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Thursday, 10 January 2008

Round the Island Race Report

‘Our crew of ten had all made a contribution: trimming sheets; steering; winching; acting as ‘pit-boss’ and, most importantly, brewing-up.’

Looking at the pictures of the 2004 race taken by Glenis – white knuckles on the rail, sou’westers with hoods up, flags flying sideways, stiff as a board – we thought, ‘What fun!’ and decided, as a club, to send two crews to this historic race, as David Hinks reports.

In addition to Tantrum Too (last year’s boat) Tim Hattersley commissioned Juba, a 44ft Bavaria from the same stable. Tim also arranged the pre-race meetings for those new to the race and/or big boat sailing. Tantrum Too had Rob
Phillips (skipper); Glenis; Janet; Pete; David; Giles; Steve and Andrew. Juba had Don Goode (skipper); Tim; Sarah; Helen; Cath; Pete Appleby; Gerrard; John Doré (our
Commodore); Terry and myself, David Hinks.

On Friday, our group went in Tim’s luxurious car – thank you again, Tim – while others flew, and said it was surprisingly cheap and convenient. Provisioning the boat was next and Don Goode and I made sure that a full English breakfast was catered for which, I believe, threw Tim’s budget out a bit.

On to the marina at Hamble Point. A hectic time was had stowing gear and familiarising ourselves with the boat, then gingerly backing out from the finger pontoon for a short practice sail down to Southampton Sound, while we awaited the people coming later.

We set-to learning about winches, topping lifts, life jackets, harnesses, and all the rest of the paraphernalia on a modern sailing cruiser. Wheel steering, too, was new to some; all very different from going round the other island on Yeadon Tarn! The day ended with a meal at The
Boomerang, together with Tantrum Too’s crew.

Saturday dawned: Race Day. So, what do I remember most?

Motoring down the Hamble in the morning mist, together with hundreds of other yachts – time to spot some famous names and to point out some features. ‘If it’s got a very tall mast, with three pairs of spreaders, it’s an out and out racer.’ Sarah gets busy with her camera.

The crowded start-line with sixteen hundred boats (including Ellen MacArthur in B&Q), many with barely steerage way, listening on the radio to race control countdown for our division (we found out how to do this just in time), trying not to drift over the line, and waiting because of a postponement, as a huge cargo ship throbbed past.

Our satisfaction with a good start and the steadily increasing breeze as we passed Yarmouth and the Hurst Narrows (no longer drifting but sailing!). We passed The Needles, heeling to a nice F-3 breeze. It’s an anxious time for navigators: there are sizeable chunks of a wreck called the Varvassi strewn all around The Needles, as well as some outlying rocks just below the surface.

Big discussions about whether to make a long tack offshore, where the wind would be favourable (and also the tide, for part of the time) or tack in close to the Isle of Wight. We chose a big tack out to sea – were we going to France, after all? In retrospect, we probably went too far out.

The satisfaction of knowing that our tacks and jibes were getting smarter under Don’s tutelage, who always made sure we were working safely.

Sail-tweaking, which was the order of the day. It wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll, crash-bang-wallop weather, but a perfect English summer’s day, with a misty start, breeze filling in, a stronger wind dying in late afternoon, and a cooler breeze to finish in the evening.

As we turned round Bembridge Ledge buoy and broad-reached back on the return leg through the Forts, we were treated to a fine sunset, viewed through a forest of multi-coloured spinnakers.

It was at the Forts that our foredeck crew of Gerrard, Terry and John came into their own, using the heavy spinnaker pole to gybe the foresail, with a practised air, as if they’d been doing it all their lives. Although we didn’t have a spinnaker, proficient use of a well-set foresail saw us overtake, or at least keep up with, some higher-rated boats. We were bringing the evening breeze up behind us, too – could Tantrum Too be far ahead?

As we entered the final leg and crossed the finish line, with navigation lights twinkling all around us, we heaved a big sigh of relief. After calling at the declaration barge, we belted at full-speed back to the Hamble, under engine. It was now quite dark. We made a vain attempt to make our dinner-date at The White Hart but, despite our best efforts, it had to be cancelled as it was well past eleven o’clock. We spent the rest of the evening socialising with Tantrum Too’s crew, who were berthed alongside us, enjoying bacon and sausage butties and discussing the race. Juba finished behind Tantrum Too, but in the first third of the entrants overall.

Our crew of ten had all made a contribution: trimming sheets; steering; winching; acting as ‘pit-boss’ and, most importantly, brewing-up. We had three or four navigators on the go, including Pete and John and, notably, Cath Jordan, our youngest crew-member (who’s already taken some RYA exams). We have introduced some crew members to big boat sailing, and others to sailing on the sea for the first time, and all had an enjoyable and safe

Photograph courtesy of Sarah Woffenden
First published in Autumn 2005

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