At long last CAVA started her first JOG offshore race, its six years since ANNOKIA was sold, despite the many months to prepare from the start of the season the state of readiness was marginal with all the cruising gear on board and full tanks, motoring down with my substitute crew (Chris Little being laid up with a minor operation…chopping his neck off or something).. we were still trying to get some nav together and rigging the boat at the same time, hampered by the squally conditions which would have been welcome later when we were looking for power to get going!
Having mistaken the top of the square starting signal as the red flag for an East-about start... I think I couldn’t see because the green flag, either it was wet and droopy, or my brain wouldn’t accept a beat to the Needles 2 handed, either way my hurried foredeck preparations were unnecessary and but that left time to pull the main halyard back up after is cover parted in the clutch…. we motored up to the line for the 5 minute signal, and thought at 2mins we could unroll the Genoa and go, this clearly didn’t work as the wind dropped and without any boat speed to give the sail some apparent we got stuck in the tide, unable to shoot Gurnard, we were forced to tack into the beach and almost ended up on the big blue yacht parked on the trot of yellow hippos, and blocking our path to less tide.. We ended up having to sit out in the tide parked on the start line for at least 2 starts perhaps 3 which must go down in history... and I apologise to all if we hogged the tide or got in the way!
The excitement of passing gurnard didn’t last long as we sat looking at Lepe spit buoy for hours, but finally with a wind shift we were able to get up the Code 0 and get into shallow water off Beaulieu and we were off, across Lymington banks, into deeper water as the tide went with and were spat out the needles channel to see a starry sky of 16 white tri lights sparkling in front of us…we didn’t bother looking behind..., to start with we crept up on a few boats and a couple whites turned green.. probably the wind easing in front of us.. the good pressure was giving false hope, and confident the wind may hold a little longer made the call to stay west and hope to go in on the east, rather than put up the big kite and push against the west going tide… wrong wrong wrong!!! The wind dropped and went North as forecast and the only place to be was far enough east and south to use the west tide to creep in on.
Having thrown in the towel we had an Italian ready meal and toasted sandwich feast whilst motoring in to save time for sleeping in the harbour before the start of drinking time…this part of the race went to plan.
Had a quick chat to Peter at the party, and flopped down as close to the bar as possible, ... found I didn’t really know anyone else so have resolved to seek out the guys in my class next time for a chat. Then on to the Braye chippy and the Divers, and set off for Blighty after midnight. All in all had a character building outing, and will probably do a few more this season….just to prove if nothing else that we can do better!
Many thanks to Jog for making us welcome, and Peter and crew for their impeccable organisation, and probably getting the decision to go West, right for those with the talent and knowledge of the Island shallows, to get to Alderney, which I guess is the challenge of JOG racing in not making it too easy the talent shows.
Report from Raffles, Elan 295, Class 5
We had a newbie on board for this trip, Martin’s son who has sent this overview of his first offshore race.
"Got suckered into going sailing with my Dad, who said that it would be a short day trip to somewhere beginning with "A", a good meal ashore, a few beers, leisurely return on Sunday, maybe a few more beers. Reality : overnight race across the Channel to Alderney, constant danger of being mown down by ships, parked in sight of the finish line for hours, finally got ashore just in time for two glasses of wine before turning round to motor back, again overnight, more constant danger of being mown down. Almost no sleep, almost no food, almost nothing to drink, for 36 hours. Memo to self : ask more questions when my Dad says 'let's go sailing this weekend on Sally and Peter's boat'. Did I remember to mention I had to spend the entire weekend with my Dad, who now needs glasses to even read the compass and keeps falling over and breaking things ? Oh, and he even needs help to put his lifejacket on."
Our recollection is that son Andrew had at least twice as much sleep as the rest of us and it was a good job we had tons of food and liquid on board!
Having left Warsash early to see the J Class yachts under sail we got to Southampton to see Valsheda the last of a stately procession of 4 motoring back to Southampton. She looked majestic and I have a hazy memory of her rotting in a mudbath on the Hamble when I was (very) young.
We managed 30 minutes of snoozing on a mooring off Cowes before the start and a quick call to JOG 1 ascertained a start to the west which surprised us but was a good decision we all thought subsequently. Spinnaker off the deck and into where and how do we get off this line against the spring tide.
The Flying Pickett’s Moondog was looking serious doing run-ins at the outer end - both of us were pretty much on the line at the gun and within moments they had a call of starboard on us so we both went into the island shore. Our strategy was to break away for the mainland shore as soon as practical and sure enough that was Moondog’s too. So tacking up the shallow north shore followed and we sneaked ahead as we needed to do with our higher handicap, but were punished at one point by a tack into deeper water perhaps combined with a shift and had to duck their stern.
It was an enjoyable sail to Hurst with an excellent Spag Bol going down with a drop of wine box red as the depth alarm sounded for long periods to keep us alert. Martin sat on the tiller extension which was gaffer-taped up with a couple of sail battens – much more sturdy than before. The first big boat came past us as the tide hit in Hurst narrows slowing the SOG to 0.5 kt at one point. Anyway SOG improved as Bridge got closer and the spinnaker was readied for the bear-away.
The kite went up at Bridge and we were able to steer 215 being the rhumb line with the idea that we could adjust depending on where we were in an hour or two and with a view on what the wind was doing – great boat speed and a breakfast ETA was showing.
Most of the bigger boats were coming past to windward but we maintained our slightly lower course and the numbers were still looking good – it couldn’t last and the wind slowly died as we inched towards Alderney well positioned with some westing in hand. We got to within 5.7 miles before the great reverse started which lasted for about 6 frustrating hours – 70 metres of water so thoughts of anchoring were quickly dismissed.
Matt and Martin had minimised the damage and I came on deck to find some positive SOG and a fine fetch allowing a low course taking account of the expected building west going tide. We overdid the low course and ended up having to tack several times to make the finish. Moondog was identified several miles back and if that was her did we have enough time in hand? We did just!
Very pleasant drinks do and then straight off for the trip home – serving No 2 of the Spag Bol. We were very glad to have put plenty of diesel in the tank as the sails were not even close to going up.
A delightful weekend and what a good decision to can the original race, although we withdrew before Peter’s announcement anyway. Thanks to the JOG team as ever.