RORC Race the Wight
Skipper: Kate Cope
Sun 2 Aug 2020 18:15
Well I've not just about recovered from the immense feeling of frustration and disappointment to tell you this story. I'm thinking of this post as therapy to help me recover. It was a race of two halves. First half was fabulous, second a disaster.
The favoured start was always going to be the island end of the line (more tide, closer to the Needles) but with 80 boats starting together in a combined IRC3 and 4 start it was going to be mad busy. I opted for further up the line and was too conservative. I was right up to the line, nicely running down it as the gun went buttoo far north and I had less tide and further to travel. Anyway we came all the way in on Starboard tack confidently forcing boats on port to go behind. We then tacked in the stronger tide past Gurnard and on to Newtown creek. Upwind speed was really good (hurrah) and we started to reel in boats. About half way down the Solent we realised we had caught up quite few of our normal adversaries and we were well ahead of Mostly Harmless.
Hurst was crazy busy as the faster boats who started later were now tacking amongst us. A few too many close encounters for my liking but we were still good .. it just felt a whole lot better on starboard tack than port . Out to the Needles was still busy, we rounded very very close in, just skimming the edge of the Varvassi wreck.... not hit it yet !! ..
Then a great peel to the code zero and we went farther into the island than the rhumb line to get out the tide. Again it paid off we were overhauling boats, most were flying kites but those around us were struggling and broaching and we just powered through so the Zero was the sail for us. At this point some massive dolphins came to join in the fun and we let George the Autopilot steer for a minute whilst we watched them. I should add there is no photos from me on the first half as I was absolutely glued to the helm, didn't even drink until after the Needles.
Found the promised back eddy just before St Cats and rounded St Cats very close to the shore and close amongst other boats.
Another great peel this time to the S2 and we were surfing. Then much to the delight of both of us on board we spotted Jerry and Rob on Juliette J105 into and Demien on Simples XP44. I have never ever been alongside the legend Jerry in a race so we knew we were onto a good thing and doing well. As we sail Symmetric it was a while before we needed to Gybe.... then came the second half of the race.
We've been practising gybes but not in 20kts of wind which is the top end for the S2. In hindsight we probably slightly rushed it as I think we both thought we had the playbook in our heads and maybe a quick review would have helped. I wobbled the helm, gybed early, gybed back, tried to stabilise but we lost it. it got tangled and we needed to drop . It came down the forestay but Matt took the brunt of unravelling it and getting it down the hatch which was exhausting. Meanwhile I sailed the boat on the main, kept us off the rocks and when were were sorted Jerry was ahead but not too far.
Up went the A5, the wind was 22kts by now so anyway that was the better sail and we were off again, we poled it out at the tack and we got a few extra degrees downwind. First Gybe was perfect and we were back in the race. Next Gybe was to make the turning point of Bembridge Ledge. First issue was the Tylaska that should have been tied on was not (I forgot) so the active sheet just let go. We tried to gybe and pull it round onto the other side but it wasn't having it and it tangled, not too badly but needed to come down. we had it set up to letterbox drop but the sail would not come down, somehow it was stuck up the mast and no amount of tugging was freeing it. So now we are sailing downwind past the mark, luckily lots of safe water ahead of us... but what to do with a spinnaker flapping itself into holes stuck up the mast. The only thing I could think was to try and wrap it round the forestay so at least we could get back , not easy as it wants to fly but slowly we got sail ties around it, twisted it up and used the snuffing line to lash it to the forestay.
We turned back up wind , pointed the boat at Ryde and took a breather, What with Matts wrestle with the S2 and my wrestle with the A5 we were both now physically exhausted....luckily I had 2 homemade Brownies left to top up the energy. We just had a mainsail, no ability to fly a jib. Storm jib would have worked but it wasn't onboard.... too much weight!
As I tidied the boat I then to my horror realised why the A5 was stuck..... I was dropping the wrong Spi halyard ..... what a complete and utter plonker. ... and now the A5 was so wrapped up there was no getting it down at sea.
Whilst the wind was 20kts our speed was OK, 5kts or so , so we decided we would not give up and sail to the finish on the main. Yes we looked a complete joke with a purple balloon half way up the forestay and we heard other boats laughing and sniggering as they overtook but we were not deterred. It was a lovely day , the boat was gently heeled (for once) and sailing was very comfortable. Just needed to be patient and the finish line would arrive and we would at least beat the boats who had retired. As the last of the smaller boats overtook us were were absolutely last but still making the finish, the tide was picking up against us but still making 2kts over the ground. 10mins to go. At 7:30pm the sun was starting to lower and the sea breeze was dying.... 0.4NM to run and we couldn't point at the line. the combination of 3 kts of tide against us, a dying breeze and a purple balloon up the forestay were were going backwards. Throwing out the kedge anchor in the main shipping channel off Cowes was a step too far so we very reluctantly retired. The final disappointment in an emotional rollercoaster of a day.