Second cruiser race

28th July 2013

My second race today in the sea off Littlehampton. Lots of new members around at the moment and some of them made themselves known as available to crew so I had Joe, young guy mid-20s but with lots of sailing qualifications and very keen and agile.

The race was at 3pm so we put to sea about 2.20. Strong southerly wind and incoming tide up the river made for a lumpy sea as we motored on the way out past the harbour walls and once outside we found the wind force 4 gusting 5. Elsa can stand her full sail even in that weather though she does heel over and slam about in the chop. Any loose items or bags downstairs end up on the floor pretty quickly!

Only 6 boats were keen / brave enough to venture out and at 2.45pm the course instructions come over the radio (the race officer having determined the course and timing once he’s out there himself in his own boat).

Just before the start it clouded over and rained a bit but soon the clouds were gone and we had nothing but sunshine and the strong breeze. Perfect day.

Gate start – so at the appointed moment the radio call comes that the start is open, and the race officer sails off on port tack drawing an imaginary line behind himself to the start mark and we all cross behind him on starboard, after 2 mins the gate closes and he can tack round and pursue us as a competitor.

We managed to get a very good start this time, close to the race experts, we noted many others had reefed sails due to the wind but we just flew off on our beam ends with full sail. That 380kg of iron keel under us assures me she won’t tip us in but very physically demanding sailing as we beat our way towards the first mark. Several facefuls of seawater. Couple of tacks and about 25mins later we’re around and headed for the next one on a dead run. She nearly wanted to goosewing but quite a lot of waves rolling us side to side made the genoa flap about so not very successful, in the end we broad-reached downwind and gybed around towards the end of the leg. Hardening up onto a beam reach towards the finish line we noted we’d finish the lap in about 45 mins – the race duration has to be at least 1hr so we’d have to do another lap. 3 boats ahead of us also turned onto lap 2 but the 2 behind us were so far behind that they got to go back in after lap 1.

I let Joe helm on the lap 2 beat to the southerly mark and he really enjoyed himself and I noted his time as about 2 mins faster than I had been the first time round..... we finished lap 2 after 1hr 32 mins. We had tea and biscuits with us but there was no chance for any of that in the windy conditions!

As we prepared to re-enter the harbour the mainsheet shackle, attaching the block to the traveller, broke with a load BANG and the boom flew away to leeward. Drat. Managed to regain control and turn into wind and drop the main, which we were about to do anyway, and started the engine for the motor back. Re-entered the harbour without further incident and made my best approach yet into the berth, slow and easy with engine on tickover. Ideally I’d go into reverse to slow to a stop but I find turning my body round to lean over the stern and knock the lever on the outboard into reverse loses me my sense of direction so better to just pull the kill cord out and let the engine stop a few feet away from the berth and let the crew leap ashore and help her stop.

Much milling about then takes place as crews and others meet in the clubhouse, report their times, get drinks, go back and forth to the boats to pack them away and (in my case anyway) wind the keel back up with the handle. And we finally got to open the biscuits.

Today we were 4th out of 6 – a strong 4th only a few seconds (on corrected time) behind the 3rd place man who also happens to be the club president and the race officer as noted above. So everyone told us ‘well done’ and we were most pleased. Better result this time was thanks to a better start, the fact that others reefed down and we didn’t, and Joe was really handy as crew and also as tactician.

Can’t go out again till I replace that failed shackle but I will do that this week sometime.

Another great afternoon!


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