Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Drifting - 2: Round the Island

As the sun rose glowing fresh above the mist of the Hamble river we were forced out of snug sleeping bags at 05:00 to head out to the unfeasibly early start of the Round the Island Race.

Our class start was 07:00 with first gun at 06:50, but with plenty of time to spare we could see the Open 60 head off after their start, followed by the multi-hulls with the Volvo 40s taking the lead with impressive speed.

The early starters favoured the southern or island end of the line, but as the tide built the preference moved north to the middle. We were a bit too far north for our start for my liking, and our timing wasn't brilliant, but at least we had the tide with us almost all of the way round.

Which was just as well as we certainly didn't have wind all the way round. There were big wind holes at three corners of the Isle of Wight, namely the Needles (below), St. Catherine's point, and just after the Bembridge buoy (race course can be found here).

But its hard to complain when it was so sunny and we were out with over 1,500 other boats - from Open 60s to little dinghies. With around 12,000 sailors it is the UK's third biggest participant sporting event.

It was a day when sun cream and water was passed around time and time again.

The most annoying wind hole was after Bembridge when we should have gone hard in-shore following the examples of Brazil and Pirates. Instead we sat there wondering how those boats could be moving while we were drifting between a buoy and a lobster pot. I comforted myself with remembering that Mike Sanderson and ABN1 were in the same position the previous day.

And at least we got round, unlike half the fleet: stuck by the Needles wind hole when the tide turned they had no chance.

Ands whats more we got a mooring in Cowes without any rafting out, were in the beer tent by 18:30 and having a spicy Indian by 19:30. Though by 01:00 in the early hours it was feeling like a very very long day.

My favourite bit? Helming at the end towards and over the line, battling boats crossing on opposing tacks.

My least favourite bit? A toss up between that ******* who forced us to crash gybe when on starboard and he was on port, and letting our rivals get passed us half a mile from the line.

Next time we'll do better. Yup, there's definitely going to be a next time.

All pictures (c) Captain JP

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