Fastnet UpdateHarvey Dawkins
FASTNET TEAM HAVE QUALIFIED!
Whilst completing our first two RORC races we have experienced some very different conditions. Our first race, the Myth of Malham, took us from Cowes, round Eddystone Rock off Plymouth, and back to the finish line by Hurst Castle (230-250 NM). During this race we battled against light winds upwind.
Light wind sailing is very tricky, especially at night when the wind did a 360 on us, before rounding Portland Bill. For roughly 6 hours it was a competition between the pack, all of us trying not to sail backwards against the tide. Happy to say we were pretty good at this and gained a few miles on the lead. However, with coastal sailing, a big issue is making the tidal gates around the headlands, which,due to the light winds, the majority of the fleet didn’t make. It then became a real battle to just get to Eddystone Rock with many boats retiring. We made it round the rock and sailed downwind aiming to sail a good rhumb line (shortest possible route). This worked to our advantage and we over took quite a few boats.
Our second meeting with Portland Bill was much more pleasant although we still had light conditions and could not keep our symmetric kite flying! However, here we were escorted by a large pod of dolphins, definitely a highlight of my UK sailing! In high spirits we finished just in front of a First 40.7 in the class above us, sailed by the Navy. Very proud of our team for carrying on and keeping up their enthusiasm even when the wind gods weren’t in our favour!
Our second Race was the De Guingand Bowl, Cowes to the french port of Cherbourg. With a much better forecast (NW/W F5-7) we had a tricky decision of what sails to race with. Our race sails only have one reef and can break very easily when left flapping (meaning anything over 25knots would have been very tricky), or our Dacrons (school sails) have 3 reefs and can withstand higher winds without really slowing us down thus saving our race sails from being trashed before the actual Fastnet! We took a risk with race sails and luckily the wind averaged F4 and our maximum mind speed was 23knots. Another consideration was our shorthandedness with our two prized bowmen, Tom and Henry being unable to race.
Our course wasn’t just a straight line to Cherbourg, we started sailing back home towards Worthing! After a brilliant start with kites up and sailing downwind in 20knots we were in the lead pack. We took advantage of our ability to sail more downwind than our asymmetric classmates, however on rounding Selsey Bill we had to head up a little to the next mark and the wind became too beamy for us to use our kite and the asymmetric took advantage! We were all sent to Worthing as a big armada, the entire fleet rounding the met weather station within an hour of each other. Then the long upwind (a section of 50-60NM) back to Needles fairway began.. Close quarter sailing at night after so many miles is very exciting, however it is made more exciting when you have a lot of lobster pots! At 0200 we got caught on one, luckily it had not wrapped our keel or rudder as first thought, instead it seemed to have bounced our hull and rammed its way between our spinnaker sheets on the leeward side. After a little hacking with a knife and sacrificing a bit of our spinnaker sheet, we were free and on our way thankfully (no fishing pots or buoys were harmed during this race… maybe next time I’ll get a free lobster!).
We then sailed to the Needles around St Catherine’s point, just making the tidal gate and ahead of our rough pre-race ETA of 1000 at the needles. Then it was a fantastic close reach all the way to Cherbourg, F4 winds, blue skies and sun – couldn’t have wished for better crossing conditions. In high spirits and a little sunburnt we crossed the line in Cherbourg along side 2 other boats, one even attempting to distract us by successfully lobbing us Jelly Babies! Then off to the Yacht Club for a well deserved pint before sailing back to Brighton.
Our track from weekend RORC bowl Race 163 nm total in 21.5 hours averaging 7.7 knots.