Round the Island 2017

30 June - 2 July 2017

A longer than usual blog entry covering 3 days away sailing Round the Island (without Elsa).

Friday 30th June

I got an early train to Portsmouth Harbour, then the Gosport Ferry, and around 1000 I met my friends from Arun YC who'd positioned themselves at Haslar Marina the previous day. I was going with Chris and Jenny aboard Remiga, a Mirage 37 ketch with a yellow hull. Other club members had sailed their boats round just for fun but not intending to compete. I'd sent my heavy bag of sailing clobber ahead on one such boat to avoid carrying it all on the train.

It was a fine day with light winds and we were in no hurry so once we'd all assembled, Remiga's crew took some time to practice flying the spinnaker whilst safely tied up in the marina. Chris and Jenny, Chris's sister Debbie, my friends Stuart and another Debbie from Arun YC, and extra passenger Terry, left Haslar around 1100 to cross to Cowes. Remiga needs a decent wind to get going so we ended up on a pleasant motor-sail east along the Solent close to the northern side towards Bramble Bank. Quite a lot of other boats around including a huge monohull racing yacht Highland Fling with black sails who we waved to.

The helpful people at Island Sailing Club apparently turn on the start line leading lights on the Friday before RTIR so you can practice. The start line is a transit between the flagpole and the building, there's no buoy or other marker at the outer end, and they provide leading lights one above the other as the flagpole can't be seen very easily from the sea. In order to find the line, you have to get to roughly the right place via the chart, then look towards the island side for the two white lights, when one is above the other you're on the line. You don't want to be over the line at your start time else you get a penalty. Having found the line we went along it for a bit just to establish where it was then we cleared off out of the way as everyone else had the same idea.

By 3pm we were entering Cowes looking for our berth in East Cowes Marina. The place was heaving with yachts and crews but we found our designated space and got tied up.

Total distance sailed today 13 nm.

In total there were 7 boats from Arun YC entering the race the next day plus a handful of club members just there for the fun of it so we had quite a crowd in the Lifeboat pub, a table booked for 18 for dinner. A great evening but not up late as we had an early start in the morning.....

Most of the people were booked into shoreside accommodation for the weekend but I stayed aboard Remiga for a quiet but short night.

Saturday 1st July

Alarms were set for 0400, we had a quick breakfast aboard, the others arrived from their accommodation ashore and we were ready to leave the berth before 0600 for our 0700 start time. Chris and Jenny, Debbie, Stuart, the other Debbie and me, six of us aboard. The RTIR fleet is huge so is divided into classes with different start times 10 minutes apart, before we left berth we could already hear 'Castle One' race control on channel 22 counting down the times and the cannon firing to start the earlier classes so the adrenaline was already going! Once out of the river we got all three sails up and the motor turned off.

There was a decent breeze around F3-F4 from the northwest, a little bit grey and drizzly, some mist. Chris and Jenny have done the race before so Chris was able to line us up in good order. The tide runs westerly so it's sweeping you over the line, we had to do a quick U turn back east to make sure we weren't over, looking at the shoreline trying to make out those two lights one above the other, but we were facing the right way and on the right side of the line when bang went the cannon and a puff of smoke and we were away.

The first leg down to the Needles was one long starboard fine reach into the NWly wind, the earlier starting fleets were visible ahead and the later ones were massing behind us as we made our way, enjoying the spectacle of the sea so full of sails. The wind was getting a bit lighter and the sky a bit brighter as we approached the corner. Through the gaps in the Needles cliffs we could see the spinnakers of the boats ahead of us. Apparently an expert crew with good local knowledge can slip through between the Needles but we didn't see anyone try that today!

Once around the Needles at 0900 we were running with the wind behind us so it was time to get the spinnaker up. We got it up from downstairs in its bag, attached the halyard and sheets like we practiced yesterday, and got the pole mounted. This is a bit tricky on Remiga as she has baby-stay shrouds all round the mast so you have to know in advance what pole angle you will need and set the pole correctly between the stays. Up she went without too much drama and we started the long leg to St Kats.

Now it was quite sunny so we peeled off some layers. Around us were dozens of boats with spinnakers of all colours, what a sight. Chris's sister Debbie is a very handy sail trimmer and spent most of the time nursing the spinnaker to get best effect as we ran for 3 hours to the southerly tip of the island. As we approached the point we had to gybe the spinnaker and turn slightly to get around, then gybe it all back again once we'd gone around, now about 1215. Snacks and pork pies and cake were had when the opportunity arose!

Around St Kats now and heading northeast we had to drop the spinnaker and settle onto a long reach on port tack. Wind much lighter now, probably only F1, and bright sunshine. Jenny had a handy tidal stream booklet telling us exactly what the tidal stream would be hour by hour, we could see the tide helping us but we knew we had one long leg to come. The reach became a fine reach as we got to Bembridge Ledge at the eastern end around 1415.

Deceptively you think you're three quarters of the way round so you'll be finished in a couple of hours - but no, you're now tacking into the wind and against the tide. Chris was keen to be as close inshore as possible after Bembridge to avoid the adverse tide but you can't run up the beach in a boat as big as this! After an hour or so of tacking, the tide had turned in our favour so we ventured further offshore enjoying the competition as we tacked around amongst a dozen or so other boats with similar performance to Remiga.

Fortunately just as we were deciding it was ok to go further offshore into the Solent, the wind picked up massively and Remiga was now on starboard tack closehauled into a F4-F5 and really in her element. In Elsa I'd have wanted to go home at this point but Remiga with her 11 tonnes of mass was enjoying herself and only heeling about 10 or 15 degrees or so. We had a more or less straight leg all the way towards the finish line at Cowes in 20kts of apparent wind at full speed.

Our final dash for the finish line was slightly impaired by the massive cruise ship Oriana which appeared in front of us out of Southampton Water meaning we had to tack inshore, sadly landing ourselves in a patch of light and flaky wind bouncing off the coastline. Losing a bit of speed just as we were excited about finishing, we soon recovered. The finish line is not the same as the start line but we could clearly see the committee boat and finish line marker buoy and crossed the line at 1755.

Our race elapsed time was recorded as 10h 55m 06s.

As soon as we were finished we started the engine and got the heck out of the way of the other boats coming through behind us, dropped the sails and went back into Cowes. The place was even more crowded, boats rafted to other boats, people climbing across boats to get to boats, the space we were in that morning was gone, we found a bit of pontoon nearby and landed there to tie up. Before anyone stepped ashore Chris and Jenny brought out the surprise bottle of champagne they'd had stashed in the fridge and we enjoyed a toast to Remiga and her gallant crew before we all crashed out.

We'd seen some other AYC boats including Dancer, Dedicated Dancer, and Cabre as we went around but not the others, though we later found out all had finished ok.

Here's my GPS track of our route around, total trip distance 58 nm:

On the RTIR official results Remiga was 528th overall (out of about 1200 finishers), 127th in group, 27th in our division. The overall monohull winner was Highland Fling, the guys we'd waved at on Friday.

The Arun fleet have their own private set of results showing each boat's elapsed time and corrected time using AYC's own handicap system:

Start: Start 1, Finishes: Place
1Dedicated DancerLimbo 6.69943YDavid Robinson0.8199;21;517;40;091.0
2DancerHunter Delta8625YDick Holden0.8549;24;298;02;042.0
3CabreHunter Horizon 23130Ron Priest0.78810;24;388;12;133.0
4Free n EasyWesterly Centaur2157Nick Clare0.75110;58;308;14;324.0
5Juliet SierraJeanneau SO 40GBR4644RSteve Verney0.9059;31;198;37;025.0
6RemigaMirage 37GBR3547LChris Leach0.85910;55;069;22;446.0
7Baker StreetCobra 850Nick Baker0.83411;38;239;42;277.0

Sailwave Scoring Software 2.19.8

The other Arun people were in various stages of exhaustion so nothing was formally arranged for the evening, Remiga's crew went back to the Lifeboat to eat then an early night.

Sunday 2nd July

Making plans to return home I had various options. I wanted to help Stuart sail his boat from Gosport back to Littlehampton so we started to think about ferryboat ideas as Remiga was not planning to leave Cowes till later in the day. However as we were having a hearty full English aboard Remiga at 0830, Chris heard that his mother was unwell so suddenly it was time to get ready and leave right away. Stuart and Debbie were back aboard by now so we untied, backed out, and departed Cowes about 0915.

Another nice sunny day with light winds we motor-sailed back across the Solent along with a whole parade of other yachts doing the same trip including several huge Clipper Ventures yachts with dozens of people aboard. Chris and Jenny nipped into Haslar Marina for 5 minutes to drop us off with our bags of clobber. Remiga then left to go back up to her berth in Fareham, Debbie went off to get the train home leaving Stuart and I on our own by 1115 making plans to sail back.

8 nm Cowes to Gosport.

Stuart's boat Ayella is a Seawolf 26 I've long wanted to have a go on, so after some coffee and a bit of a rest we left Haslar around 1300 to catch the tide back East. I did this journey on my first voyage with Elsa a few years ago now so I remembered the route. Out of Portsmouth, wait till the channel is clear, turn across and go East, through the markers and towards the Looe Channel. Wind still light and mostly behind us, sometimes helped by Ayella's diesel engine, we made our leisurely way in the sunshine eating sandwiches. As we neared the two markers Boulder and Street at the western end of the Looe, we felt the wind begin to pick up and suddenly we were having the best sail of the weekend. Ayella with her tiller is much more responsive to sail than Remiga with her long length and wheel steering and I really enjoyed it. We were making good speed East with the tide helping us round Selsey and then Bognor came into view and we were able to turn for home. By now the wind was quite strong maybe F4-5 SWly and with a following sea Ayella was a bit of a handful downwind. We did some controlled gybes and downwind-tacked our way for 2 or 3 hours towards Littlehampton. Once again in Elsa I'd have wished I was back at home but Ayella is fast and reassuring with a wide beam, deep cockpit, and a lot more mass in the keels. We were aware of other AYC boats making the trip ahead and behind us and we were back in Littlehampton around 1815.

34 nm travelled on Ayella. Clearing all my clobber out of Ayella, I dumped some of it aboard Elsa and called for a taxi home. Sunburned and tired but what a fantastic weekend. Good weather, good sailing, good people, our friend Debbie said it was the best weekend in her 22 years at Arun YC and she's probably right!

Total sea miles this weekend 113nm approx.

I really hope to do this again in future years as now I understand what it's all about. A great race and also a great social weekend away!


Popular posts from this blog

Cowes weekend 2023

Re-powering project Spring 2023

New rudder