New rudder

7th Sept 2013


Keen to put the repaired rudder to the test in the cruiser race today, I met Sarah at the club at 11. Lots of kids were sailing in the river today with many of the Arun grown-ups teaching them. For this and other reasons, many regular cruiser race teams were not around. We need 3 boats as a minimum for a race and by 1115 it was decided that we did indeed have 3, so we set off for a race start at 1200.

As an experiment, we hoisted the main in the shelter of the harbour and motor-sailed out through the turbulence of the entrance. I was worried about keeping control with the main up but it was fine. Once outside we shut off the motor, unrolled the genoa and assessed the conditions. As we emerged from the river it was a sunny day with about F3 winds, that'll be fine we thought. After 15 mins or so, and well outside the harbour into the sea, the swell was huge. Must have been 5 or 6 foot high, and the wind suddenly built up to F4 or even F5.

Elsa was plunging up and down in the swell and heeling over in the gusts, she was shuddering a bit as she crashed up and down and I felt she was over-stressed, couldn't really work out what we were doing wrong. I said to Sarah that I wasn't that happy with the condidtions and perhaps we should go back and she immediately said OK then - which told me she wasn't that happy either.

I called to the (small) fleet to announce my intention to go back, I heard them chatting on the radio as they realised they only had two boats left so no race today :-(

Going back in was tricky, with unpredictable gusts and big swell, we got the genoa rolled away but I didn't feel able to turn myself over the stern to pull the string on the engine. Sarah is not confident on the helm and has been known to simply give it back to me if she's not keen....With a brisk southwesterly on the quarter I decided we'd just sail back in, I've always wanted to try that, and this worked fine. Once inside the harbour in the flat water with much less wind we were able to relax a bit. We pirouetted about in the sunshine in full view of the tourists in the Look and Sea restaurant with the engine running while Sarah got the main down and we put the fenders out, this was the most enjoyable bit of the whole trip compared to bashing around outside!

I managed a super-perfect berth approach and we were back ashore less than an hour after setting off. Once secure, we found ourselves back in the clubhouse just after 1 so we ordered up some lunch, excellent fish and chips by the way!

The other boats also came back in and I went up to apologise but they were all perfectly ok, said I'd made the right decision, that wind and swell was bigger than expected, so I felt less guilty. You have to make a decision, and better to make one than not make one and find yourself far out to sea in poor conditions!

So what did we learn today.....The rudder seems fine now....Sailing into the river is actually easy....Hoisting and dropping the sails in the shelter of the harbour is an ok thing to do ... and that I need to work out how to reef those sails. The main is rigged with reefing points and lines, and I have a handbook here that explains it, so I must try that on the next calm day. If she'd been reefed down maybe I'd have felt more able to stay out.

I spent another hour or so after Sarah left just fiddling around on the boat in the sunshine. Lots of big yachts are visiting the club for dinner this evening and I watched several of them come barrelling into the harbour with full sail, quite a sight. Even after less than an hour at sea I feel completely knackered this afternoon! Catherine was pleased to see me home earlier than expected so we went out for tea and cake at the East Beach Cafe where you can look out to sea. On the beach there at 4.30pm I clocked the wind at F5 on my anemometer (doesn't everyone keep one of those in the car??).

Looking forward to seeing James on Friday.

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