Knowing I was in Ukraine till Thursday I had left the yacht in Gosport to allow for last minute delays and not to have a too stressful Friday. Good thing I did, the Polish airline LOT was dreadful and we did not get back to Chichester until 2am on Friday.
Anyway Friday evening saw the regular Ronhilda gang enjoy the standard evening meal of Fish and Chips, I must confess I caught up on sleep 8pm to 8 am so missed the usual banter in the saloon after the meal.
Saturday saw a bit more wind forecast than I was comfortable risking my old lightweight geny with so we stuck with the 30 year old big heavyweight 140% geny. This we reasoned would move us around ok on beats and reaches and we would just have to live with seeing others going a lot faster than us downwind. We pottered down to the start engine off under main only enjoying the first of the days bacon/sausage butties - food being a key factor in Ronhilda's Fast Criuse battleplans.
And so we set off on our last Long haul criuse of the winter. Any staysail fitted yachts soon speed off into the distance on any leg they could set these sails but we noted we kept up with them on beats. Indeed some rather slick jibes and tacks were the order of our day together with usual susage rolls, teas and coffees. However it was too windy to be able to read the papers in the cockpit which we have been known to do on long fast cruise legs.
The clubs Librarian is a valued crew member of Ronhilda and seems to enjoy our company, for which we in turn are very grateful for as she makes a mean Bread and Butter Pudding which goes down a treat on the Fast Cruises. Any left over bread is taken home and recyled as Bread and Butter Pudding for the next cruise as we like to feel we are doing our bit for recyling.
Around the course we went noting that once again we seemed to go round a certain buoy called Browndown far too many times yet again, East Bramble also getting very familar. We finished after a bit of final slow downwind leg as the tide was now against us and headed off to Cowes Yacht Haven, always a bit of a let down to the Isle of Wight. The first berth we were given was against a yacht with very high freeboard so our stanchions would have gouged scratches in his gel coat on no time at all. Advising the Marina of this we were sent to the outer breakwater rolypoly pontoon which had no electrics and rotten planking. Indeed some other visitor fell in. Still this was not too bad until a Stag Party weekend yacht came to moor quite hard alongside us . They did not seem to think shorelines were necessary and disappeared off to continue their partying but not before we had told then to expect a morning welcome call at 0630.
We enjoyed the Island Sailing club venue ( especially those looking at the rugby on the televisual devices ) but being the last table served on balance would have preferred the main course Plaice to have been cooked rather than semi liquid raw meat, three of us suffering later that night from upset stomachs. What was a surprise was to have come 3rd overall on the Progressive handicap over the winter. Not being bothered or wanting the expense to get a measure for Ronhilda, our handicap for a 30 year old yacht is the 2nd worst in the fleet so its not surprising I could not average over 12 knots in the LSC handicap on some months to win. However being at the back of the fleet over the years since the new systems were introduced has seen our progressive handicap evened out to the point it seems we can be in the mix again. Anyway it was a very pleasant surprise considering I was seriously considering giving up sailing after the NHS cockup with my appendix last July and the resulting months of pain and infections and should not have really taken part on some cruises.
Getting up at the 0630am the Stag party skipper and crew did not have the most glorious of departures to let us out. He used the his bowthruster far too much (why do yachts under 50 foot have bowthrusters, learn to manoeuvre properly for God's sake) and ended up broadside across the outer and inner pontoons. Poor old Woolverine nearly got t-boned with excessive throttle use I wonder if he was awakened by them. We slipped away and setting 2 reefs and geny had a 8/9 knot undisturbed passage back to Gulag Chichesterstan just managing to get in before a national dinghy event had crowded out Hayling Bay with over 50 little cherubs going everywhere.
And so my thanks to Ronhildas crew of Debbie, Andy, Steven, Ian and Robin who helped keep me going in the early cruises and also to Graham and his team for organising things over the months. Unsung heroes, they put in a lot of work.
Brian and not forgetting Ronhilda himself / herself.