With a high tide at 17:17 we all knew that there would be a struggle coming back to the finish but none of us realised how the difficulty would be compounded by fluky breezes at crucial moments.
On Hecate we cast off and sailed to the start area under the spinnaker before a light westerly. The committee boat was anchored just south of east three hundred metres from the Governor with the pin laid to the west of the anchored boat. Altogether forty seven boats started and so it was crowded as we all looked at the line, read our courses and looked for the first mark. The wind veered to a north westerly and as we watched earlier classes we thought that the line had a committee boat bias caused by the strong tidal flow. Abbi Cook in Midnight Cocktail was reported to have made a nano-second perfect start encouraged by the bow roller of the chasing boat very close behind. We got away well and started a long beat to Trefusis where we caught up with W class. On the way we passed one of the earlier classes where one blue spinnaker was in a tight wine glass which was difficult to clear because the tack was at the end of the protruding bowsprit.
At the Trefusis mark it was crowded with two classes trying to round and at last we did and so we bore away and hoisted our spinnaker. Coming from the bag in the main hatch there was a lot of friction and it tied in a large knot but after a long fight it cleared and we hoisted it only to find that several boats had passed us. At the Governor we sheeted in and went over towards the Waterloo mark following four leading boats and at the mark Gap Year tacked immediately onto starboard out into the middle of the Roads but the rest of us stayed on port close to the St Mawes shore to avoid the tide. At last we tacked and we found that we had made the right decision because we had made up considerable ground on Gap Year who was no longer in the lead. As we neared the Vilt we felt the full power of the tide pulling us sideways but Mike Swingler our helm did a perfect job as we got round at first attempt which is more than can be said for everyone.
We had to pass Trefusis and Paul Collins on Moonlighter raised the spinnaker which filled with the pole on the forestay but it pulled them sideways and so we managed to overtake. Further ahead as Deep Purple, who points much higher than us tried to overtake Gap Year there was a collision and Deep Purple was forced to do a three hundred and sixty degree penalty turn which allowed us to catch up. We neared the finish and the race traffic became very congested as the channel narrowed. A noisy diesel engined fishing boat registered in Caernarfon barged through the fleet giving us all problems so we wished him a speedy return to the land of his fathers.
It was good to see the Sunbeams out and I was told that the fastest Falmouth lady navigated her husband round the course to finish in first place. When the wind veered from northwest to north Sol Stainer and Jeff Martin recovered after hitting the starting mark and doing the necessary penalty turn to come a gallant second. The class captain in Pixy helmed by Nigel Glanville got in third but John Lowry in Saucy Sally retired but they all enjoyed the sunshine on the quay afterwards.
The rules in the Sigma class have changed and this let Excelle sport new North sails which took them to victory sailing on the sunny side of the river. As Hawk came to the line getting very close to the quay wall I was impressed by the speed with which they started the engine as the hooter sounded giving them power to find clear water. The warm sun and following breeze before the start did not prepare us for the chill as we went to windward but we all took pleasure in the challenge of light airs, strong tide and crowded competition.