First cruiser race

27th May 2013

There’s a cruiser race series here at Arun YC, normally on Saturday but this weekend it was today, bank holiday Monday. Having met Stuart the other evening, he’s a Laser sailor from the evening dinghy series, and had a couple of other guys encourage me – I decided to give it a go!

With Stuart as crew we reversed safely out of the berth around 1200 and headed out to sea. Very choppy at the river entrance with a strong spring tide racing Westerly across the river mouth but out we went and hoisted sail. The start was at 1pm so we had a bit of time to practice.

Very sunny day with wind around force 3 and almost gusting 5 at one point, great weather.

Cruiser races here use a ‘gate start’. Having relayed the course instructions over the radio 15 mins prior (while the race fleet generally mills about jockeying for position), and then counted down to the start time, the ‘pathfinder’ sails away from the start mark on port tack drawing an imaginary line behind him and the fleet crosses behind him on Starboard. Once all are through the pathfinder then tacks around and joins the race. We didn’t quite get the start time right and were just about the last through I think….

We had supplies of pasties and mini savoury eggs and a flask of coffee (thanks James) and we were going well!

Long beat out to the south and towards the first mark about 3 miles out to sea (using GPS waypoint) we spent time seeing if we could make Elsa point a bit higher, we noted the boom was a bit high so the luff of the mainsail wasn’t tight, Stuart bravely went forward and loosened the wingnut on the boom track and pulled it down hard. This helped. She also tacks really easily, with a single fin keel she’s quite agile for a cruiser so we were ok doing short-ish tacks rather than great long diagonals. We followed the fleet around the first mark at 1.32pm then round onto almost a dead run out to the west and the next mark.

A mixed fleet of boats and we were trying to work out who to compare ourselves with but we were not the last ones round! I don’t have a spinnaker and we nearly got the pole out to goosewing the genoa but in the end we just ran slightly to the left of the mark and then gybed to broad reach past it. Like tacking, but downwind. Elsa gybes perfectly ok, I grab the bundle of mainsheet with one hand just to stop it slamming over. Second mark 1.48pm then back towards the southerly mark on a closehauled starboard tack. In the stronger gusts Elsa heels right over almost dunking the leeward side but she never felt over-driven. In the chop she throws a bit of spray out to the sides but none of it back in my face. I felt I was pointing too low and we’d have to tack but the tide was carrying us in the right direction so we were able to round without having to tack. 2.05pm. Back towards the finish line near the harbour entrance.

The cruiser races don’t have a committee boat on station at the finish; it is up to each skipper to write down his own time as he crosses the line which we did at 2.31. Phew. 90 mins of hard work but great fun. Head to wind now and gallant crew Stuart did the work of dropping and tying up the mainsail and getting the fenders ready. Motoring back up the river, crowds of people on either side fishing and waving, just like a seaside bank holiday! With Stuart on the foredeck I was more confident driving into the berth and made it first go with no drama, 3pm. Once tied up the etiquette dictates going straight to the clubhouse and signing-off with our finish time and having a cold drink before returning to the pontoon to pack everything up.

I also made notes about the tide today – what time high water, what time there was enough water underneath me at the berth for Elsa to float, what time it was deep enough to swing the rudder down, and then the same again once back on the berth and the tide draining away.

So that was a great day, not sure if I will do many more races as they tend to be on a Saturday, and Stuart was only available today as the skipper he usually crews for was unwell. We will see.

So what’s left to tell you – oh, the result? You want to know where we came? Well there was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing as they haven’t had a Seal 22 in the fleet before and the PY handicap had to be looked up and discussed and calculators checked….We were 6th. Out of 7. Not last! Haha!


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