A dominant Anticyclone to the north and a complex system of depressions to the south made the wind blow very hard on Friday 5th May. Saturday loomed and initially the strong wind abated leaving it overcast and as forecast, rain: “Liquid Sunshine” as Len Cheshire described it.
Dave Owens, the Race Officer had hoisted the AP below the white flag on the flagpole as the RFA Mounts Bay was due to leave at 1400 hrs, just when we would be beating down the harbour. Not a good plan!
At about 1435-ish, after the man with the gert* starting handle had wound up the main engine the three attendant tugs pushed, pulled and dragged her out to sea, Bon Voyage. Dave assisted by Paul and sundry dropped the AP and the start sequence began.
Five yachts comprised the U fleet and Len Cheshire in Sweet Friday held the banner for W class. The wind had dropped quite considerably from mid morning and we were set an easterly group course 3 which entailed Waterloo to port, North Bank to port and finish. W class were given West Narrows to starboard and finish.
There was a nice driving breeze off the clubhouse and we elected to sail down the line on starboard, tack off the end of the quay and set off on port down the harbour. Bob Chapple on Wilkie did the same but was buried underneath us. Trifle set off chased hard by Wilkie with Popincoota and Kiamana close behind. Mike Swingler in Ida followed the eastern mooring line.
On Trifle we went inside Caldy and Frigate bouys as the tide was still making. Bob followed in Wilkie and then followed us toward the jack up rigs by the docks. Wilkie tacked early and it looked like we had hit a soggy patch with no wind. Soon it picked up and gave us a magic lift toward the first mark. As we left the harbour entrance the wind started to dance both in strength and direction. Headers, lifters, breeze, no breeze – they all came and went.
In the end Trifle made the Waterloo mark just ahead of Popincoota and Wilkie who carried a fresh breeze with them while we struggled with a zephyr. A standard bear away spinnaker set on starboard pole turned into a Brian Rix farce on Trifle as we hoisted the kite first upside down and then inside out with a humungous twist. The Go Pro footage is excruciating to watch as first Popincoota sails over the top of us and goes off like a scalded cat, (where do they get their boatspeed on a kite run?), then Wilkie starts to take us to windward and only by a quick luff and the now filling kite do we hold our own.
Popincoota was first around North Bank and gybed off toward Trefusis point. Trifle was second around and after a sloppy gybe tried to play catchup. Bob got the bit between his teeth and went very high and very fast toward a wind line. We followed suit and held the luff for a time. The Go Pro footage again shows us being stuffed by Wilkie driving over the top of us and dumping dirty wind. OK, sail the boat and find your own line. Drive off down and clear your air. Kiamana came around the bouy and was not flying a spinnaker. She gybed and followed us into the harbour. Nigel later told me that they had a wine glass kite on the first run and had to take it down. We could see Len in Sweet Friday coming down by the docks as we saw Popincoota gybe by the turn of the Flushing side moorings. Trifle and Wilkie were now closing and I held a candle to the wind fairy which she accepted allowing us to get an overlap on Wilkie just before the gybe. It happened and we now held the inside track against the continuous obstruction of the moorings. Popincoota finished just under two minutes ahead of us and we held Wilkie toward the finish line. Not done yet Bob lifted up and tried to get above and over us as we cleared the moorings some 50 yards from the quay. We responded and beat Wilkie to the line by a whisker. I hope someone took photos from the clubhouse as it would make a great shot.
Popincoota had line honours with Trifle ahead of Wilkie then Kiamana and Ida, Sweet Friday had a sailover? Come on you white sailers get out and give Len some competition.
Thanks to Dave and Paul. Giles for delivering us to and fro and Jenny Jakeways who did a fantastic spread including a to die for blueberry pie!! Yum. On a sad note we bade farewell to Minx as we beat down the harbour. She was en route to her new home in Ireland. We will miss the colourful Minnie. The results will be on the website as problems were encountered with the Sailwave programme.
*gert, adj. also: gurt: allegedly Bristolian slang for great, big or very.