Race to Shoreham and back

7 Aug 2016

Due to concerns about silting and channel depth at Brighton, the annual cruiser race to Brighton became a race to Shoreham instead. Georgia was with me and we set off at 1200 Saturday keen to have a good race by starting as early as we could. Behind, we saw the other six boats leaving the river close behind us.

As usual Georgia was well prepared with several bags of picnic.

There was a nice westerly F3 so with full sail we crossed the start line at 1233 and headed for Shoreham. The strong breeze kept the sails full but the following sea made Elsa a bit tricky to handle, she wasn't stable enough to goosewing. Behind us the fleet spread out, some with spinnakers, some falling back.

We found ourselves slightly too far south so gybed around towards the shore for a few minutes near Worthing then back on course east. Hard work but a pleasant trip and we found the finish point (one of Sussex YC's marks) and completed the race at 1424.

The genoa furler had got tangled on the way so we entered harbour with the sails up, once inside there was time for Georgia to sort it out and get the sail rolled away. Unlike my previous visit, the small boat lock was being used so the first five AYC yachts managed to cram in for the 1530 lock-in and into the port on the eastern arm.

Some people from Sussex YC were there to guide us into their visitor berths and we were all safely tied up by 1600. Some of our fellow travellers came in an hour later. About 1830 we got the bus down into Shoreham for drinks at Sussex YC, Georgia's mum Sarah came to join us, and all 18 of us went for dinner at the Crown and Anchor.

Back on the boat around 11pm I listened to the radio for a bit then slept quite well though the wind in the rigging kept reminding me of how strong the wind was and the forecast for Sunday.

As promised, Sarah delivered Georgia back to me on the dot of 0800 Sunday morning as the other crews were emerging. The plan was to lock out at 0900 but after some discussion we all agreed to go later to avoid some adverse tide. Some crews went to assess conditions from the vantage point of a Shoreham beach café.

The forecast showed F4 gusting F6 from the west, and after some hesitation I decided to attempt the trip back. The option to leave Elsa there was available, Sussex YC said it'd be ok, I could come and fetch her next weekend or something, but we decided to have a go at the journey. All seven boats locked out at 1100.

With a reefed main and about half the genoa unrolled, we started the race and tried to beat our way home. The sea was quite big and although Elsa was controllable and properly reefed, it wasn't much fun and we clearly weren't pointing as well as some the others who disappeared into the distance. The biggest boat Remiga went straight onto motor and also disappeared. There were about four other AYC boats near us as well as a dinghy fleet having a race and several kitesurfers. After an hour we agreed to invoke the first fallback plan - drop the sails and just motor home. This didn't really work well though. Elsa at 22ft and quite light is not good at punching into a big sea, and the outboard was lifting out of the water as the stern pitched up, it stopped a couple of times, and with about 25 knots of headwind she was getting blown off course as the wind got under the bow. I lost my Elsa cap. We were making about 2 knots and it was nine miles back to Littlehampton so we faced a whole day of this. Fallback plan B was to simply unroll the genoa and turn round, we'd probably fly back to Shoreham in no time.

We were in good spirits as always and not in danger, just getting tired. I could see David about a mile away in Sea Lady, she's a Seal 850 with a decent diesel engine, we spoke on the radio and he said he was considering retiring and motoring home. He agreed to take us under tow.

We were around East Worthing by now. Georgia with great bravery and skill went on the foredeck and got my line attached, and David with great seamanship approached us on the windward side and we got the line passed across on the first attempt.

Being towed is not particularly pleasant as the line goes taught then slack, you're jerked forward and aft, and I could see the towline was rubbing on the anchor as it crossed my foredeck making it bang up and down and possibly chafing the rope through. But we were now making 4 - 5 knots and we'd clearly make it home.

Two hours later we were outside Littlehampton and commenced our entry about 1530. Once the swell abated within the arms of the harbour I called David to drop the tow and we motored in under our own steam thus retaining a modicum of dignity!

Only two boats completed the sail back. We were back in the clubhouse by 4pm buying David a drink and sharing some picnic. Elsa and her crew were a bit battered and weary but the sun was out and we were fine and back at Arun.

There's a massive lesson here, I've always said I won't go out in an F5 so why was I trying to beat into that wind, even with a reef and an able but physically light crew, and why did I think I'd be able to motor into that? No harm done and all back safely, and we'd had a great weekend, but next time I'll stay in the harbour even if it's not my home port!

Race results, provisional, for the race each way:

L to S - 6/8/16 at 1230

Littlehampton to Shoreham
Start: Start 1, Finishes: Elapsed time, Course: Littlehampton to Shoreham, Wind dir: W, Ave wind: F3
1RemigaMirage 37GBR3547LChris Leach0.8642;00;311;44;081.0
2Sea LadySeal 85076David Bamber0.7902;17;001;48;142.0
3JohannaHunter 26141Tim Freeman0.7812;26;001;54;023.0
4ElsaSeal 22122Alistair Tyrrell0.7972;24;211;55;034.0
5HerragMoody 31GBR9026TDavid Gates0.8502;17;001;56;275.0
6Murphys LawColvic 26 Steve Holden0.8293;00;002;29;136.0
7Poppi  Peter Colyer DNF 8.0

S to L - 7/8/16 at 11:00

Shoreham to Littlehampton
Start: Start 1, Finishes: Elapsed time, Course: Shoreham to Littlehampton, Wind dir: W, Ave wind: F5
1JohannaHunter 26141Tim Freeman0.7813;17;002;33;511.0
2HerragMoody 31GBR9026TDavid Gates0.8503;07;002;38;572.0
3ElsaSeal 22122Alistair Tyrrell0.797RET 8.0
3RemigaMirage 37GBR3547LChris Leach0.864DNS 8.0
3Sea LadySeal 85076David Bamber0.790RET 8.0
3Murphys LawColvic 26 Steve Holden0.829RET 8.0
3Poppi  Peter Colyer DNF 8.0

Sailwave Scoring Software 2.19.8


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