A great pursuit race

2 August 2014

Smashing race today. Saturday afternoon, a bit of a brisk wind around F4 from the south, cloudy with a spot of rain at first but then bright sunshine. Four boats were there for the cruiser pursuit race - that's the one where we get different start times based on handicap, the race duration today was pre-set at 100 minutes, so at the end time you can look around and see where you've finished. Stuart came with me and we put the first reef in the mainsail before we set off knowing it was a bit blowy out at sea.

The race officer had laid a start line between two marks and we all had our individual start times handed out at the pre-race briefing along with the course, we backed out of the berth about 1345 and pushed out to sea once we had the mainsail up.

Free n Easy was the 'slowest' so first away at 1430, then Elsa (us) and Johanna with the same start time 1437, then the club president in his super-fast cruiser some time later at 1451. We were just a few seconds late for our start and Johanna was at least a minute later crossing the line so we thought we were well set. But it quicky became obvious that Johanna, 26' compared to our 22', much heavier and with deep twin keels, was going to be a lot faster and disappeared into the distance, by the time we'd beaten to the first mark she was several minutes ahead.

Beating out to sea into the teeth of that F4 and big swell was quite demanding, we'd made the right decision to reef the main and we only had about half the genoa unrolled. With a lighter or less experienced crew I'd have gone back in. Hard to get the sails to set properly and I also found it hard going trying to aim the boat in between the big waves and not crash about. No time for photos or sandwiches, full concentration. We sill managed to get several facefuls and I even noticed we'd got a bit of water sloshing around down in the cabin. On the other hand we'd managed to catch Free n Easy and we proceeded to have a very close race with them sometimes only feet away. The fairly big and unpredictable swell ensured that we were both getting caught out and knocked off course into S-turns along the downwind legs but some sportsmanlike seamanship on both sides made sure we never came together. Free n Easy is also 26' and 3.5 tons compared to Elsa at 22' and about 1.5 tons so we handled very differently in that strong breeze and interesting swell. Only half way round and the president had shot past chasing the leader Johanna so it was just the two boats battling for the 3rd place.

By 4pm we'd done a lap and were still close to Free n Easy but we were a few feet ahead, with ten minutes to go till the finish time we both held our course and Elsa just managed to pull cleanly ahead by a few boat lengths as the finish was called. So we were 3rd out of 4.

Sailing with Andy one evening a couple of weeks ago had shown me how to sail in - actually sail in, without pulling the string on the outboard till well inside - and this worked well today with that strong S wind behind us. It's a great end to the day to sail in peaceful silence without the engine noise. Back on the berth at 1645 after 3 hours at sea we were very tired but we'd had a really great afternoon racing. (The president won, Johanna was second, Elsa third, Free n Easy fourth).

For the first time since I got the boat I found I needed to pump her out - a couple of bucket's worth of dirty seawater came out of the bilges!


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