Best ever race result

21st Sept 2013


Lots of the Arun cruisers were off today on a weekend trip round to Itchenor. I nearly went on that but for some reason I had cold feet about it (though I do want to sleep overnight on board somewhere one day). There was a cruiser race in the calendar for today so I turned up for that. None of my previous crew were around this weekend so I hung about the club hoping a likely person would show up but all were busy getting ready then departing for Itchenor.

There were a couple of other skippers around for the race and we only need 3 boats to make the race valid so in the end I went singlehanded. Forecast winds were F3. The three of us decided on a fairly short course just to get the race into the book. Leaving the berth about 1130 I decided to tie myself to the hammerhead (the T shape bit of pontoon at the end sticking into the river) to hoist the main then let myself loose and headed out under engine with the main up. Doing the sails inside the harbour is so much calmer!

Out at sea with the engine off and mainsail only I got myself sorted out and positioned for the start at 1230 and off we went. Long beat out to sea to the first mark, I started under mainsail only (when I went out with James the other day we had main only and she went fine) but the other guys pulled ahead so fast I decided to unroll about 2/3rds of the genoa and got a bit more speed up. It was about F3, grey skies, warm air, bit of swell and the occasional faceful. We weren't able to make the mark on one tack so I did a couple of tacks without problems and rounded the first mark after about 30mins. Next was a long broad reach to the east down to the Weather Station, which Dad will remember us going around, big yellow steel thing with instruments on top. Took another 30 mins of gentle rolling broad reach to get there then I gybed round back towards Littlehampton and the finish mark. I was clearly several minutes behind the other two boats (both had spinnakers) but felt completely ok and in control, mainsail plus 2/3rd genoa in F3 is quite comfortable. I could perhaps have gone faster if I'd unrolled the whole genoa but I wanted to stay in control and I wasn't going to win anyway.

We made the final mark in one long fine reach, another 30mins or so, and I clocked my overall time at 1h 32mins. Just after 2pm.

Rolling away the genoa and starting the motor I swept back up the river with the mainsail up. Huge tide today, springs, equinox, and with the main up pushing against the outgoing tide Elsa was almost stationary so I was able to nudge myself over to the yacht club pontoons and landed on the hammerhead again and tied myself up. Still had the mainsail up and a guy saw what I was doing and came to help me drop the sail and bundle it all up, then I restarted the motor, cast off from the hammerhead, and drove back into my berth at 2.30pm.

Securing the boat and thanking the chap, my first priority was to get to the clubhouse before they stopped doing lunch, just in time I ordered a ham roll and chips and a pint of beer and sat for a bit talking to the other crews. It's the best part of the race, I think, coming back exhausted and waiting for the chips and enjoying the calm of the harbour and the chatting.

So, third place, that's my best ever race result. OK there were only three boats competing...but on corrected time I was third by 5 minutes, which over a 90 minute ten-mile race, on my own, with threequarters of my sails in use, isn't too bad when you think about it. And the other two boats were Cabre and Fingers Crossed, two of the best and fastest crews in the club. So the beer and the chips went down with some satisfaction.

After a leisurely lunch I went back down to the boat to pack her up, wind the keel, tidy the sails etc. The main halyard is badly frayed, I noticed, better get a new one and re-thread it before I go out again. Probably no more races for me this year as the one remaining race in the calendar is the same date as the two-day powerboat training course I'm going to be doing in Oct.

Hope you've enjoyed these race narratives. I've had a great time doing the races and hope to find more excuses to go sailing before the end of the year! That boat really is the most fun thing I've ever bought, even though bits keep breaking, I really have had my money's worth already and there's still more to look forward to. Starting to think about winter maintenance, bit of varnishing, get the outboard off and take it to be serviced, lots to do!

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