High water was just after five so that the tide was falling all through the evening and in such a gentle breeze it was essential to ride it down the Roads or avoid the deep water channel on the return. Daniel Tregaskes, skipper of Grace mis-quoted Lawrie Smith in saying that getting the right course makes you a tactical genius. This may be a slight exaggeration but in U class we heard a radio conversation between the committee boat and one of our competitors who clearly was misreading the race instructions or he had last year’s edition at hand who did not know where to go.
On board Hecate we made a good start, we soon tacked onto port to get clear air but we also gained from staying in shallow water where the tide was not so fast. Those who stood on, going into the main channel suffered to our advantage but it was only as we approached the Vilt that we appreciated how fast the tidal stream was. From a hundred yards away we were confident of our course but as we got nearer and felt the sideways sweep of the stream we realised that we should have stayed on port longer.
We turned the mark by the skin of our teeth hoisted the spinnaker and went towards Black Rock. In the light air we went down wind at almost wind speed and so the spinnaker was continually collapsing and it needed constant tweaking and adjustment. At the mark we dropped the spinnaker hoisted the genoa and went onto starboard going towards Pendennis Point.
It was a long cool and frustrating climb upwind and uptide with positions changing as the holes in the wind got bigger and it took us over an hour to finish at the eastern arm of the docks. Many competitors dropped out but we kept moving and seconds after drifting across the line a new breeze set in! It was surprisingly difficult to pick up the buoy, roll the sails and put away the gear in the dark.