RORC De Guingand Bowl – 13 June 2009 – With Alacrity Race Report
The first offshore race of the season was a frustrating 230 mile drift around Eddystone which left little appetite for writing up a race report as it was best forgotten! The 2nd RORC race also had it’s fair share of snakes and ladders in light winds but the wind filled in for the finish to get us around the course feeling less frustrated, so back to the post mortem reports:
Eight Sigma 38s turned out for the De Guingand bowl, I think the largest single class amongst the 79 starters and we made up more than a third of IRC class 3. The 100nm course was from the RYS line going East out of the Solent, round Nab tower then West to the Shambles (in light winds this was scarily close to the Portland race) then back to finish at North Head in Christchurch Bay. Actually the full course included an extra 26nm sausage to Poole and back but it would have to be a particularly vindictive race officer to send class 3 on for this and as expected the course was shortened the first time we reached North head.
We got off well in the light 5 knot Westerly, 5 lengths clear of the line shy fleet. We have sailed a JOG race in similar conditions where the wind died by the Island shore in the Eastern Solent so were determined to stick to the marginally faster current north of Ryde bank. With a large patch of glassy water ahead we gybed North shortly after the start to sail towards an inviting band of breeze only to find it fizzled out when we got there as we hit our first snake if the day. We sat becalmed drifting down on the tide as the boats nearer Ryde bank and on the island shore had a few knots extra wind and slipped by. Persephone made the early running down the middle. In fact the whole leg down the Eastern Solent was a game of snakes & ladders as the Westerly wind in the central Solent fought with an Easterly breeze at the forts and the transition zone between them was a constantly moving target. We worked our way back to the middle of the race track and battled for clear air with Zanzara as ahead Flying Formula then Vitesse broke into the Easterly breeze and took off. We wriggled a few boatlengths away from Zanzara and picked up the new breeze first to set off in hot pursuit of Flying Formula whilst Vitesse sailed into another hole and were stranded again.
After the forts we were alongside Flying Formula but ahead was another transition zone with a few hundred metres of glassy water before a more solid Southerly wind. To the left looked like shorter gap of light wind but to the right you would end up to windward as the wind shifted to the South and in better shape to lay the Nab. FF went left and we went right – left was the better call as we took an extra 15 minutes to get through the calm patch by which time FF were 1.5 miles ahead. To add insult to injury the wind went further South allowing FF to lay the Nab tower whilst we fetched in knowing we had some work to do. There was a huge split in the fleet now as the wind had switched off at the forts and we were probably 10 nm ahead before Persephone, Zanzara and others escaped the light winds – we must have been one of the last boats to break clear before the wind died which was a huge break...offshore racing can be very cruel at times. Any sense of relief was tempered when we realised FF was not the lead S38 but Inspiration of BOSS was another mile ahead already sailing back from the Nab – the island shore route really paid off big time and great to see two charter boats setting the pace proving these boats are all going a similar speed and anyone can get near the front if they go the right way....which we hadn’t!!
Around Nab we had our regular debate about why it was there, whether an ice cream stall would be viable for passing RORC yachts and how such a big lump of concrete got there... if anyone is interested answers are here http://www.forelands.demon.co.uk/Nab.html and there are some photos from inside here http://www.ybw.com/gallery/Nab-Tower-Yachting-Monthly-November-issue-2007
The leg to St Cats was uneventful as we fought the tide and tried to hang onto the patches of lightening wind. The current was just turning in our favour as we passed the point so we took a half mile hitch South to get into the stronger flow. Flying Formula and Inspiration headed inshore to Chale where there must have been a knot less favourable current, but this was made worse as they ran out of wind and we picked up a gentle SW allowing us to slip by and head across Poole bay just laying Swanage on port tack.
As we closed on Swanage we got another surprise as Premier Cru sailed out of nowhere to cross us on starboard, we hadn’t seen them at all up to now so they must have been even further ahead at Nab. They were heading hard offshore which caused us to revisit the weather forecast and tidal charts – with the tide about to turn against you have to believe there will be a lot more wind to make the offshore route pay around St Albans. If anything the forecast was for the wind to die and so we carried on figuring it is much easier to anchor in 15 metres than out to sea in 50 metres of depth. By 10 pm we had crept up to within half mile of Anvil point when the wind switched off and we anchored 100 metres off the rocks in 10 metres of water. We had a brief attempt to sail on in a gust at midnight but is was a lot of work for little gain and we were soon anchored again until the tide slackened off just before 2am when we were able to make progress creeping along the shore.
The current strengthened to whip us down to the Shambles turning mark but with spinnaker up we were only making 2 knots over the ground on the way back to St Albans. It was a few hours before the tide slackened off and by the time we reached Poole Bay the wind had died again and the spinnakers of the chasing pack of Sigma 38s were getting ominously closer. Fortunately the sea breeze set in giving us a fantastic sail to the finish and home down the Solent in 14 knots of breeze with the tide under us.
On handicap this was a race for the slower boats which dominated the top of IRC 3. Can’t help feeling the first two RORC races have been a phoney war in the fickle winds. We must be due some breeze for the next race when hopefully we will get a better idea who is on form for the Fastnet both in IRC 3 and within the Sigma 38 fleet.
Finally, has anyone seen the blog from Flying Formula chartered by the civil service offshore racing club http://csorc.blogspot.com/ They manage to find time to update it during the race, maybe we should all be doing this on the S38 website ? Also some photos from Hamo Thorneycroft here www.hamoyachtgallery.co.uk/80395/info.php?p=4