Racing: De Guignand Bowl 2007
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De Guignand Bowl 2007

Guingand Bowl - 2007-05-20

How life has changed. Nowadays the day before an offshore race or passage we can do our pre-nav on a lap top at home and down load it all into the GPS. The issue this weekend was the new positions of the RORC offshore marks  and at least three of us independently changed one set of positions for the other . Oh dear . More on this subject later!

The other change is the reliability of forecasting. We could expect a day of  fresh SW winds that would swing into the North , but as ever the relative strength of the winds and the timing of the shifts were up for grabs  - and risk management!

Our start plan was to head for Ryde Middle – and go North or South of it as tactics demanded . In the event the Southerly route was crowded with faster asymmetric boats , and the North channel meant tangling with another group of symmetric kites ,so we ended up going over the bank. In fact , the tidal issues seemed less important than getting a pole height that gave us a stable , controllable kite shape – and once we got this sorted we whizzed off down the eastern Solent, just ahead of Longue Pierre, like a scalded cat. Within minutes a TP52 planed past and left us feeling very slow indeed . Everything is relative!

After the Forts we were the first to drop and head high, and settled down for a fast 2 sail reach to Ocean Safety, with most of the fleet sailing a lower course. 1 hour later , the rest of the fleet were MUCH lower.  Mmmm!                   Remember all those people changing the waypoints – yup – “too many cooks etc”-  we were heading for last years position! Up went the kite , down went the bow by  30 degrees and we ruefully reflected that at least in the Fastnet the waypoints would be the same as before – unless of course continental drift was speeding up more than we realised!

We calculated that we sailed 1NM extra distance , but the extra speed   generated by the kite brought us to the mark just behind  the other Sigma’s , many of whom underestimated the sluicing tide , and so  the race started all over again.

By now it was blowing 22 knots and it was noticeable that most boats took some time to get the rig set up for heavy airs upwind , suggesting that pre-planning for turning corners offshore should involve the new rig set up as well as the spi take down. Everything takes longer in waves. Tactically I think everyone wanted to be on the right of the course to take advantage of the forecast veer – and also perhaps take advantage of the tide turning first inshore - so the whole fleet headed off on port. As it happened the wind gradually backed 15 degrees so anyone taking a half hour hitch on starboard would have had less of a tide driven knock on port  , and been on the inside of the left shift ,  smelling of roses!

The wind built to 25 knots and we were the first to take a slab , and as the tide turned,  it was up to 27 so we took a second. We know its not fashionable to reef , but we think it is just as fast in waves , and allows us to get anyone who is feeling sick down below and horizontal before they really begin to suffer. Its probably also  not fashionable in offshore circles to say so  , but although it was sunny and  the windward going tide helped us make relatively short work of it , 40 miles to windward in 25 knots of breeze does go on a bit. We are thinking of fitting a fast forward button !

We went the furthest right of the fleet , expecting to get a veering  wind-bend round St Cats and so it proved , although it might have been due to the stronger tide . Whatever the reason , we arrived at the windward mark in company with much  faster boats, and  Persephone and With Alacrity close behind. Our foredeck were temporarily hors de combat , so the skipper prepared the spi on the approach , suffering a major sense of humour failure as the seas washed into his boots whilst trying to drag the gear round. Another learning point – pre-plan these jobs offshore with a team mate in the cockpit making sure there are no unnecessary snags.

We planned a port tack exit from the mark , but found that starboard was the making gybe , so executed a shorthanded spi gybe  with all sorts of head scratching  , only to have the foredeck experts emerge,  rejuvenated by the change in motion as we surfed downwind. The next hour saw prodigious amounts of food consumed , and the wind begin its gentle descent. Our strategy was to gybe again as soon as the wind  began to veer , which it did around 2200, arriving back at Ocean Safety with the wind WNW at 2330.

Our theory for the beat home was to head inshore , looking for a further veer and if it didn’t come , to seek out the early ebb in the Looe channel. In fact , an hour later we were struggling for speed as the wind went light , and with heads down  took about 5 mts to notice that we had had a 30 degree veer which allowed us to make the Nab at 7.5 knots on  starboard with sheets just cracked. From here we took a hitch to the North to escape the tide sweeping out  past Sandown  and dribbled through the Forts to come to a standstill 1 cable from the line ,  which was situated in a SE going eddy. For a while it looked as if  the wind was going to shut off for the day , but after 30 excruciating minutes  of making less than 1 knot we crept across the line .

Behind us  With Alacrity appeared  , having circumvented the calm by approaching from Ryde , and more disturbingly , so did Longue Pierre who rates a bit lower and corrected a minute or so better. Well , second place was probably more than we expected after our little navigational faux pas at the beginning , but full marks to the crew who kept the pressure on for the full length of the race in very varied and quite tough conditions .







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