Penrose Sails Champagne pursuit series, 8th October

It was a balmy day with very little puff. Saturday 8th October saw the second of the Penrose Sails Champagne Pursuit race. Roger Little, the club's President put up the S over L flags denoting light airs short course. Trefusis to port; Vilt to starboard; South Narrows to starboard; Governor to port; Castle to port; West Narrows to port and finish. Phew only 5 miles!

Clementine and Miss Agnes took off early followed by Sweet Friday, Aries, Mary Boon, Tomaray, Amneris and Thirteen. At 1313 hrs we crossed the line in Trifle and looking back saw that the start area was still crowded with lots of boats still waiting to start. Incredibly for an Octoberís day there were 21 starters! Nearly as many as some clubs get in July.

Since the tide was ebbing and would continue to do so throughout the race, it made sense to stay in the middle of the fairway as much as possible and we soon got moving on a port tack with a lee bow lifter to Andy Campbellís MFV. A tack onto starboard took us toward Caldy buoy and the temptation to tack back and stay in the tide dissipated as we had a 20 degree lift. Soon the continuous obstruction moorings loomed and we tacked over to port and toward the docks. A slight lull in the wind coupled with a header made us dip Tomaray and we then picked up breeze and a lifter into the Port Pendennis pool. The next tack took us past 3 boats and a short tack to Trefusis and back again saw us make the Vilt and pass Miss Agnes. Clementine was off like a long dog toward South Narrows and we kept her in our sights as we passed Sweet Friday.

I was looking at the windex as it showed the wind squaring on our beam. Kite or no Kite? that was the question. Mary Boon behind us certainly thought so as she had headed high off the Vilt and hoisted. The idea soon left me as I saw her headed and slowed, we were making good progress! Oh dear a header and drop in the breeze saw us fall away as we had to dip Clementine crossing on starboard. I could hear the swish of a bow wave behind me and there was Sweet Friday creaming under us with a new wind!! We got it and accelerated away tacked and made South Narrows first. Yee Ha! We set a port pole kite and barreled away toward Governor. Donít look behind! But I did and saw them all fighting for position behind us! Alas a few of the faster boats were already coming up behind and playing catchup. We had kept the Genoa up and so took a late windward kite drop and rounded Governor, hardened up onto port tack and took the sluice down toward Black Rock. Audrey, a Sunbeam had tacked around about 5 boat lengths behind us and then tacked off onto starboard, OK I got that lee bow the tide but we got a 30 degree lift and Castle was only 10 degrees off our bow? Carry on and keep sailing! Castle looked to be nearing our beam and we decided on an early tack to lee bow onto the buoy. Drat Tim Cunliffe in Too Insatiable who came just behind us and the pesky Sunbeam was coming up on port tack to make it just ahead of us. Too Insatiable made it round as did the Sunbeam, but we then rounded, set the kite and Whoosh Vindscreen Viper went by in eighth gear. We started toward West Narrows and held our own watching the two fast boats ahead set their asymmetric kites and perform a ballet of gybes up the harbour.

We rounded the West Narrows and sailed all but dead downwind playing catchup but not quite with Audrey the Sunbeam. Right in under Trefusis to escape the still strong ebb tide and enjoyed a better wind pressure near the coast. A perfect gybe by my 11 and 14 year old crew ably assisted by Gaye brought us past the moored boats and inside Frigate and Caldy. Another fast sports boat called Juno sailed by a Whisky Baron went through us and we rounded the fairway for the last dash to the finish. Another fast boat with a big red asymmetric kite looked to threaten us but a perfect gybe put us close to the moorings as he pushed tide outside us. We headed for the FSC quay end and pipped him into 5th behind Too Insatiable, Vindscreen Viper, Juno and Audrey.

Kite down and return to the moorings with an “Oi!” shout from the quay I looked up and some irate fisherman complained that I had crossed his line. I explained that it was our finish line and pointed out the armada of yachts bearing down on the line. We packed away and again got told off when we came back in the launch. Confrontation on the quay – he was one upset bunny: never mind, tea and cakes and après sailing beckoned and we dived into the club for safety.

Thanks to Roger and Jeannette in the ops room. The tea lady who stepped in at the last moment. Giles for transporting us and Bob Chapple the sailing sec for brilliant courses.

Chris Jelliss