Good race today

29 June 2014

Four boats turned up for the cruiser race today. Wind was from the north, which is unusual, but it meant we had a fairly flat sea. Sunny with some cloud, no rain despite the forecast.

Stuart and I set off about 1215 for the 1300 start. After my last-place finish last time we wanted to do better - we'd thought about the genoa car position, sail trim, heeling angles and suchlike. We took a bit of time in the river to get the main set well - the halyard as tight as it would go, the kicking strap well hauled down, we felt we'd got the thing just right for the F2 - F3 conditions. Once outside the harbour we unrolled the genoa and assessed the scene.

The race officer had set up two buoys to represent a start line and controlled the race, 5 minutes, 4, 1, Start, from his own boat as he was competing as well. The north wind meant a downwind start out to sea and we were over the line within 20 seconds of the start time and one of the first away. The two faster boats quickly passed us and we left them well clear as they were having their own game of luffing each other up and we let them disappear into the distance.

Free n Easy, who'd done so well last time, wasn't going so well today and he hadn't bothered with his cruising chute. At the first mark we were literally two feet away and able to exchange verbal pleasantries as we rounded the mark just inside him and hardened up for a long beat out to the west. Elsa felt very well balanced today and if I let go of the tiller she stayed on course so we must have got the sail balance right. By the second mark the other chap was about a minute or so behind us so we knew we were going well. Turning East for the third mark we had a long run - the wind had shifted to NW and we had a slow leg against the tide. The two faster boats were specks in the distance by now and Free n Easy continued to fall behind. Thew wind dropped away, came back, changed direction, and generally kept us awake but it took about an hour to get from second to third mark.

After we went round the third mark and began a beat back towards Littlehampton we watched behind us and clocked Free n Easy rounding it about 8 minutes behind us which was most encouraging, but then we saw he'd retired and was heading back (it turned out he was worried about the outgoing tide and missing the moment to get on his berth safely). The two faster guys had of course finished by now so suddenly we were the only boat on the course but we were determined to go to the end as the final mark was in sight and Elsa was still going really well. We finished the course after 2 hrs 29 minutes.

Going back in, headed into the north wind and into the strong tide which was now ebbing out of the harbour (HW was over 2 hours ago), Elsa's outboard was only just enough to push us in but after what seemed like ages at max revs we were back at the moorings and in our berth by 4pm. Time for a cold drink and the usual chat with the other crews - but we don't know our final race position on corrected time until someone works it out later this week. We must have been at least 3rd as the 4th boat retired. Very pleased with the sailing today though a long time at sea, over 3.5 hours, and there's a lesson there about not being too late coming back after high tide.

Update - we were 3rd and on handicap after two races we have 2 3rd places and are leading the series! (The previous pursuit race where we came last is a different series)

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