Saturday morning brought a forecast of F5/6 East going NW and gusts in the 30s. So we put a reef in the main and 2 in the large geny. Not many yachts with a high handicap started this month and we chose to beat across the Solent to Browndown letting the tide take us towards the mark with just a tack and short beat in flatter water down to the buoy. The next two legs brought us back to the start before repeating this triangle. In the cold of a Feb day not really inspiring, nor was the sight of the short course yachts then having easy legs straight up Southampton Water to the finish whilst we had to go right across to Cowes and then back across to Hill Head before going up the water.
By this time the ebb tide was cutting up the water on the Cowes side and with Bramble Bank on the wind lee with an ebb tide pushing us onto the sand as well I opted to go west of the Bamble in deeper calmer waters before beating back to Hill Head. It was gusting 40 kts apparent by now so Ronhilda with only 1 reef was really overpowered in the gusts and we had the lee side cockpit under water a couple times. I am used to seeing the lower ports under water but when the coachroof windows go under it's perhaps time to spill a bit of power out of the sail. When the gusts moderated we got Ronhilda up to over 10 kts.
Any way we duly rounded Hill Head and powered back up Southampton Water towards the finish at Weston, but the course setter had put a couple of double backs north of Hamble jetties, not welcome at all towards the end of a cold day on the water when people are looking forward to getting warm again and meeting others on pontoons. Much comment from the crew about these club winter sails supposed to be enjoyable and not bloody balls out true races which I fully agree with.
Anyway we duly finished and then berthed up in Southampton Town Marina where we thawed out and had Ronhilda's usual wine and cheese pre-dinner saloon meal. The meal was a good as last time and I got a surprise sweet as someone who shall be nameless had blagged that it had been my birthday on the 26th.
A good night's sleep followed by a hot shower saw us off at 0930 and we had a look at the Port Shipping as Robin was interested (ex Mechant Marine like myself) . 11am and we were sailing back down the water with 2 reefs in main and geny and even then we still had the lee rail well under in the gusts. A fast average speed of 7kts saw the end of the day's sail come fairly quickly and us looking forward to the final FC of the season in three weeks time.