Third time lucky for fast cruisers
After two cancelled starts due to bad weather and floating debris, February's Fast Cruise to Cowes on Saturday was third time lucky - and boy, were we lucky. What a treat it was to be on the water and, with only one more race left in the series before the gala prize giving at The Royal Marine's Museum in March, the competition went up a gear.
Fantastic conditions due to the stationary high pressure gave us Champagne Fast Cruising in perfect short sleeve conditions - on the down wind legs that is. Down wind legs with 10 to 15 knots apparent wind were the main feature of the race and the fleet quickly split into two - those flying spinnaker or assymetric, and those with only white sails.
According to the rules there was a ten minute window at the start but competition was fierce to be over the start line just east of the forts exactly on the horn, an indication of how seriously the 17 skippers were taking this race in an effort to secure or improve their position for the final on 15th March. Those boats at the northern end of the start line were just able to beat to the first mark without tacking before rounding onto a short beam reach followed by a broad reach back to the start line.
A lovely down wind leg then took them half way up the Eastern Solent before starting an into the wind / downwind sausage followed by a big triangle and finally a run home downwind to the finish in Cowes Roads - 22nm of exhilarating, crisp, fast sailing.
Dinner was an LSC take-over by 72 ravenous members of an authentic Isle of Wight curry house, and by then the results had been compiled. First place on corrected time was Bill Blaine's J109 Batfish, followed by Paul Turner's Grand Soleil Artemis, and Lynn Griffiths' Temptress in third. Sobriety, series leader prior to the race, had to make do with 8th place - mostly due to the amount of Scotch owner Barry Brinsmead was carrying onboard on what was clearly always going to be a downwind race. Furious attempts to re-position the Scotch to the back of the boat didn't trim his Jeanneau 35 sufficiently well to make up for his lack of canvas.
Among other highlights, Bill Lewis in his Oyster Heritage Musyk, last years series winner, battled with gear failure to his main sheet traveller and Tim Bizzey in an unfamiliar charter boat with no downwind sails brought her home a creditable 40 corrected minutes behind the winner. New competitor Jof Buttery in his Hanse 400 Grey Goose fought to tame an impressive grey spinnaker and Graham Pinner's Snoek missed a key mark in the triangle part of the course and accounted for an elapsed time of over 7 hours. "I'm delighted to have finished" said Graham proudly.
Top three in the series so far with all to play for are Martyn Graham's Sadler 32, Willow, followed by Sobriety and Brian Humber's light weight Barracuda 45 in third place. In the IRC class Temptress leads Artemis in second place, with Roger Graham's Contessa Wight Wizard still in the running for the silver ware.
The next race is an 1100 start on Saturday 15th March, ending at Gunwharf Quays. The series prizes will be awarded by Tom Cunliffe, himself no slouch on a race course, who sadly, but thankfully is unwilling to test his 40 foot wooden gaffer against the rest of the fleet.
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