Winning the Owers Race

22 April 2017

Conditions seemed ideal today so without a crew lined up I decided to attempt the Owers Race single handed. We were expecting a nice N - NE light wind so the sea would be flat and it was a bright and dry day. As mentioned in previous blog posts, the idea is for skippers to decide their own departure times such that they go around the Owers Buoy just as the tidal stream changes direction thus getting a favourable tide both ways. I'd decided to aim to go around between 2 and 2.30pm. I moved Elsa out into the river onto a pontoon hammerhead and spent several minutes whilst tied up hoisting and adjusting the sail to get it just right.

Dick had set a course across to Pagham, round a divers buoy there, out to East Boro Head, down to Owers then back. I set off in the middle of the group of 5 boats, starting my stopwatch at 1040. I had a nice reach across to Pagham, bubbling along nicely. One of the faster boats, Dancer, was behind me and it took him ages to overtake - thus demonstrating that in light winds, if a significant proportion of boat speed is coming from the tide, we are more evenly matched.

Seven miles later and there was a dive boat and diver around near the buoy so we all gave them a wide berth, I went round it at 1200 and headed more south to East Boro Head. Almost on a dead run now, goosewinging, gybing, trying to get the best speed but not get knocked too far W by the tide. Ron ahead of me in Cabre was less lucky than me and I'd caught him up and went round the mark ahead of him at 1313. Wind still light, now heading S towards Owers, Cabre and Ayella were now behind me and I could see the two faster boats well ahead. They seems to have got to Owers too early and were unable to make progress back to the finish line in the light winds against the tide (I learned later that Dedicated Dancer had dropped anchor to avoid drifting too far away, this cost them almost an hour). Cabre caught me up again with her spinnaker.

Cabre and Elsa went around Owers side by side right on my target time 1417, we could see the water was slack around the buoy so we'd got it right. I then got a bit lucky in the light wind and caught a puff that Cabre seemed to have missed and suddenly I was half a mile ahead. The exact opposite of what happened last year!

Ten miles to go back to Littlehampton now and making just over a knot I thought I was in for a long afternoon but I reckoned the tide would soon pick me up and help. Suddenly though this wasn't needed as a fairly hefty F4 easterly wind came up on us and Elsa was heeling into a fine reach heading north. For the first time I wished I had a crew with me as it was hard work tweaking the genoa, the main and the tiller as the gusts came. I considered reefing the main but would have lost a lot of time so I just let the main go out when the gusts came to keep myself on course. Very tiring but the miles soon ticked away and I flew through the finish line about 1630 on an elapsed time 5 hours 53 mins 25 seconds.

Relieved to be near home and tired after that last leg, I got the genoa rolled away and the engine going. Looking at the time, it was about 2 hours after low water, I decided I'd be ok to attempt the entrance and was too tired to muck about outside and soon found myself in the quiet of the harbour and found space on the pontoon hammerhead to tie up and recover.

Once all five boats were back and reported their times it was apparent that Elsa was the winner on corrected time. The faster guys had got there too soon and couldn't sail back against the tide, Cabre was unlucky with the wind, it was my day to be lucky. Hugely excited to have won the Owers Light Trophy, one of the club's most prestigious cruiser races and one of my sailing ambitions. Phew!

Pennant Rose Bowl


Cruiser Pennant Rose Bowl 2017

Owers Race - 22/4/2017 at 1000

Race officer Dick Holden

Course - Start line, Outer Mulberry, East Boro Head, Owers, East Boro Head, Finish Line
Start: Start 1, Finishes: Elapsed time, Course: Owers, Wind dir: NE, Ave wind: F3
1ElsaSeal 22122Alistair Tyrrell0.7765;53;254;34;151.0
2DancerHunter Delta8625YDick Holden0.8545;29;504;41;412.0
3Dedicated DancerLimbo 6.69943YDavid Robinson0.8195;48;394;45;333.0
4CabreHunter Horizon 23130Ron Priest0.7886;04;504;47;294.0
5AyellaSea Wolf 26 bk91Stuart Gibbs0.8345;50;494;52;355.0

Sailwave Scoring Software 2.19.8


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