WSS1 – Race Report from With Alacrity
As usual, it has been a hectic few weekends to get the With Alacrity ready for launch and then re-attaching enough bits to turn it into a sailing boat. So it was a huge relief to be out for our first race of the season on Sunday with no major components missing!
The forecast was for 8 knots clocking from the South to the West during the day, in the event the shift had already happened by the time we got out there staying pretty close to west throughout the race and the breeze was much more consistent than I had expected staying between 7-10 knots.
The start was near Lee-on-Solent with the committee boat anchored in shallow water and a long line. With a strong weather going tide we were keen to start near the pin to get into the deeper water as quickly as possible but looking at previous starts it was a close call as the line was well set with a tiny amount of committee boat bias. At the 5 minute gun we were sure the pin would pay and lined up for this, but with 2-3 minutes to go our mainsheet person was convinced the wind had shifted right so we did an extra circle to find a big gap next to the committee boat which we think gave us the drop on the whole fleet. Most boats headed straight out but we were not convinced we would spend that much time in deep water by banging the left side of the beat as the first mark was tucked up next to Bramble bank – instead we tacked off onto port and followed the North Channel before tacking for the first mark. I am pretty sure this paid but we ruined it by over standing the first layline (there was more tide than we expected in the shallow water near the windward mark) so ended up fetching into the windward mark overlapped with Light who were first round and Rapscallion just behind.
Reaching into the windward mark though gave us enough momentum to scoot past Light on the hoist and we now had a long spinnaker run against the tide. Rapscallion went right - surely flirting with the deep water and stronger tides on the edge of the bank, Light went left and with our trusty Winning Tides on the bookshelf at home <sigh> we hoped that sailing down the middle close to Kindred Spirit would do the trick. Sadly it didn’t - at the leeward mark Rapscallion had a 5 length lead (though suspect this was through finding more breeze rather than sailing in less tide?). We should have been second but at the crucial moment we were not quite far enough ahead to gybe for the buoy ahead of Kindred Spirit and as we dithered Light took our breeze and we lost out to both boats to round in fourth.
It is amazing how a boat that rounds the uptide buoy ahead in light winds can turn a few boatlengths lead into what looks like an unassailable few hundred metres as they zip off downtide whilst those behind struggle to the mark. Equally though the fleet compressed again at the next windward mark as we all hoisted spinnakers for the long downwind battle against the tide. Suddenly, Rapscallion’s lead didn’t look so insurmountable as we gybed off to try to find some boatspeed and shallow water tidal relief. Not sure we found any tidal relief but I do think that sailing higher angles in light wind helps and by the next gybe mark we were agonisingly close to the leading trio of Rapscallion, Kindred Spirit and Light. Down the next leg we worked hard and managed to find a 5 minute burst of boatspeed to get past Light but it was nip and tuck between KS, WA and Light at the final leeward mark with Rapscallion now safe a few lengths further ahead. We rounded in that order and with 2 knots of tide under us the final beat to the finish whizzed by with no further place changes.
It really was lovely to be out sailing again on such a beautiful spring day, I think we sailed a solid race without making any big mistakes and it was great to be on the pace despite being one week late to join in for the new term. The difference between 1st and 4th came down to just a few boat lengths at the leeward buoy, so looks like this should be a cracking Spring Series.