JOG Cowes to St Vaast

Race Report from With Alacrity

 

The JOG start off Cowes was a port biased line with 3+ knots of tide sending the fleet East down the Solent. After finishing dinner and having a quick practice beat we found ourselves running back against the tide with 5 minutes to go looking distinctly as if we were going to be late. We headed straight for the buoy end expecting to be rounding it maybe a minute after the rest of the fleet had started. A small gust later we were on the line with 30seconds to go but with no option than to keep running downwind to stem the tide on starboard with a JOG fleet ominously gathering for their run into the line on port Ė eek! Fortunately most of the fleet were line shy with the big tide running across the line and left us room to tack with 20 seconds to go. We were swept across the line at the pin end in amongst the first three starters.

 

Once past Cowes we cracked off and charged down the Solent with the GPS display touching 10 knots over he ground. So far so good, and with the weather forecasts predicting NE 5-10 knots, sailing down the Solent in 12 knots of wind gave us hope the wind would stay up for us to keep the spinnaker filling across the channel. A mile from the forts the wind gave the first of its many unexpected twists as it suddenly shifted to the East leaving us beating past the Forts and on to Bembridge Ledge. Past Bembridge the fleet started to split with most boats sailing high to the East while we cracked off to make more speed Southwards as dusk set in. This tactic paid off as the forecast NE wind manifested itself cunningly disguised as a South Westerly allowing us to tack back to starboard maybe a mile to windward of the other Sigma 38s and the bulk of the fleet. With a west going spring tide setting in the apparent wind (heavily influenced by the tide) slowly shifted more to the west and built to 9 knots giving us a much quicker progress across the channel than the forecast had given us cause to expect.

 

By 7am the next morning we were positioned 21 miles to the North of the finish and 18 miles to the West. With the tide turning to the East we had 5 hours to sail the 21 miles south whilst the tide should take care of the East bit and hopefully sweep us around the Cherbourg peninsular. In fact we actually only had to make 15 miles south to be around the corner of the peninsular and in the slightly weaker tide and shallower water off St Vaast.

 

Well, we didnít make it !! As the tide set in to the East we expected the SW wind would ease but it switched off completely. By midday the tide had done itís job and taken us East but we had only made 8 miles south averaging just a knot and a half. With the current slack we managed to make another few miles south but agonisingly just 2-3 miles short of being in shallower water to the East of the Cherbourg peninsular. At 3pm we were 10 miles from the finish but the tide had now turned and was setting us back to the West. By 4pm we were being swept towards Cherbourg at 5 knots and with just 3 knots of wind and no sign of it increasing we took the hint and motored the 20 miles to the fleshpots of Cherbourg.

 

Well done to Torbellino for being the only Sigma 38 to hang on and finish with an elapsed time of 26 hours and twenty minutes !