Cowes-Cherbourg-Cowes Race Report Pt 2

Saturday: Relaxation

JOG organisers have arranged for the presentations of Race 1 to occur in the yacht house at 11.30am with free drinks! Brian explains how JOG have made the races a social event, which is something that sets them apart from other organisers, so I feel like I have picked a brilliant first weekend to introduce myself to offshore racing. Susanne gets us all ready in the morning for a run to the local supermarket / Carrefour beforehand, so that we stock up on wine, cheese and other French goods, something they haven’t always had the luxury of doing in previous years. Once, at the yacht club Brian collects our third place prize and everyone stays for a few hours chatting. We then head back to the boat to drop the prizes off, the skipper stays behind to finish a few jobs off on the boat and Neil (Paracelsus) is attempting to clean the sides of ‘Portsmouth rain’.

Before we all tuck in for the night, discussions about the weather and using the kite on the way back are had, various sails are attached to the deck and rope (sorry, sheets and guys) are rigged up ready for whatever tomorrow brings…

Sunday: Cherbourg – Cowes

Another 7am departure to get out to the start line, but this time we can see our competition and are all trying to catch the little amount of wind the sheltered harbour is providing, unlike the other day we all cross the line as a group, and it feels like I’m watching a slow motion replay as we are all trying very hard to escape Cherbourg. Despite every other encounter I’ve had we have to sit on the low side of the boat, since the wind is so low, will is at the bow shouting out progress of other yachts and alerting to still waters, indicating no wind. We appear to be near the back as we exit but appear to be staying further west than the others, suddenly we are out of the harbour and we are all moving our weight about to get the best from Marta until we are called to action getting the kite up.

Another yacht in the class ahead of us is flying a blue kite, I notice we aren’t flying the picturesque Marta logo I’ve seen pictures of and find out it’s because we have the heavyweight kite. We appear to be making good progress until the boat suddenly gets a gust of wind and turns, we then have the order to get the number 2 sail up in front of the kite to depower it and take the kite down. Conditions have changed.

Thankfully the return leg, although similar to the first in that we point the boat in one direction and sit on the side for several hours, is much more pleasant, we don’t have the snow, and we can see the other boats in our class, I’m attached to the boat, after helping pack a sail on the bow and sit at the end with my back to the waves.

Will is at the helm and we are cutting into the waves this time, causing a few to wash across the boat, a rather large one hits me from behind and I lift up a little, reminding me the importance of holding on J Will sarcastically shouts ‘wave’ so I physically wave at him, this happens several times over the next hour and keeps me amused.

As we approach the Isle of Wight, Brian discusses that we need to stay out to the East as the tide will change and bring us in towards land before we try to tack across into the Solent. We can see Paracelsus inshore, and Brian explains that if the land behind is appearing infront of the yacht we are moving faster, and vice versa. Paracelsus is moving faster… we have a race to the finish.

Our skipper is confident we will cross the line ahead as we have a crew of 7 and are about to use the kite again, whereas our visible competition is a crew of 4 and unlikely to use a kite. Talk of last year’s race and the lack of wind at the finish let’s us know that the weather can play harsh tricks and what should take 30 minutes last year took 2 hours.  We are now nearing the point at which to move into action. I’m directed to the back of the boat to man the winch again, taking direction from Liz or Will who have both been playing with the kite on the journey.

Sat on the low side of the boat near the water, I’m concentrating on listening for commands to winch, when suddenly there is a lot of shouting and I’m facing a large amount of water rushing down the side towards me. The kite has come unattached from the guy rope, and skipper is shouting commands. I sit there staring at the water for several minutes knowing I don’t know how to help and hoping it turns out ok, I’ve done my sea survival course and sit here thinking – I really don’t actually want to go into the water! I wake up and look at the guy rope, its trailing in the water, I can think of something useful to do, pull it of course. I do this and look up, the boat is calmer the team have sorted it out, Brian gives the command to get the kite down, I’m directed into the cabin to pull it down whilst the others feed it through. I then return to deck and sit in the companionway, I must look like a rabbit in headlights as about 3 people ask if I’m ok, which I am. We then set about getting the kite back up, oh well, nothing like getting back on the horse, and we do, and this time it works out perfectly. We overtake several other yachts and cross the line ahead of Paracelsus. Phew.

After a more eventful return race, we find out the next day that we came 3rd again. On reflection I don’t think I could have found a better yacht to race on, the skipper knows his boat and is calm if something goes wrong,  he also knows how to fix anything on it. I’m starting to feel a bit more useful on the boat and hope that I’ll pick up the technical jargon again quickly. I might even mention the wind direction next time?

Written by Emma Newman.