I had a hunch the course setter would be on the water with us this month. As he seems to like a close start to his home waters I guessed this would be in the serpent infested waters of the far west and so it turned out to be. Not wanting to have to get up at 4am and sail for 4/5 hours before even starting a long cold fast cruise sail on the water, fortunately some of the crew helped me ferry Ronhilda this month to Gosport and so they and I set off on Friday after midday. We knew the wind was stong but from the North West so no swell just a short wave fetch. This was true but the wind was so strong in the gusts ( well over 30kts) the crew complained their teas etc was being blown out if the cups and replaced by water shipping over the bow and being blown straight into the cockpit. Earl Grey tea made with cold Hayling Bay water is not good. Coming from the Gulag ChichesterStan however we are used to this and duly arrived at Gosport where a repaired light weight genny was recieved ( having blown this out in the Oct FC).
From the weather forecast I was expecting a gentle sail in the sun on Saturday and a similar return to the ChichesterStan on Sunday. Looking at the evening weather forecasts however it seemed all was uncertain on Sunday now, so this would need close scrunity during Saturday, having been based in Chichester Stan for over 20 years now I have learned not to be caught out on the Entrance Bar.
Saturday saw us motor sail in the sun to the start in Comanche territory at somewhere called S Ryde Middle which apart from we Fast Cruisers appeared a desolate place with no other signs of human habitation on the water.
With the second worse Handicap of the fleet the 30 year Ronhilda set off with her equally old sails in the gentle winds and soon took up her honoury place at the rear of the long couse fleet. However we were all enjoying the sun and sailing and all crew had a leg on which they were helm. Even the large heavy old K44T 140% geny behaved today and did not snag on the radar or mast fittings during tacking. The clouds reminded us of that weather forecast for Sunday however during the FC as first Cirrous then increasingly lower clouds came in from the North West.
We learned over the Radio of a course shorten issued from somewhere far ahead of us but we continued to enjoy a slow cruise in a remarkably traffic free Solent - one of the pleasures of Winter Sailing. Just before 3pm we arrived at the finish and sailed across to Cowes. In view of the Sunday forecast for winds in the East South East sector with heavy rain and increasing gusts I decided it would be better to return to base that evening so Ronhilda crew would parade in Gulag dress, have an early meal and then return on the first of the East flood tide.
So we slipped at 8pm and motored down the Medina and out in the Solent. The gentle wind was still in the West until Portsmouth when a few spots of rain were felt . The wind then swung around to the North/North East and it got very cold quickly even in the F2/3.We arrived over the bar about an hour after Low Water and it was noticeable that the high pressure had depressed the tide height by quite a bit. Motoring up the harbour we went very gently through the unlit Itchenor |Reach trots of bouys and yachts and crept up the marina channel in between the mud banks either side. The marina gulag guard called us up on the VHF being concerned their returning inmates had enough water to make this final length of the journey. All was OK and half past midnight saw the heater on and the crew celibrating with some kind of Whiskey liquor refreshment and nibbles before turning in to the accompanyment of heavy rain driven by the now easterly winds outside.
And so we look forward to Febuary and its journey into the wilds of Southhampton Waters.