Barts Bash

21 Sept 2014

Barts Bash today was a national event with clubs all over the UK, and the world, taking part. Some were doing their normal Sunday races but Arun Yacht Club had joined with neighboring clubs AYAC and ODC to put a big fleet together. We'd pre-arranged separate start times 5 mins apart - the catamarans to be away first, then the dinghies, then the cruisers. All to sail the same course.

My 17 year old friend Georgia was with me today and we set out just after 1015. The forecast was for NE winds about force 3. I shook out the reef I'd left in from last time and hoisted full mainsail as Georgia drove the boat into the wind up the river. Just got the sail up and set in time as we reached the bridge and climbed back to the tiller and turned round to put to sea. We were just about on high tide so there wasn't much river current to worry about but as we exited past the east wall the wind hit us. Nearly went sideways, Elsa rounded up, the engine roared as the boat heeled and lifted the prop out of the water. Regaining control we realised it was windier than expected!

We got to sea without further incident and shut off the engine, as we unrolled the genoa it seemed to stick about 2/3rd of the way but we decided that was probably enough. Wind from the NE, blowing at us off the shore, meant the sea was nice and flat, no swell to smash into, but the gusts were around force 5 and very variable in direction.

As we approached the start line a mile or so to the East we could see dozens of boats milling about in the sunshine, mostly dinghies, the cruisers like lumbering beasts trying to keep back and out of the way. The cats got away on time and the dinghy start was called 5 mins later but many seemed to have misunderstood the instructions and carried on tacking about behind the start line until the race officer sent some safety boats to chase them over. I was cross with myself as I misjudged our own start and was well late up to the line but Georgia noticed the committee boat was still showing the pre-start flags. Luckily the cruiser start was 5 mins later than I thought - so we were only 3  minutes late instead of 8 - and about the middle of the cruiser fleet (about 7 cruisers I think).

A stiff beat to the first mark and hard to hold a course with the gusts and the variability. Cruisers Triona, Johanna, Herrag were around before us but we were level with Auditor and Merlin, and there was a girl in a Laser in between the three of us, but we got cleanly round the first mark and set on a long reach out to sea, to the Weather Station. We let the full genoa unroll and we were pleased to watch ourselves draw ahead of Auditor and Merlin though the Laser was ahead in the distance (so now I know the answer to that question - which is faster, my boat or a Laser)!

Aware of the tide streaming past the structure, we gybed neatly around and headed back North to the coast. 44 mins elapsed. Before the race the cruiser crews had debated clocking their times at the weather station, ending their race there, and shooting back into the river but we all seemed to decide that we should complete the full lap. Sadly for us Merlin caught up and passed us as we closehauled back towards the mark though Auditor stayed behind us. The wind was still gusty and variable and we thought we'd make the mark on one tack but that was not to be and we had to go about a couple more times before getting around, still behind Merlin, and set goosewinged to return to the finish line. Crossing the line at elapsed time 1h 19m we agreed it was time for lunch.

It was over 2 hours past high tide so it was hard going for the engine pushing us back up the river. Georgia drove the boat while I got the mainsail down as we entered, it was flapping a lot and knocking us sideways so better off down. Back in the berth about 1.15pm so that was 3 hours at sea, 11.5 miles on the GPS trip meter, and we were quite tired but we'd given it a good shot and were pleased with ourselves. The AYAC and ODC fleets returned to their own beaches but the clubhouse was full of returning AYC crews and we heard stories of Wayfarers capsizing, Laser sailors with bashed heads, cruisers entangled with lobster pots, all saying how windy it had been.  The final race log showed about 45 boats finishing out of about 60 entries, this must be (one of) the biggest fleets we've ever had. We had found ourselves racing other cruisers, the cats and dinghies all being much faster than us and as they got away first many of them were back on their beaches before we'd even got around the course.

The clubhouse team were doing great business with lunches and I chose a Sunday lunch of pork and mashed potato, once sat down I was too tired to get up again until the food and beer had revitalised me and I had the energy to finish packing up the boat. That was the best sail this year, only a couple more to go before it's the end of the season ...

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