Owers Race 2015

13 June 2015

Watching the forecast over the last few days I'd decided that this wasn't the day to take Elsa to the Owers Buoy. I know I said that last year but with a F5-6 breeze expected, I wasn't keen. So when Ron emailed me to say he needed a crew to work alongside himself and Dani I quickly volunteered.

Cabre is a Hunter Horizon 23, only a foot bigger than mine but a bigger boat all round in terms of volume and equipment and stability, twin keels, and a self-tacking jib at the front which is relatively smaller than Elsa's genoa. The day was bright and the wind was indeed around F5 from the SW and a fair swell was running. The trick with the Owers Race is that each skipper decides for himself when to set off, the intention being to go round Owers just as the tide turns. Owers is just over 10 miles away and today's course was set as simply Owers and back, no need to wander around outside Pagham like we all did last year!

We left the berth about 1015 to go outside and assess the conditions. With one reef in the mainsail, Cabre seemed to be fine and Ron had decided we'd set off at 1100 hoping to go round the buoy at 1330. The wind was from the SW so we set off on starboard tack with Owers as a GPS target and we began to watch the miles count down. Cabre went very well in that breeze, the swell was a couple of metres high at times and we caught a couple of facefuls, we all got a turn on the helm. I found Cabre to be nice to handle, held her course well, once or twice we hit a wave dead on and slowed right down but she was soon away again.




Ron lost his hat shortly after the above picture was taken! We tacked a couple of times then the buoy came into view. The buoy is there to mark an area of shallow water and we found ourselves in a patch of confused sea over the shallow area, we watched the depth going from 5m to 60m and back again right when the wind was at its strongest and we were trying to round the mark. Round we went though and bore away for a broad reach back to Littlehampton. We'd been looking behind us for the other competitors but only now could we determine who else was around. We'd gone round almost exactly on 1330 as Ron had wanted but we were asking ourselves if we'd got that calculation wrong as the other guys seems to be going round at 1430.

We couldn't get Cabre to sit well on a dead run back home so we did a bit of downwind zig-zagging,on a broad reach then gybing the main over every hour or so. We had a spinnaker but Ron noted we were at max hull speed already, hitting over 7 knots with the big swell under us and the wind astern, so it stayed in its bag. We had a fantastic run back home, a couple of the boats behind got their spinnakers up but they were about an hour behind us - though getting larger all the time!



As we neared the finish line, first on the course with the other boats closing behind us, we noted that as it was now close to low tide, the water at the line was a bit shallow. Watching the depth sounder we approached the line with 2.0m showing - Cabre draws about 1.5m - but with the swell running and in the trough of a wave she touched bottom with a bit of a crunch just ahead of the line. This brought us up short and we had a fairly unpleasant couple of minutes as Ron tried to get us back out to sea, hitting the bottom between waves and generally crunching our way along until we managed to get to deeper water. We called to the boats behind us on the VHF to prevent them meeting the same fate and it was agreed that boats could record a finish time when they got to a 'reasonable distance' of the line. We recorded ours just after we hit the ground at 4hr 39m.

The bottom of the sea here is mostly gravel so we probably didn't damage the keels. Once we were heading out to sea again we decided we'd have to just tack around outside for another 90 mins or so to let the tide come in a bit. We were a bit tired but it was still a bright sunny afternoon so not really a bad way to waste time! Eventually Ron calculated it would be deep enough so he started the motor, we dropped the sail and crept slowly up the river at about 5pm with probably a millemetre of clearance under us.

We'd had a fantastic sail and a great day apart from that crunching moment at the end. Back at the clubhouse we stopped for coffee and to recover. Once all 6 boats were back and race times recorded we found we were 2nd overall. Very pleased with that. In these conditions the usual race winners with their fast lighter boats didn't do as well as the heavier ones. Ron's calculations and race tactics turned out to be spot on. Interesting to see that after a 4.5 hour race of over 20 miles the corrected times were all within minutes of each other:


Owers - 13/6/15 at 1200

Start: Owers, Finishes: Elapsed time, Course: To the Owers and back, Wind dir: SW, Ave wind: F5
RankBoatClassSailNoHelmNameNHCElapsedCorrectedPoints
1Free n EasyWesterly Centaur2157Nick Clare0.7424;54;543;38;491.0
2CabreHunter Horizon 23130Ron Priest0.7834;39;573;39;122.0
3Dedicated DancerLimbo 69943YDavid Robinson0.8924;06;533;40;133.0
4Port KerneFirst Class 8FRA763Dick Holden1.0433;33;263;42;374.0
5Sooper TrooperSea Wolf 265614YRichard Dobson0.9194;08;273;48;205.0
6Sea LadySeal 85076David Bamber0.769RET 6.0


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