Racing: Cervantes Trophy 2007
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Cervantes Trophy 2007


Cervantes trophy 07 or “Le Havre via Sussex”

After weeks of Mediterranean weather , it was inevitable that the first offshore race in the year would coincide with a blow .  Or would it? In fact the forecast was for a windy Sunday afternoon and Monday , with Saturday seeing the transition from NE to SW winds  , setting a nice little meteorological puzzle.  Would there be a seabreeze to help us on the Sussex scenic route ? The wind would be light and offshore  , initially North – but backing to NW  - so it was possible.

The outer end of the line seemed marginally  better , so we opted to start 2/3 rd way out to avoid the crush. We held 2nd  for a while and managed to just  be  1st through the Forts by  going North of Ryde middle and keeping to the best tide lines. The  wind  ( cold damp and about NE 10 knots  - not great sea-breeze conditions) teased us by being on the edge of a kite – and at the Forts we tried one – only to have it go forward  so that we lost  a bit of our lead.

The nearer we got to the Owers , the lighter and more backed the wind became  , and once more we were tempted into a kite , but the slop shook whatever wind we had out of it and we dropped back again. From Owers to Littlehampton would have been a beat  had not the wind died  and the sun appeared – but where would the next  wind come from? We had tacked inshore to get  a lift from the tide , which put is upwind of the fleet when at 1220 a little Westerly drift appeared . The wind  gradually backed into the SW , but although we were marginally earlier into the breeze , our rivals were further downwind in what was now a run  so we took a 1 mile hit and saw Persephone go  through.

As we were sailing fairly high angles we tried my trick of a  No3  tacked to windward as a spinnaker staysail. Opinions varied as to whether it worked. We certainly left  a much lighter SJ 320 behind – but seemed to speed up when we took it down – so next time we try it we need to  be alongside another 38.

From the buoy off Littlehampton , it was pretty much straight to Le Havre .  But how should we play it? At 6 knots the course was 175 , and we could make 180 out of the mark on the wind in 13 knots, so chose to keep this 5 degrees in the bank.The downside to this strategy was getting down wind and tide if we had significant calm spells. As we sailed away from the land the wind gradually veered  , and eased , suggesting that this had been a  gentle seabreeze augmenting a Westerly gradient. The majority of the fleet stayed hard on the wind , but we decided the Westerly  would hold and cracked off early on the same course. After a while Persephone did the same and then it was just a question of who trimmed the best. Hour by painstaking  hour we stole degree after degree of bearing on her ,until as night fell we  were level , but half a mile to lee.  Now the veer came in with a vengeance , giving us a true wind angle of 105 , so up went the kite , and unlike earlier in the day , this time it really paid.

By 2 in the morning it was bitterly cold and   the wind was very light , For a while our rhumb line course looked  over ambitious, as the E going tide was  threatening  to sweep us the wrong side of A5 . Luckily   it came back in , bringing  a suspiciously  “Persephone like”  port light with it  , and they rounded a few cables astern. We peeled to our  light  kite at this mark and may have headed a bit low , so soon had the heavy kite back on  at 100 true . Dawn revealed  Persephone on our Starboard quarter  and brought about a flurry of activity as we struggled up to her line to avoid being rolled. It also revealed Major Tom ,  a French Dufour  rating the same as us just ahead – and a  J92 rating 1 tick less  just astern .  And that’s how we stayed .

So ,  a light wind race  with lots of shy reaching. How could we have done better? We probably lost 10 minutes  by me being too eager with the kite in the light sloppy early stages (would it have  been OK in flat water and stable winds?) . Predicting , and understanding  how to place ourselves for the new breeze at Owers might at best have won us back 20 mts  .  Our tactics  for the leg across the Channel  were good  and although concentration and trimming seemed OK  , it is likely that there were 5 minutes that might have been gained by protecting  the windward side of the reach in from A5. Even 10 minutes gained would have moved us up from 10th to 4th overall , just showing how reducing errors can make a significant difference.

Overall though , a good start to our offshore season.

The forecast for the trip home was for wind. Somehow the thought of only renting a good French meal for an hour or two seemed unappealing , and so after a short break for Jamie to natter to his RORC mates – we set off home . A solid 25 knot beam reach with gusts to 30  gave us a cracking sail , but found most stomachs  wanting . It was a timely  reminder  that a strategy for avoiding seasickness in bad weather  is just as important  as getting the shifts  and is something to factor in for the future.




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