The weather for this FC had been giving cause for concern since the predicted Low Pressure had appeared on the weather charts on the Monday beforehand. Saturday appeared OK but Sunday was looking bad with strong to gale force Southerlies predicted with gusts to 50kts. Then Midweek a) the new Chichester Harbour News arrived to confirm the bar had shoaled significanlty and in Sept was only 0.7m below CD and users should allow for further variations and b) Graham announced the start for this FC was to be in the badlands of the Wild West otherwise known as the central Solent west of Wotton Creek - grim news for we immates residing in the remote Gulag of the East.
So this meant a 5am call on Saturday morning in preparation for a 5 hour battle to get to the start against the predicted wind and also a flood tide after Langstone Harbour. Our liitle crew got themselves up, we left in the dark and as the sun rose we crossed the bar with the keel lifted. The water was disturbed even though it was a few days after Springs with the underlying swell breaking on the three shallow humps the bar now has. We calculated that in fact the bar was only about 0.5/0.6m below CD on the two of the 'humps' either side of the pole. So in view of the continuing heavy weather I think for prudence it would be safest to say the bar is now at CD for any passage until the bar is next dredged. (Last summer it got so shallow that you could see the seabed hump in the water at LW springs between the Pole and the Tripod at slack water on a calm day)
As the wind was on the nose we motored across Hayling Bay into quite a chop and noted the effect of the tide going against us after Langstone Entrance. Nipping through the Barrier Dolphin we raised sail and sailed to the start after having a breakfast of bacon ( fat cut off in deference to the diet) sarnies. As it happened, Sunsail had also chosen this mark for the start of their fun and games so I noted which tack they had started on as they were also beating to windward on the first leg. We started on Starboard, some others in our cruise fleet elected for a Port tack so we observed the rules of the road and waved our greetings. Best feature of the day as it had been since sunup was the wall to wall sunshine. After a tactical beat judging when to miss the aforesaid Sunsail fleet now under Spinnaker plus a small oil tanker we rounded the first mark at Norris to find that the flooding tide meant we could sideslip down to the next mark and keep the sails filled and drawing at something like 100' apparent wind. We also took advantage of the flat leg to have a round of Sausage filled rolls. Beating back up and running back down to East Bramble we found the wind, as predicted, was picking up so Ronhilda nicely dipped her leerail under on the leg to Hillhead and we finished on high, neither first or last in the fleet at around 1300hrs.
In view of the predicted F7/F8 from the South with gusts to 50Kts on the Sunday, the crew had already agreed with me that we should return to Chichester that night, the question was should we do the second cruise in which case we could not get back in time to go to the dinner or retire after the first FC, be good club members and go to the dinner. We of course choose the later and had a pleasant cruise, still in the sun back down to Chichester in an increasing wind. Crossing the bar at near HW we noted white water on both sides of the bar and as the harbour was nearly empty of any other vessels, we sailed all the way up past Itchneor - a rare treat. Finally cutting over the mud to the Marina channel we were back on our berth at 1700, an 11 hour day cruise.
Driving around to Southampton we found and hear others had also decided to return to base due to the expected Sunday weather. We thought the food was very good, and after desserts I asked for our boats bill. This seemed to take the floor manager by surprise but at 2230 in the evening, having got up at 5am that morning, I was in no mood for discussions about it being a group, yacht or individual bills and he soon had his staff produce the necessary paperwork. Our esteemed Sail and Power Commodore ( Vice ) was still talking to others but she was hurried up ( sorry Jill) and after a final hours car drive we arrived back at Ronhilda at 2330hrs.
So a very pleasant day sailing in the sun, thanks as always to Graham for the organisation and see everybody I hope in March.