Sooper Trooper to Gosport

5th July 2018

Glorious summer weather the last few weeks though I have not been out in Elsa since end of May. It's the annual round the island race this weekend and although I'm not taking part this year I took the opportunity to help my friend Phil get his boat to Gosport a couple of days before the race.

Sooper Trooper is a well known boat at the club though only owned by Phil for the last year or so. Often my rival in the club racing though usually a long way ahead, I've never sailed her before. She's a real sailor's boat, a Sea Wolf 26 with a fin keel and hardly any creature comforts, just loads of sailing gear. No roller genoa.

Andy was with us, and after lunch we got busy loading up with stores for the weekend and hanking on the genoa ready to hoist. Sooper Trooper has very posh laminated sails almost golden in colour, a very distinctive look. Other boats from Arun were making the same passage though with their shallower draught they were able to get going before us. Sooper Trooper on her deep fin sat in her cradle on the mud until we felt her float off soon after 2pm. Exiting the harbour cautiously, watching the depth, once outside in a decent breeze we set the sails and knocked the engine off.

With a SWly wind F3-4 and not needing to hit the Looe until the tide turned we decided, as we had a proper sailing boat, to just beat our way down. Sooper Trooper has a good set of instruments so we could see the wind was over 20 knots and under full sail she heeled into it and shot off at 6 knots, throwing regular sloshes over the foredeck as we headed into the swell. Quite fun to helm, well balanced, just a couple of time as she heeled the rudder came partly out of the water and lost grip leading to the boat trying to round up till she went level again. After a couple of hours we had East Boro Head in sight but we didn't need to go round it, we just set ourselves West towards the waypoint at the other end of the channel.

The Looe Channel is best traversed on an east-west line and the wind was just in the wrong direction for us to make the heading closehauled so we had to tack a couple of times. We were close enough to the Selsey headland at one point to see the Mixon pole. Other boats heading west seemed to be motor-sailing, using their engines to push against the wind and hold the straight course. We managed to hit the gap at the western end, between the buoys Boulder and Street, pretty much dead centre. Once through the gap we were able to free off a few degrees to a more WNW heading towards Gosport and with the tide behind us we were well over 7 knots of speed. No more tacking needed as we went on a fine reach for a couple of hours with the wind dropping slightly towards 15 knots or so as the afternoon faded.

Once through the Main Passage gap in the submarine barrier east of the harbour entrance we dropped the genoa onto the deck and rolled it into a sausage lying along the starboard bow. With the engine on now, and the main still up, Phil waited for the best moment to cross to the port side of the ship channel, letting a hovercraft cross ahead of us and a couple of ferries behind. Once in safer water we dropped the main and motored into Portsmouth Harbour, calling Gosport Marina for our berth instructions and landing just after 7.30pm. Five and three quarter hours, 33 nautical miles.

We found that the other boats from Arun were already there, having left earlier and motored more than we did, some of the crews were already in the pub. After a brief rest, a snack and a cold can of beer I made my way on foot with my bag of clobber to the Gosport Ferry around 8.30 pm. Trains were a bit messed up as they often are in the south these days but I went Portsmouth Harbour - Portsmouth & Southsea - Havant - Angmering and got home about 10.30 pm. The train was not as much fun as the boat. Great day's sailing and very pleased to have had a go on Sooper Trooper at last!

The fleet is crossing to Cowes on Friday then the race is on Saturday 7th July, best of luck to all AYC crews.


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