Garmin Hamble Winter Series day 4 – 25 October – With Alacrity’s Report
After racing was cancelled last week through lack of wind, we were all up for a good days sailing with the wind forecast to be a steady 14-15 knots. Slightly surprised to find 20 gusting 25 knots in the Solent so just one race scheduled today and No 2s were the headsail of choice for the Sigma 38s. Another beat to the west against the tide with the start on the edge of the Hillhead plateau bringing the familiar choice of starting to the left of the line but risk being pinned on starboard sailing into deeper water and adverse current, or start with the crowd at the committee boat and hope to be able to tack onto port early towards the shallow water of Bramble bank. Did anybody else notice the strange wind pattern from watching the J109 start 5 mins before ours? At the start line the wind was pretty well square to the line but 300 metres to windward there was a big 20 degree lift on port. We stooged around the bouy waiting for the shift to make it’s way down to the start line and contemplating a cheeky port tack start to cross the fleet, but it didn’t move towards us and seemed to be a bend that stayed put 300 metres upwind (there were plenty of J109s ahead showing exactly what it was doing). With just over 3 minutes to the start we bottled it and reached down the line towards the committee boat arriving with just a minute to go and the tricky job of finding a space in the queue of starboard tackers sailing towards us. We found a gap and tacked into it, perhaps not the position we would have chosen but we worked to protect our space from a gaggle of J105s and slow the boat down as we were up early on the line. With 2 guns at the start someone had started early but who? There were 2 boats that looked premature and we were definitely in danger of being over as well but no-one on With Alacrity was sure enough to make the call. We listened intently to the VHF but it was silent (afterwards we found out the race officer was calling the boats over but his radio was not working), nothing in the rules to say the RC have to do this but just our luck that the start where we were unsure, the normally reliable HWS start commentary was silent. By the time we realised there was going to be no clues from the VHF we were already 2 mins into the race so we decided to carry on and hope for the best.
The race was a blast, we tacked off early to the shallow water and the name of the game was to sail up the tidal lee behind Bramble bank before judging the layline out to the windward mark in the deeper water. Rapscallion were going well with 1 reef in the main, I think the only boat to do this and it didn’t harm their progress upwind. We got to the windward mark just a few boat lengths clear before heading downwind where I think the full mainsail made a bigger difference as we pulled out an extra 5 boat lengths at the leeward mark. From here on it was just a question of sailing smoothly, minimise mistakes and loosely cover the boats behind. We had one ‘moment’ on the second run where we had some big deathrolls sailing too deep in a gust – scarily close to doing our first ever gybe broach. The usual fix of letting the pole forward a few feet and oversheeting the kite didn’t stop it so we had to give a big pull on the mainsheet and head up almost to a broad reach before the boat started to behave and we could head on downwind again. I think the short steep waves were the problem here, approaching the mark at one point the nose dug in and water washed across the foredeck - unusual for a Sigma 38. In a dinghy I would be resigned to the pitchpole but fortunately 7.5 tonnes of Sigma ploughs on and pops back out again! By the third lap the breeze was touching 27 knots in the gusts and the Sigma 38s were in their element, charging upwind and flying down the final run with the boatspeed hitting 9 knots for sustained periods.
We crossed the finish line comfortably ahead and the sound of a finish hoot was great to hear - our fears of starting prematurely were obviously unfounded. Sadly though, back in the clubhouse we found out we were OCS after all. Apparently we crossed 5 seconds early – not even close! Rapscallion (who finished second on the water) were also OCS along with 3 out of the 5 J105s who shared the start with us.
Oh bother [and other expressions of mild disappointment]
Still, guess we can record a moral victory.......... and it was fun !
Unfortunately, the scoreboard doesn’t give any credit for a moral victory and suspect that by the end of the series this could prove to be a big missed opportunity.
A weekend off now to stew over what might have been, then back for the last 4 races in November – plenty of racing left for us to make amends.