SIGMA 38 NATIONALS 2008 – WITH ALACRITY’S TAKE
Holding the 2008 Nationals over an action packed bank holiday weekend gave some stunning sailing with winds contrasting from 5 knots on Sunday up to 30 knot gusts Monday. This is a fomula for the Nationals that gets With Alacrity’s vote for the future and judging from the grins on the faces of crew from the 10 boats competing others felt the same.
Thanks must go to Susan Rainger for her liaising with Poole Regatta Committee and organising of the Saturday social – WA crew ate more crispy fried duck than is advisable and Wok N Spice customers must have wondered about the paper aeroplanes whizzing round their restaurant! Thanks also to Jon England who clearly stayed awake till the early hours given the texts we received when declaring on the offshore race. What follows is With Alacrity’s recollections of the 2008 S38 Nationals which were the closest and most competitive we have sailed in yet:
Offshore race – Friday 1945 start
turned out for the double points offshore race
starting from Coronation buoy in
The leg from the forts to Bembridge was a good one for With Alacrity as most boats sailed the rhumbline we spotted more wind further out so pushed high and hooked into a few extra knots of breeze. Halfway down the leg the wind freed enough to pop the spinnaker again and we crossed within a boat length of Festina (not for the last time this evening). The next leg was a dead run and Festina sailed the angles putting in some fine gybes in the darkness. We sailed a more direct course not fancying gybing unless we had to and it looked like we would arrive at the buoy alongside each other. Hmmm this would be interesting as the racing rules are replaced by the Col Regs when racing at night and I don’t remember anything in the Col Regs about calling water at the mark. Some things in life are not worth testing unless you are sure so we dropped our kite early to let Festina round ahead, unfortunately with the adverse tide we dropped just a little too early and Festina had stretched to a 10 length lead by the time we struggled round.
uneventful beat to a buoy near the
followed a 25 mile spinnaker reach with some exhilarating gusts early on. We
trimmed and hiked our hearts out to pull back the deficit and gradually made
gains on Festina but with the tide under us the 25 miles was
covered in just a few hours and we finished at
Saturday Inshore (Race 3)
After grabbing a few hours sleep we were out for the last race of the Poole Regatta Day 1 which was the Sigma 38s first inshore race. This was held in a stiff 25 knots with all the S38s sporting number 2 and 1 reef. The start and windward mark was close to shore and the NE wind was coming at a slight angle off the cliffs making for a very gusty wind but huge lifts on Port close inshore. The first start was abandoned after the windward mark broke loose and started heading downwind at 3 or 4 knots just as we arrived at it. To our embarrassment we hadn’t realised it had broken loose thinking it was some really freakish tidal eddy we didn’t know about! The race was re-started using a different windward mark and the beach got quite crowded as everyone headed in to pick up the lifts and get out of the tide. We sailed conservatively trying to keep the boat in one piece and found ourselves in 4th place on the final beat. We headed inshore to pick up the shift and caught right up with Festina and Pavlova who tacked on top of us and sailed right into our wind. Why we didn’t tack off I don’t know but Persephone did and headed inshore again to gain loads whilst we sailed along in Pavlova’s dirty air. We rounded the last windward mark a hundred metres or so behind the leading 3 and we all popped our kites for the long run to the finish in wind gusting to the high 20s. A half mile from the finish Pavlova below us did a series of scary looking broaches followed by Persephone ahead of us heeling over to windward and doing a terrifying gybe broach. We looked nervously behind us for more gusts as we powered on to the finish relatively in control. Incredibly both Pavlova and Persephone recovered and headed down to the finish under mainsails and we just weren’t able to catch them before the race track ran out. It was good to see Gallant with their new owners out for there first Nationals race and they seemed to handle the rather unfriendly gusty wind with ease. Festina was in imperious form in the windy conditions and ominously continued their perfect run of first places.
Sunday Inshore (Race 4)
This was the big day with 3 races scheduled in a gentle 5-9 knots of wind and the overcast skies even gave way to sunshine by the afternoon. In the first start we headed down to the buoy end with Light just below and got a great start bang on the line where we wanted to be……only to find out we were called OCS along with Festina Lente and had to sail back to restart several hundred metres behind the fleet. Would love to see a photo of that start because if we were over, it must have been only inches. When you have nothing to lose it is worth taking risks so we gybed off away from the rest of the fleet downwind and hunted for any reason to split with the fleet upwind. Light sailed a fine race to win by some margin (although was that a spinnaker we saw hoisted upside down before being rapidly corrected?). Monet sailed a fantastic race to finish 2nd ahead of Pavlova III, the local boat. Whilst not a great result this was probably the best race we have sailed in a long time as we recovered from being OCS to finish 4th which we were pretty pleased with in such a quality fleet.
Sunday Inshore (Race 5)
This start made me realise quite what a competitive fleet we were sailing in, our usual start tactic is to sail up quite late and look for a gap in the line so we can try to sail off in clear air. After realising from the first race that the best starter has a good chance of winning, everyone was up aggressively on the line and there was no space for us to sail into! We were buried with Marta, Gallant and Premier Cru sailing over us before we could tack off into clear air – the only good news was that Festina was in a worse position than us! Pavlova III aced the start by the buoy and tacked off to a big port lift above us and took a decisive lead that was never lost to lay down a strong marker for the championship. This race was all about spotting and sailing into the bands of breeze as the wind was petering out to 5 knots. We sailed another good race to work our way up to 3rd at the finish after a tight battle with Monet who followed up their earlier 2nd place with a 4th place in this race.
Sunday Inshore (Race 6 – Act 1)
By now the wind had shifted further to the left so you could only just cross the line on starboard. We hit the favoured buoy end bang on the gun and were forced to tack off to avoid Pavlova III who had tried a very ambitious port tack flyer. Pavlova III peeled off to do penalty turns and we were in clear air with the rest of the fleet spread out behind and to leeward. Half way up the beat the race committee abandoned the race as we were all laying the windward mark in one tack. Rats!
Sunday Inshore (Race 6 – Act 2)
re-laid start line we were given the new course 5 mins before the start which
caused lots of head scratching and checking of GPS co-ordinates as the first
mark was a reach down into
Sunday Inshore (Race 6 – Act 3)
The fleet lined up for this start and clearly everyone was up for it! We found ourselves under Marta and pushed up towards the line (and over it as I later found out) whilst they tried hard to ignore us! This time most of the fleet were probably OCS so a general recall was sounded and we headed back for attempt number 4!
Sunday Inshore (Race 6 – Act 4)
The race finally got away under a Black Flag, we got an OK start but immediately wanted to tack onto port but couldn’t make it across the boats on starboard so had to tack back again. Two slow tacks in light airs is not fast in a Sigma 38 and we were buried in dirty air. Only option was to head out for clear wind and eventually we spotted more wind further out whilst the boats inshore seemed to be sailing slower and slower. By the time we tacked back we crossed ahead of Pavlova III and the rest of the fleet with only Light (sailing another blinding race) and Festina ahead. By the windward mark we had lost out on a windshift to Pavlova III and rounded in 4th. This was a really close and intense race with every windshift meaning places won or lost both upwind and downwind. On the final run to the finish in a dying breeze there was only 5 or 10 boat lengths separating the first 5 boats, approaching the finish Pavlova III luffed hard to the point of colliding with Festina Lente to much calls of protest, Persephone came from 5 or 6 boat lengths behind at a hotter angle to the finish as we floundered having to gybe for the finish in just a few knots of wind. Festina hoisted the genoa to do penalty turns and Persephone crossed just a quarter of a boat length ahead of us for a good 3rd place.
Monday Inshore (Race 7)
Depending on which forecast you looked at the wind was going to be anything from
25–35 knots for the Monday racing with solid rain. Crucially though it was likely to
be decreasing by the afternoon giving us hope that we could get some races in.
The RC postponed the start by an hour and we headed out to a grim looking