JOG Cowes-Cherbourg – 3 April 2010 - Race Report from With Alacrity
After a 24 hour postponement to let some big winds pass through, five Sigma 38s were up bright and early on Saturday morning for the 07:30 start of the first offshore race of the season with JOG. Galliver II, under new ownership, were at the start along with Persephone & Zanzara out for their first race of the season. Marta & With Alacrity completed the line up for the Sigma 38s who made up one third of the JOG class 4 fleet.
Although the worst of the wind had passed over we were still expecting a brisk and cold beat into 20 knots of mainly southerly breeze which was forecast to move from the S to SE before clocking around to the SW and eventually NW in the evening. So much for the forecast, the start was in just 6 knots of breeze so plans for the No 2 were abandoned as we dug out the No 1 and contemplated the possibility of a shy spinnaker reach to the East off the JOG line.
Persephone won the start and immediately hoisted their kite to reach off into the middle of the Solent, we hung on to the No 1 and sailed higher to cut the corner off Cowes before also hoisting the spinnaker to head East down the Solent. At the forts Persephone had the lead by 5 or 10 boat lengths as we headed up for the beat to Bembridge Ledge.
By Bembridge Ledge we had pulled back to round just a few boat lengths behind Persephone as we all tacked onto port and cracked off towards the tidal relief off Dunnose. With Marta & Zanzara just a hundred or so metres behind, we marvelled at how closely matched Sigma 38s are as the four of us tracked along at exactly the same speed. We hugged the shoreline around Dunnose to finally squeeze past Persephone into a 100 metre lead as we all headed offshore towards Cherbourg in a SE breeze. With a lumpy and confused sea left over from the wind from the previous night, keeping the boatspeed up was a constant challenge as one by one most of the crew succumbed to seasickness. I felt for Galliver II who were having a tough introduction to offshore racing in a Sigma 38 and guess this is why they and Zanzara eventually retired and headed home.
After an hour or so the wind got very light and headed us gradually until we were sailing 30 degrees west of Cherbourg. Persephone, Marta and Zanzara tacked off to the SE but we hung on to the west anticipating the forecast wind shift to the SW. Much to our surprise the wind filled in from the East and eventually almost NE so rather than beating we were reaching at 7.5 knots straight towards Cherbourg. Over the next few hours we sailed through two 30 knot squalls which kept everyone warm as we changed down to the No 2 and single reef – just as we had the boat settled the breeze reduced and we were shaking out the reef and changing back up to the No 1!
By late afternoon we had the French coast in view and the tactical situation was fascinating. We had lost sight of the other Sigma 38s who were off to the East but the forecast defying breeze was still from the East which would work in their favour. As we had also reached most of the way across the channel rather than beating we were going to arrive a good 4 or 5 hours earlier than expected so we were constantly recalculating the tidal offsets as we closed on Cherbourg.
10 miles off we saw Longue Pierre ahead and to the West sail into a new breeze and heel over hard on starboard. Finally the forecast SW was arriving and we were ready for it, tacking onto starboard with the No 2 up just laying the finish to arrive in plenty of time for last orders at Cherbourg YC. Very pleased to discover we had made it in first Sigma 38 and first in IRC class 4, think we were saved by the SW wind eventually arriving – could have been a very different outcome if the wind had stayed east for another few hours !