Today was the last race of the Winter Series and boy had winter arrived; my car was showing an outside temperature of -2°C as I drove to the marina. Our great Skipper had fashioned some hot sausages butties for our breakfast, eaten hungrily on the way to the start. We had seven onboard and we were all looking to put into practice all the lessons learnt during the year, before we forget them over the winter rest period!
The wind was a very gentle WNW breeze ranging from 3-6 knots. The course set by the race committee had three legs and basically was a windward leeward course. As the tide was starting to change and head into Southampton Water on the shore, our general plan was to keep on the right side of each leg. This meant we wanted to start at the committee boat end and head onto port when it was possible. Our upwind plan got modified, within the last 5 minutes prior to the start, as looking up the race track the wind inshore on the right of the course looked lighter than to the left. The best breeze seemed to be straight downwind of Southampton Water entrance. We started well, a little way down the line, with Mefisto just above us. As she was going faster, she quickly rolled us, slowing us up further as we entered her dirty wind. We looked to play the shifts up the beat, with some success, although we got at least one tack on a header wrong, as we headed back straight away. We also struggled to get the same boat speed as the boats around us in the light breeze.
We arrived at the windward mark last, just behind the tightly bunched fleet ahead. Our bear away set was good and we were able to sail deeper, with the same boat speed as many of the fleet in front. This allowed us to overhaul them as they headed out into the last of the East tide. During this period we heard that the race was being shortened at the leeward mark.
Mefisto was the first to gybe to our right of our path and we were clear ahead. Our plan however was to gybe before her track, to maintain our wind and our starboard advantage. We delayed our gybe too long allowing for Mefisto to get behind us and then after a while to roll us again! We continued on port with Light now heading for us, to take our wind and to overtake. We decided to gybe onto starboard as Light rolled us, in attempt to keep some breeze. This manoeuvre meant we got trapped to windward of Degree of Latitude, stopping us from gybing to the finish until they had gybed first. It was a tight finish with Marta being recorded as a deadbeat with With Alacrity in joint 7th place, just behind Degree of latitude and light.
Another very enjoyable day on the water with team Marta, despite the imperfect result.
Andrew Terry (Nav, tactics and kite trimmer)