01 October 2019
This weekend was the last two races of the JOG inshore series. Purple Mist was lying in second place in the double handed section and three of our 2H rivals were signed up for this race, realistically based on past performance I was expecting them to come past us... however as the old saying goes you need to be in it to win it and you can do well in overall seasons points by completing the races.
The weather forecast was showing gale force winds so sensibly we were on the red flag course meaning all would be revealed on Saturday morning.
The adventure really started Friday night. Rob and I wanted to listen to the talk at RORC Cowes by Will Harris Figaro sailor and meet up with a few other double handed pals. So at 16:30 we set off for what was supposed to be a little jaunt across the Solent under engine to Cowes. Being experienced and seasoned sailors we were well prepared for the 30kt forecast ..... not ! I had on just my non waterproof midlayer and Rob normal trousers and a waterproof jacket. As we battled the strong spring tide and the 30kts winds off Calshot doing less than 1kt under the poxy 15hp engine with big waves crashing over the deck totally drenching us we wondered why we hadn’t bothered to dress properly. It took just over 2 hrs to get to Cowes and at one point I wondered whether the engine had the power to fight the tides at Cowes entrance. Anyway we finally made it to the empty yacht haven , totally drenched to be greeted by a somewhat damp Deb Fish from Bellino, they had had a similar crossing experience.
Saturday dawned and after the Friday experience we wondered what we were letting ourselves in for. However it was sunny as well as ridiculously windy so before we knew it we were off.
We chose a pretty conservative sail plan being only 2 aboard. No spinnakers this weekend and the J3 reefed to a J4 for the upwind legs. Our start was reasonable given the conditions but we fluffed up the first tack and found ourselves heading for the shore at Egypt point. The waves and the wind were conspiring against me I had no further room to bear away to get speed, but not enough speed to make the tack. It was like Purple Mist was saying ohh look at that lovely wall over there, let’s not do this race but instead let’s go and tie up to it. Purple Mist the first (previous boat) once had a little brush with the bottom in a similar place but that was in 5kts of wind , flat calm and a tiny bump .... this was 30kts of wind and it was not going to be pretty. Anyway in the nick of time she tacked and we were thankfully off to the North away from the hazard. Martin later told me all the race officers in the JOG box were willing me round, shouting encouraging comments about my choice of sail plan .....with one hand poised on the radio to make a mayday call.
The next leg was up to Elephant just off Newtown creek, as tide was against us it was short tacking off Gurnard . After our brush with catastrophe we decided to play it a bit safe and not go as shallow as we would normally. It was fun match racing with Pure Attitude and crossing tacks as the Class 3 boats caught us up.
As we rounded the mark I shook out the reef in the jib and we were flying, over 30kts of wind and we reached 12.5 kts of boat speed. A chance for a short rest and gather our thoughts as we came thundering past Pure Attitude.
Many boats went for the spinnakers, some more successfully than others. I’m not sure who this was behind us but that spinnaker was all wrapped up saying...”No no no put me away back into my bag, it’s too windy for me” which they did. Next time I looked round it had gone.
The rest of the race was more of the same. The downwind legs were super speedy. The upwind legs super wet and bouncy. However we were ahead of the other Sunfast 3200 Mzungu, and we never spotted the other double handed boats so maybe we were doing ok. The tide was ripping past the buoys so all roundings had to be done very carefully.
It was a long upwind beat to the finish with wind over tide making it super bouncy. I had been winching all day and was absolutely done in. Oh to be on a fully crewed boat with 6 or 8 sets of fresh arms to grind sails. Anyway with the strong spring tide pushing us along the end was in sight.
We came into the line on starboard tack and basically should have tacked onto port. Rob said he was saving my worn out arms and trying to miss the yellow buoy KMS. Everything happened so quickly but before I could say ... “Shit that is Egypt point wall again”... we were flying towards Egypt point wall. This time Rob fluffed the tack and as we were over the finish line I dived below to put the engine on.
Sunfast 3200 engines do not give power until they have warmed up but we shoved it onto max revs and in the nick of time the bow came round. As you see from the track we didn’t have much more room. Twice in one day the sailing gods were with us.. I’m not going to be going anywhere near again in a hurry.
The race was done but even taking the sails down was a wrestling match. Bouncing waves and strong winds I just shoved sail ties round the two heaps of mainsail and jib. By this stage I just wanted to get tied up to a pontoon.
Back to Cowes and due to a logistical error by the skipper we were booked into Shepards. However after the excitement of the day we needed a calm couple of hours to take it all in, racing double handed in 30kts is a bit mad.
Imagine my surprise when, looking at the very brilliant live results that JOG now has, we beat Mzungu. The other double handers had all scratched the race.. no wonder we didn’t see them. This is Purple Mists first ever race win so myself and the Penguins were beyond excited.
Saturday night was a fantastic JOG party in the Cowes classic boat museum. A chance to see the original JOG boats of Theta and Sopranino. They are very very small and Sopranino went across the Atlantic. We were not the only boat with tales to tell. J Fever ripped their mainsail on a gybe and Azygos has a little broach too near a buoy, got caught up and mangled the pushpit. I’m sure there were other boats with damage.
Given the forecast was worse on Sunday the crowd gave a big cheers when Martin announced racing was abandoned. Good job for Purple Mist as my coskipper had already refused to go racing again. So that just left some complimentary beverages to be consumed at the Party and a lazy breakfast in Cowes on Sunday.
Best comment of the weekend was by Rob. My liferaft for the season was on hire and as you don’t need it for inshore races and the time was up I had given it back Friday morning. I was reflecting on the fact we had completed the race in that strong wind and waves and we didn’t even have a liferaft. Quick a a flash Rob said “ we didn’t need a liferaft, we could have stepped ashore twice!”