Garmin Hamble Winter Series - Day 2 – 11th October
With Alacrity Race Report
Just one race today in classic grey winter series conditions that saw a return to the more traditional Solent round the cans tour. With the breeze oscillating between 14 – 18 knots prestart, the first dilemma was which headsail to carry. The number 1 would probably be slightly faster but the number 2 would make tacking easier and the owners were keen to save the No 1 to fight another day. Would the breeze increase or decrease during the race? Based on years of experience & intuition I thought the wind would ease, Karen on mainsheet thought it would increase based on looking at the weather forecast! We went with the number 2, Karen was right and the breeze did slowly build to top 20 knots at times and the number 2 was marginally the right choice.
The second dilemma was where to start. With an adverse current, starting by the committee boat on the starboard end of the line would give the option to tack off early towards the shallow water. However, the line was cunningly and temptingly biased to the port end. We went for the port end and it was awfully lonely down there. Even with no boat within 50 metres we still mistimed the start and had to stop the boat in the last 10 seconds and only just scraped past the buoy after the gun, but at least we had clear air and were soon up to speed watching expectantly for the fleet to tack onto port and give us a lane to do the same. The minutes ticked by and only a few boats tacked off whilst the bulk of the fleet kept going on starboard into the deeper water and stronger adverse current. After a few more minutes we couldn’t wait any longer and tacked onto port towards the wall of starboard tackers – fortunately the line really was bias to port and we only had to duck two J105s and crossed the rest of the fleet to head for the tidal relief of the Bramble bank. Rapscallion had been one of the first boats to tack off inshore and as we approached the Bramble post they crossed 5 lengths clear ahead. We went for a few short tacks along the South of the Bramble bank and touched twice (does anyone else think the bank is 30 metres further South than it is shown on charts?) whilst a few Sigma 38s grounded more firmly. Flirting with the edge of the bank maybe helped us pull back a boatlength on Rapscallion but they were still firmly ahead as we rounded the windward mark for the first spinnaker leg.
By the first leeward mark we had closed the gap and we profited from an untidy kite drop from Rapscallion to round inside and into the lead. The next beat was to the Ryde bank in the middle of the Solent, the judgement call was how far to sail in the shallow water towards the Bramble bank before tacking onto starboard into the deep water and stronger current. We sailed too far and ended up overstanding the mark allowing Rapscallion back into the lead. The pack lead by Persephone & Light had also closed the gap on this leg and we were now keen to cover the boats behind as well as keeping the pressure on Rapscallion. A rare 2 sail reaching leg followed with little chance to attack and the following beat was tight but no place changes. For the last spinnaker run we ground down the deficit to just a boatlength at the final turning mark, but crucially we rounded a half boatlength to windward on the final beat. It was going to be tight for Rapscallion to tack and clear us so they started pointing high and we did the same to hold our lane. This could probably have continued right to the port layline but we were now both sailing high but slowly and ever mindful of the danger from the chasing pack we bit the bullet and tacked off to the right with all the crew hiking their hearts out. This was just a short beat to the finish and we were soon at the starboard layline and tacking back towards Rapscallion, it was very close but the starboard advantage paid as Rapscallion had to tack under us and we hung on to cross the finish line less than a boatlength ahead.
Last week I said Rapscallion could be one of the boats to watch this series, these words came back to haunt me as we spent most of Race 3 watching their transom and were fortunate to sneak ahead at the finish. Another great day of close, tactically challenging racing with place changes throughout the fleet, a fleet that was boosted this week with Zanzara, Gambit & Gallant making a welcome return. This series is hotting up!