JOG Cherbourg-Cowes – 4 April 2010 - Race Report from With Alacrity
After the 24 hour postponement for the race out, we missed out on a lazy day in Cherbourg and by the time we were up on Sunday morning it was a rush to shower and finish breakfast for the midday start for the race home. With 20-25 knots forecast from the NW backing through the day we spent a good 30 minutes before the start gauging the exact wind direction and deciding on the sail plan. We decided it was going to be enough of a reach to go for the No 1 but cautiously decided on one reef until we could find out how much wind there was outside the Cherbourg entrance. We got a good start and were 2nd boat to clear the Cherbourg entrance just behind the faster Arcsine but just a few boat lengths ahead of Persephone with Marta close behind. Shortly after leaving Cherbourg we shook out the reef in the main and were making fine progress towards home.
The crossing was quick, we reached Bembridge Ledge in a little over 8 hours fast reaching at just under 8 knots. Persephone and Marta had sailed high out of Cherbourg creating 4 or 5 miles of East-West separation whilst we sailed what we thought was the shorter more direct course. As the breeze backed Marta & Persephone were first to hoist spinnakers and came storming down from the West and it was not until we were within 3 miles of Bembridge that the wind was free enough for us to hoist the spinnaker. Amazingly we rounded Bembridge Ledge just 3 boat lengths ahead of Persephone with Marta just a hundred metres further back – after 8 hours of sailing quite different courses across the channel the 3 Sigma 38s were almost exactly the same distance apart as when we had left Cherbourg Harbour !
The evening breeze was down to just 5-6 knots now with the tide setting in against us – it was going to be a long and nail biting race to the finish. By the forts we had eked out a hundred metre lead and were in a position to loosely cover Persephone, Marta and I think Longue Pierre as we beat along Ryde Sands. It was hard to tell who was who in the dark but on the second tack into Ryde we think Persephone and maybe Marta grounded on the sand bank and stopped dead allowing us to stretch out to a half mile lead across Osborne Bay. As we approached Castle point the wind was down to 4 knots with a strong adverse current, Persephone gave us the most incredible demonstration of light air boat speed as they reeled in the deficit and sailed past 3 boat lengths to leeward to take the lead around Snowden. As we crept towards the finish off Gurnard they were not to be caught and finished 3 minutes ahead to record a fantastic race win, both in the Sigma 38s as well as on handicap in IRC class 4.
It took us 4 hours to get from Bembridge to the finish and it was a relief to finally be able to put the engine on and head back to Hamble. It was a cold and tired crew who tumbled into bed at 2am, but what a great weekend of sailing !