Arriving in Gosport Marina at 08:20, the sky was overcast and the wind rattling the halyards. Only having 7 crew for the race, all signs pointed to a busy day aboard Marta.
We left the marina with a single reef in the main, hungrily eating our bacon butties on the way to the race track.
By the time we got to the start line the wind had dropped. So we shook out the reef and for about 30 seconds we even considered bringing up the number one, as the wind strength was less than 15 knots. The thought was quickly quashed as looking down the Solent, it was clear that there was strong winds to come. The number 2 and full main were our choice.
We made a good start, close to the line at the Committee Boat end, with clear air and strong boat speed. For the first beat to Royal London we headed out to the left, looking to use the west tide to the maximum. We over-stood the buoy slightly, as did some others, but rounded in 4th. The spinnaker was rigged and ready to go, but we decided coming into the buoy to keep it in the bag and white sail to Flying Fish. We then hoisted at the buoy as we bore away another 30 degrees. The hoist went smoothly and we continued to charge after Zanzara and Kindred Spirit, about 6 boat lengths ahead. The leeward rounding was to port so we decided to hoist the foresail early, drop the spinnaker and then gybe as we came into the mark. This approach worked well until the genoa sheets got caught in the fore-hatch hinge as it was closed, meaning we were unable to get the genoa in and hence were slow off the mark to windward. That resolved, we gained our speed again and tacked out left into the westing tide. Our mishap unfortunately allowed the two boats ahead of us to get away and for Light to catch us. As the next mark was Air Canada, which is further south than Royal London, we could head into the deeper water before tacking onto port to move up the Solent. We were nicely set for a port rounding and a bear away set, when we realised late that it was a Starboard rounding. Quickly swinging the gear around, we put in two quick tacks to leave the mark to starboard. A well executed bear away set saw us heading off on port tack, before gybying onto starboard part way down the leg, to enable Marta to come into the mark on starboard. This meant the genoa was on the wrong side again with no room to gybe before the mark, so this time we decided to do a bareheaded drop, gybe and then a genoa hoist as we rounded. This all went well, allowing us to head back up to Royal London for the final time. We tacked fairly quickly, onto starboard and then back onto port, about 10 boat lengths off the lay line. At Royal London we did a gybe set (catching the kite on the hatch handle as it was hoisted) and carried the kite for the last time to the leeward mark of Hamble Yacht Services. As this was also going to be another port rounding, we moved the genoa over to allow a spinnaker drop after a gybe close to the mark. The last beat to Hill Head was quite short and we stayed right, as the wind looked strong on that side, even though the tide might have been a fraction strong against us.
We crossed the line just behind Light with Kindred Spirit pushing us from behind. A hard fought race saw Marta finish in 5th, putting us in a good position for next week’s exciting final race in the Hamble Winter Series.
Andrew Terry (Bow)