After a few long days of prepping the boat and with some crew members embarking on their first offshore race, the anticipation with high on the Cowes start line on Friday evening. What would the next 24 hours bring?
After a conservative, downwind and down tide start we began in a strong position ahead of most of our fleet. The reach to the forts carried its own challenges, staying in the deeper water and keeping in clean air as we battled our way out of the congested Solent. We rounded the fort as the crew peeled from the 1.5 Oz kite to the No.1 Genoa.
It was an amazing view over our port side with a maze of nav lights heading up the fleet: the water contained a green phosphoresic glow. As we settled the boat down and charged off into the English Channel, it was time for dinner on the rail (slightly hampered by the less than ideal sporks) followed by any sleep you could manage and motivational music for those on deck.
It was almost a third of the way across the channel before much of a split appeared in the fleet. We chose to stay high on the breeze most of the way across, as opposed to bear away like most of the fleet were doing – a tactic whose merit is still up for debate.
Early morning debates of whether or not to use the spinnaker proved beneficial as light broke and we found ourselves down wind of our target by a few miles. The last crew awoke from their sleep as we approached the forts in Cherbourg and we crossed the finish line at about 08:20 on Saturday morning.
It was a quick stop over in Cherbourg as we were hoping to avoid being hit by high winds on the delivery back to Hamble; just long enough to fill the tanks and visit the ‘Supermarché’. The start of the return journey was champagne sailing – everyone on deck sunbathing, and a brisk average of 8.4 knots. About 18 miles from St.Cats the wind started to build, it was time to batten down the hatches.
Then came the storm…
We were engulfed in the might of the channel. Gusts of over 40 knots and waves 5 metwrs-high battered us. Near midnight we decided to dash for the shelter of Poole Harbour. With the crew soaking wet and a good number of them donating their lunches to the ocean, the protection of Poole couldn’t come soon enough.
It was 02:00 when we eventually docked alongside the guest berth at Poole Yacht Club. They were extremely accommodating and we are very grateful for all of their support. After a shower and food the exhausted crew collapsed into a well-deserved sleep. The next morning we received a very welcomed breakfast that was donated by the Kemp family. The afternoon followed with a very casual delivery back to Hamble, which ended with a well-deserved pizza.
Suffice to say that every time we go out sailing, the team develops and learns. The Cherbourg Race brought us all closer together and highlighted a few adjustments we needed to make to the campaign.
Isobel Mitchell (Trimmer)
Skippers Comment: The team did extremely well and are beginning to come to terms with the harsh realities of offshore racing. It has been a very humbling experience that has emphasized the need to respect the oceans. With the season coming to a close we now have time to consolidate and develop as a team, in preparation for an extremely tough and competitive season; that will culminate with the Rolex Fastnet Race. The learning curve will continue to get steeper as we expand our knowledge over the winter.