kite, giving up 3–4 places in the process. We now had some work to do so gybed off to the left as the wind weakened to just 8-9 knots. Halfway down the run we managed to hook into a line of new breeze that had brought Marta down on a charge and recovered to 2nd place at the final leeward mark. Now was the dilemma, in the short beat to the finish should we attack Light who were 4 lengths ahead or cover Rapscallion, Persephone & Marta who were close behind to protect the 2nd place? We cautiously decided to attack and threw in a few tacks to try to persuade Light past the starboard layline which would be easy to overstand now the tide was running strongly. It almost worked as Light ended up well past the layline fetching onto the finish above us, we were just above the layline but Persephone was now just 3 boatlengths below us coming back strongly. It was a drag race to the finish but we were just a boatlength too far back to be able to power over Persephone and ended up being squeezed out by both boats to finish 3rd. Classic one design racing though as the first 4 boats crossed the line within 22 seconds!

By the second race the wind had backed another 15 degrees leaving the same sausage course quite biased, the twist was the same marks were to be rounded to starboard rather than port. A clever change as the RC correctly realised everyone rounding Flying Fish would want to be heading into the shallow water on port gybe so the starboard rounding would avoid boats crossing as they rounded the mark.  The start line was also massively biased to the buoy at the port end and we found a nice big space 3 boatlengths from the pin. Rapscallion were right on the buoy but were being crowded by a J105 and with clear air we got into our stride quicker. There was really just one way to go around this course, left into the deeper water upwind (even to the point that I think it was worth overstanding the windward mark slightly to keep in deeper water), then left again downwind into the shallower water to cheat the tide. As is often the case in OD racing, once ahead in clear air we were able to stretch away to a flattering lead as the dogfighting boats behind slowed each other down. We watched with bated breath the scrap between Rapscallion & Light at the finish which Light nicked by 4 seconds to secure the honours for day 1 with a well sailed 1st & 2nd.

All great stuff, and with 2 more boats entered and expected to join in later in the series it’s shaping up to be a great finale to the season.