Cowes Cherbourg Cowes 2017

Shades does Cherbourg, and back.

Cowes - Cherbourg

Arriving in Cowes mid afternoon to get the boat ready to find it still not in the water wasn’t quite the planned start to the 2017 Cowes - Cherbourg - Cowes event but  at least by being the last drop of the day we had an easy berth to get of the next morning.  

This weeks crack crew consisted of George, Gareth, Chris, yours truly and the owner, quite a number for SoB, more used to racing three up on offshores.  We did also work out later that we had around 80 combined JOG years on board which we were impressed with at least.  All the boat jobs were swiftly completed before The Anchor finally beckoned for dinner and few drinks to catch up with everyone.  Lets just say bed time of Thursday was a bit more sensible than Friday…. More on that later.

Friday am dawned, the owner arrived and off we set into a sunny, chilly and light aired Solent.  After a bt of debate about whether our five minute engine cut off was the same as everyone else's, up went the kite and off we set, somewhat tide assisted, towards the first mark (2nd if you count Snowden).  Keeping the kite full was tricksy at times but we hardened up through the forts towards Bembridge making it a bit easier.  By this point conversation was starting about the Code Zero - the sail that spends longer being stuffed back in it’s bag than it does attached to any sort of halyard.  The general consensus was that five of us could tame it so up it went and off we shot.  Well done to George for working out which - unlabelled - corner was which.  Gradually the wind built and went forward enough that - after a perfect drop - the No. 3 came out and that was pretty much it for the next 9.5 hours.  

Shipping lanes, a discussion about why Easter moves, many references to “Panty  Droppers”, a tidal push East, coffee, snacks, a few more layers, more shipping lanes, some creeping up to the West, lots of “Who is that boat?” (made somewhat easier with AIS these days but fun all the same) and some speedy counting down of the DTF and before we knew it the lights of the fun fair were visible.  Sadly we’d slightly underestimated both the timing and amount of East going tide and ended up tacking for the finish, losing (we think) a few places in the process.  

Arriving in daylight was a definite bonus although the extra couple of hours meeting and greeting fellow JOGgers in Cherbourg Yacht Club did make themselves known the next morning.  Or that could have been the decision (not all mine) to reduce weight on the way back and finish off the evening with some “SoB Droppers”.  Most of the crew were unusually quiet on Saturday !  After the NJO Sails prizegiving, lunch called followed by a trip to chocolate eggs and Carrefour’s entire stock of mayonnaise, Chris’ story being you can’t get it in the UK and his wife loves it.  No one has asked Heather for her version. Yet.  

Cherbourg - Cowes

The forecast for Sunday had been fairly solid all week and it looked like a fast race back for the fleet.  The starting area in Cherbourg was made more interesting this year by the two yachts anchored on the start line but in true JOG style we made it happen and set off, under kite again, into a building Westerly.  Out of the harbour the kite came down and once again the DTF numbers started reducing at a steady rate of knots.  The wind did build towards the end and as often seems to be the case with this race we ended up beating down the Solent into a decidedly chilly F5/F6 (maybe, as usual the wind instruments gave up when it got too difficult).  Shades was by this point leading the Class 5 pack and took line honours, only to be beaten on handicap by Longe Pierre (well done guys). Still, a 10.5 hour trip back is pretty impressive.  

A quick tidy up, some maintenance jobs for next time written down and everyone made the 20:15 Red Jet home.  Thanks again to Ed, George, Gareth and Chris for a fun weekend and to  Nick, Dougie and Peter, the shore-side starters and finishers and to the Cherbourg Yacht Club for the organisation.

Race report from Just So

We would have had to leave Lymington very, very early on Friday morning, so decided to potter down to Cowes on Thursday evening. Pizza was consumed on the way and a few beers/wines were consumed when we got there. We moored next to Holly Blue, who were about to do only their second JOG race, so the three of them joined us for a drink, before we all went for an early night.

We had been hoping that, with Easter being late this year, the Cherbourg race would be warmer than usual, but the wind was cold and it was chilly, despite the sunshine.

We made a good start: 30 s late, but still first over the line as the wind had dropped and shifted. We started on Starboard and then took an early gybe, which somewhat disconcerted some of the boats who had done a hasty, last-minute switch and started on Port. 

We gybed up the Solent in the gentle winds, trying to keep in the tide. We decided more hot drinks were needed and, as our usual barista was busy trimming the spinnaker, Mary made the coffee and in the prcess gained her “Competent Coffee maker” certificate. At the forts we hardened up a bit and then had bacon buns before Bembridge. You will note that eating well, having real coffee – including grinding the beans – and rum are all very important aspects of sailing on Just So!

After Bembridge, we got headed and peeled to the Code Zero and then the wind died. We managed to keep going and kept West as we expected the new breeze to come from this direction. When the wind came back it was from the SW, so it was on to the jib and off across the channel. We hadn’t gone inshore after Bembridge, as there didn’t look to be any wind in there, but most of the Class 3 boats behind us did.  There was quite a big spread across the fleet, with quite a few boats heading much further West than we did.

Whenever we go to Cherbourg, we always seem to arrive just as the tide is about to turn. And most times, the wind dies as we near the coast. Despite the fact that we had a W, rather than a SW wind, we were still worried about it dying and checked on the AIS that the Class 3 boats, who had overtaken us, were still moving OK as they neared the finish. Will had done a great job on his navigation and only minor adjustments were needed in the last few miles.

Cherbourg was convivial as usual, with a great drinks party, a chance to catch up with old (and new) friends and a very nice dinner at La Regence.

The wind was very light at the inner harbour start on the way back, but we could see that there was a lot more outside the outer harbour. Our hoist was a few seconds late, due to a problem with the tack line, but we then got going well and held it until the harbour entrance. The wind increased and headed us, so we went to jib. On the way across, as the wind backed and increased, we flew the Code 0 for a couple of hours, but then had to go back to jib as the wind was constantly in the low twenties and we were on a tight reach. As we went faster, the need for height increased (as we would get less West-going tide) and became more difficult to acheive. For a large part of the time we were in sight of Longue Pierre and they carried their Zero almost all the way across and a lot higher than we could have done. Indeed the question most often asked seemed to be “ Are Longue Pierre still flying their Zero?” At one point we saw 26 knots and prepared a reef ready for the Solent, but by the time we got there it had dropped back to the mid-teens.

After 60+ miles, it was amazing to see how many boats converged at Bembridge: behind us several were overlapped at the mark! We hardened up towards the forts and then on to a beat down the Solent. At the forts, we were just ahead of Arcsine and we thought that Ninjod was in the group of boats well in front. Will made a couple of great tactical calls to tack and get more tide and a lift, and we gained quite a bit. We knew we were ahead of Arcsine, but when had Ninjod finished?

A bumpy motor back to Lymington followed, but the rain that looked so threatening in the West didn’t materialize.

All-in-all we had a great weekend. Our thanks to all the race team and our sponsors NJO.


Don’t let anyone tell you that size doesn’t matter; it most certainly does. And of the various dimensions, waterline length is the most important

On these longer races, being the smallest in the fleet can really disadvantage us, handicap or no, because we frequently hit the peak of the foul tides at the end of the race, long after bigger boats have crossed the line. So on the return race, the trip from Cherbourg to Bembridge Ledge was, for us, brilliant and quick, taking just eleven hours. Under cold but bright blue skies, with the wind unusually in the forecast quarter, though stronger than predicted, we surfed our way over at up to 8.5 knots (not a record, but definitely not usual for a 38 year old 26 footer).

The trouble started at the forts; the flood had started and over the next three hours our tacking angles gradually went from 90 degrees over the ground to over 150, making progress to the finish line a painfully slow process. Add to this a succession of cruise ships, bulk carriers, and container ships trying to occupy the same stretch of water as us, and the last part of the race was an exercise in dealing with frustration as our hopes of success gradually faded.

But I don’t want you to think we did not enjoy these races. As slickly organised as ever, this weekend has reaffirmed why JOG continues to attract so many boats of all classes. On Ariane le menu du jour was as ever, superb, with kedgeree for breakfast, a spicy, fruity Persian chicken dish for lunch and a rich beef stew for supper, (the skipper is a follower of Napoleon – I’ll leave you to wonder about which aspects of that great dictator’s approach he shows on board). The highlight of the trip back was being inspected by a pod of dolphins that diverted from their passage up the Channel to play with Ariane’s keel and rudder before resuming their easterly course. Overall, some wonderful sailing, more time than normal to explore Cherbourg, a great party, and more sun than we have come to expect gave us all a great start to the offshore season.


They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That's particularly
fortunate when the skipper, after the event, delegates the race report
down to the bilge rat who hadnt been making any particular mental
notes of the positional nuances of the chess board during the weekend!

Cowes - Cherbourg
Mustering on Thursday was a multi-stage deployment with early arrivers
moving the boat from Swanick to East Cowes while later (JOG and
Raffles virgins) took a scenic detour via coach and ferry to Cowes but
still managed to somehow find a boat they've never seen before, in the
dark, minus sailcover.  Top sleuthing!

Friday developed almost eerily to forecast - early breeze with all the
intensity of an asthmatic dwarf just about sufficient to get us moving
under kites.  Two Frank seemed to have the slickest hoist and getaway,
with double handed Dogmatix then making some alarming gains under jib
- what the wind gods giveth them the wind gods then tooketh away from
them towards Norris/Osborne.  Blazer were yet again engaged in their
somewhat irritating and persistent habit of keeping up with us far too
closely for our liking ;).  Meanwhile our new Italian crewmember
exercised her barista skills and served up rocket fuel in exchange for
translations of boat part names (though not from Italian to English,
but from French). Its reassuring that we can now screw up in three
languages rather than just one.

With Two Frank and Magic heading further towards the mainland than
other class-6'ers, Raffles (iirc?) had snuck ahead by the forts with
Zest (class-5) now acting as our forward tell-tale through much of the
light and shify stuff post-Bembridge where my memory becomes a blur.
Firmly imprinted is Two Frank coming past us under jib in the lighter
stuff like we were standing still, then later us getting very bored
and considering a sail-change purely for "suck it and see" academic
speed comparison as a learning exercise for future reference - only
for our reliable Zest'tale to signal the new stiffening breeze that
required the very sail we were fortuitously preparing.

The remainder of the crossing was thankfully in more consistent
breeze, though for almost all the race the AIS was frustratingly
showing Blazer still within a winning distance of 1-1.5nm.  There was
much last-gasp straw-clutching and musing on the rail that the tide
change might induce a smidgeon more wind-over-tide chop to re-roll the
dice, though Skipper dismissed it with "Moondog said the Lasers blast
through a little chop even better than flat water".  Sigh, hopes were
not at all high.

Having been in the eastern third of the AIS markers for the early
stages of the crossing (whether by accident or intent or loose rudder
again!), in the latter stages the plotter began to show us in the
western third of the cluster.  It was very literally only in the last
3 or 4 hours that Raffles seemed to claw out the gap to Blazer up to
1.9nm.  With dusk falling and brains freezing and the harbour wall
approaching we were variously multiplying and dividing distance and
speed and coming up with a ~15 minute gap to Blazer, though cold and
tired were not entirely sure why we were multiplying and dividing
those very numbers or whether the answer was even right.  If it was,
big if, it was going to be very tight!  Again.

Having moored up with unprompted assistance from Alderney motor
boaters on the neighbouring berth (your
help/shower-codes/bread/friendliness were very much appreciated,
thanks!) and packed away the boat, the Skipper apparently had some
very urgent and official JOG duties to attend to (in the bar of all
places!).  Meanwhile the crew either headed for the showers, or the
medicine cupboard (lost voice), or the food cupboard where our new
Italian member showed multifunctional prowess as pasta cooker as well
as barista.  The skipper returned with unofficial whispers from the
timekeepers of a very narrow lead over Blazer, confirmed the next
morning upon checking the website.  Phew.

Cherbourg - Cowes
The thermostat on the trip over had been a smidge less than ideal, so
the forecast north westerly for the trip back had most of us in full
michelin-man mode for the reverse race.

The skippers stress levels increased one notch when finding a couple
of moored boats in the already small start area, and then by another
notch at the sideways glances from some of the crew when his suggested
start strategy was between those boats - I'm sure he apologises to
Kathy/Arcsine for the tone of his curt request to keep clear in the
pre-start. ;)

At the stressy start, the muppet on the foredeck had carefully
pre-tangled the pole uphaul, so the hoist was somewhat delayed
compared to slicky Two Frank who lead out through the harbour entrace.
Though on the upside, it did give me a better position for photos of
Blazer's drop.

With Two Frank and Magic climbing further west than Raffles, Blazer
heading further east, and it not being possible to cop out and cover
both of them we pretty much had to stick to our own plan and mental
gymnastics (not aided by the nav gizmo having a 4 day old grib file).
The crossing was faster than expected, marginally warmer than
expected, and mostly uneventful with anticipation and highlights
limited to regular food/snacks/treats appearing from below combined
with games of "which tanker has us in their sights" across the
shipping lanes.

We must thank Prime Suspect approaching Bembridge for firmly putting
themselves in photo lens range before hoisting their kite/code-0 - we
were in need of the passing entertainment by that point in the day.
It also encouraged the skipper to warm up the crew by trying out the
Raffles smaller asymmetric - albeit briefly.  The double digits
boatspeed and semi regular broaching kept us on our toes for a short
while, before deciding there is such a thing as too much fun.

There were murmurings of a reef in the main between Bembridge and the
forts, though it fortunately seemed to be confined to one particularly
dark cloud and just about manageable thereafter.  Exuberant briefly
took over Zest'tale duties for us.  All that was left was to tack up
the Solent in minimum time just before the tide turned - as the Ariane
report so eruditely mentioned we were (this time!) right in the sweet
spot to gain over those behind.  A glance at the AIS as we crossed the
line showed Blazer about 2nm away at Ryde Middle, perhaps ~20 minutes
or so - a gap that left us marginally more confident than the race
outwards though the nailbiting til the official results appeared was
as tense as ever.  Phew two.

As always, thanks to all the organisers and competitors.

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