Invictus at Cowes – everyday is a story
Day 1. Saturday 4th August Bramble start line 11:10. Beach huts!
A wafting breeze and a soft start, not enough wind and way-on for start line jostling, and I am towards the back of the IRC 6 pack. Heading west on the Solent towards the first mark, but the wind dies and a huge wind hole developed trapping us around the Egypt point area on the island side. Wind speed 0.0 to 2.5 knots, Speed through the water 1.0 to 2.0 knots, speed over ground + 1.0 to -0.8. Desperately trying to hold our own against the tide and counting the beach huts on the shore for reference. Up to beach hut 12 and now back to beach hut 7, up to beach hut 15 now back to beach hut 5. Just like snakes and ladders. Like ourselves, lots of yachts battled to get around the first mark for hours! Some had managed to scoot around earlier and had the benefit of the shortened course later on but I retired.
Day 2. Sunday 5th August. Bramble Start line 11:10. Mind the BIG ship!
A bit more wind and a good start, some good boat speed, lost a bit of ground early to fine sailing by the other yachts/crews. Half way around the course there was a nice long reach and our 60 sq/meter code zero finally gave us the opportunity for some excellent fast sailing and opportunity to overtake many of our competitors and improve our position. But this success was short lived, coming off the last mark we didn’t have the right bearing and I went the wrong side of the Ship moored outside in Cowes roads, not an issue normally but then a yacht not racing and under power crossed my bow twice (why in heaven’s sake) and I had limited room to manoeuvre due to other yachts on my starboard side. Losing wind behind the ship and with limited ability to manoeuvre I was getting pushed onto the ship by the tide, and I had to start the engine and use it for 30 seconds to push us clear. I retired for use of engine and we are all feeling disappointed as it looked like a good finish time.
Day 3. Monday 6th August RYS Start line 1. 14:50 WATER!
Always feels like a privilege to be on the RYS line and we have a postponed start due to the wind being fickle and we wait for the sea breeze to build. I am drifting about with my binoculars trained on the flag staff and notice the AP over AP removed to a single AP. We are looking good for starting soon. Meanwhile, only a handful of yachts are out here readying themselves, and then after 45 minutes the race officials make a remark about AP over AP being removed over an hour ago on the radio in, “typical educational fashion”, Yachts begin to swarm out of Cowes harbour after that. Lots of jostling on my start and I hang back a bit and get a clear line into good air and sailing well. We are all pressed up against the inside trying to escape the tide and I am pinned tight against the beach watching the depth sounder. I can see worried looking swimmers as I press on towards the shore with several yachts on my starboard side. The shallow alarms suddenly cry out from my instruments as if they are wounded animals and I call for WATER! The call carries across the line and we all tack in unison like a flock of birds connected by natures instinct, it’s a beautiful moment. Today finished 15th out of 20.
Day 4. Tuesday 7th 14:20. Bramble start line Good Sailing.
Another day of delays and shorthanded with only the three of us onboard. The wind is good enough today and the yacht is better balanced. Made a good start and some good upwind gains and lifts and the whole black group is spread out fairly evenly over the Solent. I have eased passed a few fellow competitors upwind and been able to hold my position downwind in the fleet coming in 14th.
Day 5. Wednesday 8th 11:40 BGCV Line West. Between the legs
The start today is well West, much further than we thought at 3 nautical miles away, and I am now running the engine flat out to make the start line. Fortunately, I make it with 10 minutes to spare, phew! We are shorthanded with only three of us on-board today and the wind is 15 - 20 Knots gusting 25 at times, but I stick with the standard sail plan and I don’t reef or change to the smaller jib. We come off the start line well, but we are a fairly small and lightweight yacht so its heavy going and tricky helming conditions in the short waves and the mainsheet and traveller are being played like a fiddle. Being shorthanded we don’t fly the spinnaker on the first downwind leg and pole out the jib instead, we are sailing at 6 knots and going well but fall behind the main pack. As I start to round the downwind mark I am able to nicely undercut another yacht and harden up, but there is a gust and his yacht semi-broaches as they try to down the spinnaker and he swings to port out of control and I watch as his bow pokes over my open transom sending up water between my legs! Steady boys! It is a tough sail in these conditions. We fly the spinnaker for the final downwind leg, and I know we are at the rear of the fleet but it’s an absolute joy to have the spinnaker up in 20 Knots of wind and sail at 7 to 8 knots and surf to the finish. Delicious.
Day 6. Thursday 9th 11:00 Bramble line. Full speed Tide at 1st mark
Steering clear of a few yachts who have each other in their sights at the top of the table, and I make a nice reaching start, but unfortunately the wind drops and I (along with others) being pushed down tide of the mark. It’s a precious 10 minutes lost as I tack against the current in 3 knots of wind and make a ferry glide passed the mark. We work the yacht hard in the changeable light winds and manage to recover a couple of places, we have a great sail, and lots of hand waving to friends on the water. Downwind to the finish and good sailing and a bit of a scramble getting the spinnaker down, ended up finishing 17th.
Day 7. Friday 10th 11:10 BGVC line East. Abandoned
We are sent out to the East 2.5 nautical miles in an effort to gain some better conditions and I have 2 reefs in place and the small jib. First squall comes through about 10:30 its over 25 knots and I am reaching fast to the start line. There are not many yachts out here I think I only count 4 out of the 20 in our class. Another squall blows through and we see 30 knots on the wind speed indicator, I am heading for the start line but I can’t see through the rain and hail and I have to make an additional tack to avoid the committee boat. We press on and make it around the first windward mark with the wind increasing to 35 Knots and the sea is building in that wind against tide fashion. It is becoming difficult to mange the yacht and we decide to retire at 12:10 (approx.). We partly roll up the jib and set course for the Hamble the wind is now gusting to 40 knots, and we decide to get the main right down as its difficult to maintain the heading. I SMS-text in the retirement at 12:19. Its now blowing a force 8 and a steady 35 to 40 knots as we return to Hamble and we are surfing up to 11.2 knots on a handkerchief of jib. Racing was Abandoned around 12:30. We had four experienced and capable people on the yacht today, thank goodness.