Hamble Winter Series Day 1 Report from With Alacrity – 9 Oct 2011
news on Saturday was that England’s miserable exit from the rugby world cup
means we definitely won’t have the dilemma as to whether to miss the first race
on 23 October to watch the final, The bad news Is that we had three French
people sailing on With Alacrity on Sunday — fortunately they were gracious
enough only to mention it once....
A quick scan of the Sailing Instructions before racing show one big change to last year, penalties for rules infringements are back to penalty turns rather than yellow flag percent penalties. Another point to note is the crew limits for Sigma 38s are 9 (in previous years they have sometimes been 11 when sailing In IRC). Finally the notes to the SIs included this gem: “The Normal Preparatory Signal we use is the ‘Z’ Flag, so make yourself aware of how the 20% place penalty works.” . Ouch, this is pretty draconian for a first start (Z flags are normally only used after a general recall) so we resolved to be ultra-conservative at the start. In the event normal P flag was used and in the clubhouse after racing the race officer confirmed this was a typo and they would only use the Z flag when they think there is a risk of not getting through the start sequences in time. Just goes to re-inforce that the notes are not official race docs and it is the SIs and NOR that matter.
It was a lovely sailing day, the forecast we had was for a consistent 14 knots Westerly. In the hour before our start it was more WNW and 16-20 knots – just in the range where it is tough to decide whether to use the No 1 or No 2 genoa. We used the No 2 for our pre-start practice but left the final decision until we were within 10 mins of the start with both genoas on deck ready to go – in the end I’m pretty sure No 2 was the right option, particularly as the wind slowly built through the day.
10-15 mins before the first start and the wind backed almost 30 degrees to be South of West which prompted a short postponement and a new course that took us in sausage legs along the edge of the Hillhead plateau rather than across it. Even though it was close to neaps, this meant the weather going tide would favour going left off the start into deep water. Even after the start line was reset there was still a twenty degree bias to the buoy end, which added to the tidal advantage of starting at that end of the line made it an easy choice of where to be. Actually getting that spot was a different matter but we managed to pull off a decent start near the buoy despite being harassed by Rapscallion. Persephone also had a great start, 5 lengths further up the line and must have been aggressively up on the line going at speed to overcome the line bias disadvantage and pop out level with us. It was close but after tacking on the port layline we came out a few lengths ahead – actually, we overstood the layline slightly but with so much tide in the deep water that was probably not such a disadvantage.
After a frantic “tack-pole up-spinnaker hoist” around the windward mark we had a stroke of luck down the run as a gaggle of IRC 4 boats rounded a mark ahead of us and headed downwind to the same leeward mark we were aiming for. We rounded East Bramble just ahead of the bunch but the rest of the Sigma 38 fleet were held up in the traffic allowing us to ease away and hold a comfortable lead to the finish. Amazing sight to see Gallant, Mefisto, Pandanova & Zanzara cross the finish line within 22 seconds of each other!
Race 2 was more of the same, line bias was a little more marginal – just 5-10 degrees to the buoy end – but the wind was now a solid 20+ knots as we were set the same course as race 1. Although the weather going tide was slowly decreasing it still favoured going left upwind. With less line bias and more wind we decided to go for a more conservative start and find space a third of the way up from the pin – there wasn’t a lot of space to be found!! Marta pushed up below us and Pavlova III looked determined to make amends for being OCS in race 1. We held our lane well off the start and had to hike hard to hold off P3 as we headed left – fortunately P3 and most of the fleet tacked off early leaving us clear air and more favourable tide in the deep water.
The downwind legs were a blast as the wind was gusting now to over 25 knots – we flew downwind under spinnaker touching 9-10 knots with big grins all round. The leeward mark roundings (spinnaker drop-gybe-head up) were a tricky test of boat handling in that much wind but we got round in good shape to hang on to the lead to the finish.
This was a great start to the winter series, perhaps the races were a little processional as once off the start there were not many overtaking chances so long as the boats ahead went left upwind and didn’t mess up the boat handling – but I thought the race officer did well to get 2 races in towards the top of the wind range with a very efficient turnaround between races.
Just a reminder that there is cheap beer and food available at HRSC after racing plus the day prizes this week went down to 3rd place (if a boat is not present at prizegiving the prize cascades down to the next placed boat present) – would be great to see more Sigma 38 crew there after racing!