On Wednesday we had our first AOA offshore race. I sailed double handed with Last year’s Academy graduate Jack Bouttell. The race saw us go from Cowes down to Weymouth and south of the IOW to a mark off Selsey bill (Owers) and back in to Cowes, a 150 mile trip as the crow flies.
Throughout the race we saw a range of wind conditions starting in 12 knts in the Solent quickly increasing to 30 by St Albans point, back down to 5 knts to round Portland harbour wall then increasing to 35 knts for a tight reach back to the IOW. This variable wind meant that we had a few sail changes to do upwind and reaching was between spinnaker and Genoa, peeling to Solent jib at the end in preparation for the final beat back in to the Solent.
The racing was extremely close with all 4 boats rounding within a couple of minutes of each other at Portland wall we managed to hoist inside of 43 and control the gybe to round the wall 2nd. The chase was then on to catch the boys in 21. We had tremendous downwind pace pulling right away from the boats behind and catching right up to the heels of 21. We then rounded the corner on to a tight reach holding the big kite trying to point as high as we could whilst not spending too much time on our side. After a while with some close encounters and a head to head battle, we dropped our kit first to head to the needles fair way mark, by doing this we pulled out a good lead.
The reach round the back of the island was great fun with the boat on her ear again. As we rounded the Owers buoy I couldn’t help but think about the story of Uffa Fox navigating his way through the rocks north of the buoy in his International 14 in 30 knts 3 up and big seas after sailing back from an open meeting in France in the middle of the night with no nav lights or charts.
As the night fully settled the temperatures started to drop (aided by a cold NNW wind) and it got pretty chilly beating back in to the Solent.
After 17h.35mins sailing we crossed the finish line at 5.05AM Thursday morning in by that time a commutable first place.
The race was great and I have come away having learnt a lot about the way the boats are sailed. Now I just need to get out and practice the processes for sail changes, hoists and drops as this is where big gains can be made.