Yet again the forecast was predicting brisk winds so I kept to two reefs and a furled Solent jib to start the cruise. January's tactic of getting to the start early and heaving to for liquid and food replenishment had worked well and was repeated. However I needed a last minute heads visit so we were at the rear at the start.
Spithead was gustier and bumpy this month and I was soon wishing I had put three reefs in as the leerail stanchions drove deep into the water even after all the mainsail traveller and sheet had been dumped and they sprayed the Solent straight into my face.
The crew scrambled for the windward coaming as the leeward coaming was under the water and cockpit had become quite full, which did not do much for our boat speed. The lead yachts turned after the first mark to head back across Spithead, but I opted for flatter water and thus faster boat speed and held on until I could tack back to round North Sturbridge. Ronhilda was then well ahead so this appeared to work. It was then a matter of Charlie and Jill following, as best they could, my bellowed instructions of in/out on the traveller and sheet for us to make best speed around the course. At this time the winds were around 24-34 knots apparent for us, but on the first downwind leg the wind really gusted and we got moving well with a goosewing 12/13 knots boatspeed and 32 knots apparent at 180 degrees. I tacked too early a couple of times and had to retack to make both Peel and Norris which wasted time.
The sun went and black clouds appeared from the SW to dump driving rain into our faces. On the final loop at East Bramble a non LSC sail training yacht with a scrap of genny appeared, after wandering all over the shop, to have also chosen this mark to demonstrate rounding a buoy. With Oxygen rapidly appearing as well he found himself in an LSC sandwich and having been undertaken by Ronhilda on the approach he bore off downwind before the buoy. The wind and rain continued to blow so it was relief we finished and headed for Norris Castle to gather things together before ending up at Cowes Yacht Haven. It transpired the showers and toilets were being refurbished and I have seen and used much better temporary portacabin facilities on building sites. At least the overnight fee was a reasonable £25 winter rate.
Food at the Island Sailing Club was excellent and it was announced Ronhilda had in fact come first in spite of the skippers inept tacking decisions – hence the award of a pot of Barrie's best Marmalade.
Sunday brought much easier NW/N winds in a cloudless morning sky and plans to Spinny back to Chichester. However on Ronhilda, food comes before Spinnakers and it was Gilkicker before the breakfast of sausages, bacon, eggs etc were consumed and washed up so we carried on chatting under main and gib in the sun.
So once again a fantastic winter cruise, thanks to Graham for all the hard work in organising it, Barrie for the marmalade, my crew and the rest of the participants for such a good winter cruise. Here's to March and similar winds?