WSS 5 – 10 April 2011 – With Alacrity’s Report
Yuk – for a while as we motored out of the Hamble in 8 knots of breeze I thought the weather forecast would be wrong and we could be in for a good race - that was a bit optimistic! At the start area there was just a knot or two of wind and the whole black fleet drifted around under postponement, some boats anchored up – I spent a happy hour or so re-running various bits of wiring behind the control panel....
We were just about to start motoring home when the race committee ended the postponement in a fitful 5-6 knots of Southerly breeze. With classes being combined to get through the start sequence quicker it was a scramble to get the boat ready for our 12:50 start. We thought in the previous start the pin was favoured but the breeze steadily veered to make the committee boat the better bet for our start, but on a line packed with IRC 3 & Sigma 38s we decided that getting clear air and keeping momentum up was going to be key. So we lined up trying to protect a gap in the middle of the line. Kindred Spirit tacked into our precious space ahead with 2 minutes to go but we had enough speed to get through to leeward and luff them up to the line giving us space to bear off into a big gap for the start. Marta got the best start nearer the committee boat popping out above us with clear air and speed. We managed to keep clear air and boatspeed on starboard but most of the rest of the Sigma 38s were struggling in dirty air created by a mass of IRC 3 boats.
Now was the dilemma, doing just 3.5 knots boatspeed in the fitful breeze tacking was going to be horribly slow and there was no lane for us to get across the boats on starboard and keep clear air – but out in the main channel was a strong favourable tide. We had little choice but to keep going as we watched the boats who had started behind gradually wriggle their way behind the fleet on port heading towards the deeper water. By the time we could tack across onto port it still looked like a port lift and slightly more pressure would work for us but by the windward mark close to Ryde bank the stronger tide had proved the best option and we crossed behind Rapscallion & Light before rounding the windward mark alongside Kindred Spirit with a closely bunched pack of Sigma 38s piling round close behind.
With the breeze barely touching 4 knots this was going to be a painful downwind leg against the tide. We sailed high trying to keep clear air and reached as fast as we could towards the tidal relief on the mainland shore. At various times it looked like more wind out to the left and one by one the rest of the fleet gybed off towards it. Maybe we should have covered, but in ultra-light wind like this I think that by the time you sail over to a patch of wind it has often evaporated – so we went all in to back the tidal strategy. It took a long time, and we probably went too far inshore on starboard, but by the time we gybed we were close reaching straight towards the finish (the course was shortened at the second mark) and soon the early turn of tide was giving us an extra half knot boost. Rapscallion had done well to clear the rest of the fleet as they gybed back towards us. On the last half mile to the finish it was nip and tuck as the wind had shifted right making it an uncomfortably close reach for us with the spinnaker whilst Rapscallion had gybed back on a good layline for the finish – but we scraped across the line a few lengths ahead breathing a big sigh of relief.
The shortened race was only 1.5 hours, but it felt like twice that – a big difference to the fantastic conditions for the JOG Nab race on Saturday. At least we got some sort of race in and a light air day on the water is still better than spending Sunday in B&Q!!
With the discard kicking in the overall results look quite interesting now, Rapscallion and Kindred Spirit are still looking in good shape but we will be giving it our best shot in the final race. 4th to 7th place is still incredibly tight on points and great to see Pandanova pick up another solid result in their first season in a Sigma 38. With the class race training next Saturday to sharpen up everyone’s boat handling it should be an interesting final race on Sunday…..