Racing: Spi Ouest 2007
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the scurvy crew


Phew - an interesting delivery! . I blame it on Tim who looked at the forecast - and said "No problem - out of the river , turn right and put the kite up"................. Well , to some extent he was right , if you ignore lots of little black lines in suspiciously close proximity  running down the channel. Saturday was spent going to Poole practising MOB ,  hoisting trysails etc - Sunday saw us off to Dartmouth on the principle that it might calm down if we wait a bit, and Monday brought the realisation that it wouldn’t. The meteo report from Ushant as we rounded that night was a constant  32 noeuds with squalls of 42 , seas "forte" , which by and large we can confirm. In fact the trysail stayed up all the way to Quiberon  where we were  shamed into rehoisting the main by the appearance of a couple of French yachts who we raced the last 10 miles into La Trinitee.


First impressions here are of a BIG regatta - 500 boats - but very friendly - and mooring is free - the showers are free - in fact pretty much everything  is free- Cowes please take note! This prompted a visit to the best restaurant in town - also very reasonable - and typically therein were   2 other British crews so that it fellt like the Dodgy Eater in Hamble - except that the food was exquisite. The balance of the crew arrive at 0200 tomorrow - and we go racing later that morning with 50 plus in our class.  Ooh la la!


The racing report – written ruefully 4 days later!

With 56 boats on the line for the first start, things were looking good , The ducking and diving was reminiscent of a laser regatta , but we dug ourselves a space and hit the line going fast , squirting out into clear air. And that’s when the trouble started. We rolled the first boat  , but the one below that was fractionally higher and faster , and within 5 mts we had lost our lane and were in gas. A clearing tack saw us taking several transoms – then one missed shift and suddenly we were well back in the pack . These guys were good! 19th in the first race – with a 22 and 24 to follow saw some serious re-examination of our rig and tactics. The problem was we were 1% off the pace both in upwind speed and pointing and in this fleet  that spelt disaster. The crew work was immaculate , so we concentrated on straightening  the mast – experimented with different draft /halyard settings , gradually worked out the topography and on the final day managed a 15th and a 5th to score 18th overall.


Despite our disappointment , there were several  ameliorating factors. Firstly this is the premier event  in France , and judging by the way we were racing through the class ahead , the good French teams tend to sail smaller boats. 50% of the teams around us were full on sponsored boats , and with arguably France’s most successful  inshore sailor in the fleet  ( he came third) the standard was high. We were the only crew sleeping on the boat – and were kitted out for  offshore sailing – whereas the others were stripped out. Above all though , it was bloody good fun and we learnt  much more by being forced to look at our weaknesses and correct them  than if we had been winning.


The regatta itself was phenomenal , with 250 IRC boats – 200 of them on our course – and 250 other assorted one designs  all racing in the   glorious  100 square mile Quiberon bay  in bright sunshine and moderate offshore breeze.The attitude to the racing was full on – on one day we got in at 9 pm! There was one occasion when a sea breeze attempted to exert itself , with the front coinciding with the leeward mark.  This resulted in 200 boats converging on this mark against a strong windward going tide ALL AT THE SAME TIME!  We had banged a corner and came in on a tight spinnaker reach , theoretically able to call water on all 200 boats – but we chickened out and went round the outside. It is the only time  I have rounded a mark with fenders out on both sides – and the noise level as £30 million pounds worth of boats were packed into a 100 metre cube was incroyable!


The trip home couldn’t have been more different. To escape the worst of the NE ‘er  , we dawdled up to Glenan and spent a sunny day exploring the islands before a night time passage to a cold and foggy Ushant. The next day , still in fog and mist , but with the wind now predominantly Easterly , we beat in 10 to 20 knots to Channel Light vessel  before losing the breeze and motoring home with the radar  making what would have been  a very anxious passage  , a relatively relaxing one.


With another 900 miles on the clock this was a useful bit of practice  - watch out RORC!


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