RORC Cowes Dinard St Malo race 2009
With negative tide for the first hour or so it was an easy decision to go for the Island side off the start, a good breeze from the SW giving us plenty to work with to short tack our way down the shore. The start was okay cycling around close inshore we slotted into the front six boats at the gun and the crew making good work of the multiple tacks close into the shore we soon cleared Gurnard in 4th place on the water behind an X yacht I couldn’t identify, Persephone and Monet. On the continued tacking down the Island shore we lost ground to the boats in front, not having a particularly clean bottom, and slightly being out of phase short tacking up the island side. Persephone and Monet had pulled a few minutes ahead approaching Hurst. But apart from Hepzibah who we exchanged positions with a few times we were building a good gap to most of the fleet now about half a mile behind. With approaching 20 knots apparent coming past Yarmouth it was clear there was likely to be more wind out through the Needles so we tack peeled to the No 2 passing through Hurst narrows and started to close the gap to Persephone and Monet. Monet peeled not long after us, but they went quite wide before tacking at the Fairway buoy and we were level coming south from the buoy although they were to windward. I was surprised and quite pleased to see Persephone were still under the No 1 as we were closing rapidly up behind them. By the time they completed their peel down we had just edged level. Persephone were a lot closer to Monet and a few other boats on a similar line, and it looked that Monet were possibly trying to hold Persephone high, so I decided to foot off slightly to hold good speed and try to find some clear air. We were certainly heading south faster than Persephone and Monet, but we were also gradually dropping to the east, but not by far. An hour into the crossing I spotted Premier Cru to our south east, which was unusual as I was sure they had not been close to us on the beat down the Solent, but they now appeared to be ahead of us, sailing high and slower than us. We continued sailing for speed and the as they continued to climb we passed ahead of them.
I kept a close eye on Persephone all the way to Alderney. Once the tide turned the lee turned to a weather bow, so with less wind we peeled back to the no1 and sailing higher, it looked that we were going to climb back ahead of them. I had decided to go in fairly close to Alderney to get a good kick west on the next tide, and possibly flatter water past the Casquets, but I had decided that if Persephone tacked earlier we would go as well. I did not want us getting any separation as a few of my "gambles" have not paid off in recent months.
Before we had regained the height to the west Persephone tacked. Unfortunately amongst the peels the lazy sheet on the No1 had been lead inside the shrouds, and when we tacked we went hove to! We tacked back and relead the sheet, but by the time we tacked again I had no idea which distant white light was topping the mast of Persephone.
The tide now going west again we tacked close to the Casquets. In part due to a miscalculation on my part coupled with me being below for an hours sleep, I overruled the first request to tack from above, and we stood on too far towards Guernsey. The result was we had to fight back against the tide sweeping to the east of the island. Tacking inside the layline to Les Hanois we slotted in close to Monet again, but Persephone was no where in sight. The next few hours were made up of frustrating tacking on the shifts up to the Minquiers bank, unfortunately at one point we missed a 30 degree header, and it was 10-15 minutes before it was noticed. T
The bend in the track was significant. We tacked and concentrated a bit more on heading afterwards!
Our main issue after that was weed, keeping the sails on the wind meant a lot of concentration on the telltales and at one point we went straight through a large patch of weed which obviously hung around the keel and rudder, dropping our speed by 1.5 knots. We decided to wait a couple of minutes to see if it would clear before backing it off, but the wind then dropped for a while and it was difficult to judge whether it was still there or not, I really need to do some good polars!
As we finally made it to the SW Minquiers buoy we passed it laying the finish, but almost the moment it passed the beam we had a final 30 degree header! The wind was backing almost exactly as forecast, but I had hoped it would stay stable till we made the finish which would have worked well for us. On reflection we should have gone further SW before the final shift, always easy with hindsight.
Fortunately we had renewed motivation towards the finish, with 20nm to go, due to sail colours I thought I spotted Premier Cru in the distance, level and SW of us. We were determined to pull out the stops to beat them to the line. In the end the boat crossed the line a couple of minutes ahead of us but by the time we had converged towards the finish it was quite clear it was in fact a 40.7!
We finished in a time of 1 day 7 hours 30 minutes 29 seconds. After the initial shock of discovering Persephone had finished almost and hour and a half ahead of us, we soon discovered we had in fact finished 19 minutes behind Monet, and were in a good third place in the Sigma 38s, Mefisto coming in 46 minutes after us and were 5th on the water in IRC3 10th corrected.
After a relaxed meal and a few well earned beers in St Malo we set off the following morning for an easy sail home. We stopped in Guernsey for an evening meal while we waited for the tide to turn before a slingshot out through the Alderney Race, and by morning were blasting along under spinnaker in a good breeze, home in Lymington late Monday morning.
Commiserations to Vitesse who having split their main, coming out through the Needles channel, made a valiant attempt to repair it while sailing under the trysail before having to admit defeat and turning for home, and of course congratulations to Persephone who must have sailed an absolute blinder to have finished in such a good time.