Panda's Cherbourg Race
After some last-minute crew changes (including someone losing their passport) we set off in good time for the start, for once ... even having time to run the line.
However, setting up for our final fetch down to the start at the favoured point towards the pin-end for a running start against the tide, the wind died meaning that even with the kite up it took us five minutes to cross the line. Vitesse on the other hand were exactly where we had wanted to be and got clean ahead from the start. Grrr.
Chasing the rest of the fleet and dodging Class 1 & 2 as they flew past, we eventually got some clean air and began to catch up. Dropping the kite just after a beautiful sunset astern, we hardened up to head for Bembridge ledge ... slowly.
Creeping round Bembridge, thick fog descended just as we started our watches. Maintaining course was nearly impossible, with hardly any wind there was no reference point to steer to and both watches did well to keep us moving in vaguely the right direction especially with the eerie thump of unseen engines.
Thankfully the wind picked up and swept away the fog as we reached the shipping lanes, otherwise we might have had to make a safety call to abandon.
With a few hours of speedy fetching in which we made good progress to the south,looking at the tides, we had a nice fetch to Cherbourg plotted on the chart ... but as the morning wore on the wind died again. The AIS showed a number of boats around struggling to make Cherbourg which was frustratingly now in sight but not getting any closer.
Our main rival, Vitesse, had been well ahead but further East of us, and this was to prove costly in the now East-going tide. We nearly stemmed the tide creeping South and when the tide changed we managed to get a short kite-run into better wind and then beat slowly into Cherbourg for the final slow run inside the harbour to the finish ... being just pipped by Scarlet Oyster at the finish.
23 hours of at times exceptionally frustrating racing but ending with a great result for Panda's first whole offshore! Definitely some luck in the wind shifts but also all credit to the fairly novice crew for refusing to give up even when it seemed like we had been completely ditched out of the back of the fleet. Also, a great welcome from the other racers when we finally reached Cherbourg. Congratulations to Vitesse for her excellent placing overall in the 2011 races and we will be back to compete in the Winter Series and more offshore races in 2012!