JUNIOR OFFSHORE
GROUP

C-Data Cowes Dartmouth 2017


Felix:

We left Marchwood before noon to refuel and to get across to Cowes for a 15.45 start. Forecast was a steady SW F5-6, becoming 4 at times. When the first gusts hit at Calshot, we had already reefed, and with a No 3 Felix felt reasonably light which was necessary as there was only two of us. 

Dark clouds and strong gusts made for a foreboding start however as we received encouraging waves from the shore team. Only 6 boats started, with 2 joint class starts. We were behind Moondog, Fulmar and Imperator, the other 3 boats in class 5 and 6, as we wrestled to get the No 3 up again, having dropped it earlier. A strong westerly tide carried us west up the Solent. Near Yarmouth we had caught up with the other boats, only to see one of them go off into Lymington.  Just So was also catching up. It was a choppy and increasingly lonely race down the Needles. The western end of the Bridge offered very lively conditions for a short while. We carried on into the Channel, wanting to get the most of the tidal lift.   Dusk fell, when we noticed a lot of water in the bilge. It did not taste salty though, so it probably was a case of the water tank cap not having been properly closed. A bit of housekeeping with the sponge and paler was required. We realized only later that about a 1/3 of the tank had emptied into the bilges.

When night fell, we were only just past Anvil Point and progress became more difficult. Our initial plan to pass Portland before midnight was scuppered by prevailing wind and tide, and for close to 2 hours we tacked without making much progress at all. We had not checked up on other competitors, and were not aware that our AIS was only transmitting intermittently. However as another one of the squalls hit us, we asked ourselves whether we should not retire to Poole. The decision to carry on was made easier by an earlier message that voltage was low. I must have forgotten to switch to mains battery only, now having flattened the engine battery! Carrying on did not seem so unattractive, when the alternative was to return to Poole in the dark in a F5 with no engine. With winds mostly around 18-21, gusting mid twenties at times, we managed the choppy sea reasonably well, and there was no heavy rain.

In the next hour, conditions improved somewhat, we occasionally even got a glimpse of the moon. More importantly we started to make progress again. We gave Portland a wide berth and kept spirits up by looking forward to calmer conditions in Lyme Bay. At that time we willingly traded tidal lift for calmer waters. Once day broke, conditions improved and we had our first hot drink. Crossing the Bay however took longer than planned, as the wind abated at times to F2. We tried with a light No 1 for a short period, only having to take it down as the wind increased again to mid teens. We crossed the finish shortly after 2.30 pm, under blue skies and sunshine.

We had only caught up with missed calls and messages on the approach to Dartmouth, realising that all other boats had retired. We were grateful to Nick who had patiently waited to assist us rafting up, as we were coming in under sail. We retired early after a delicious meal at the Dartmouth Yachtclub, so when Scream joined the pontoon later that evening, we were already fast asleep.



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