Fast Cruise #3 to Lymington

Rachel Hedley's picture
Submitted by Rachel Hedley on

What was it the weather forecast said? Rain all day on Saturday, 8 knots of wind from the north west. Both bits were wrong, luckily in the case of the rain and unluckily in the case of the wind (although the strength was about right). It's a strange phenomenon of sailing that when you decide to head to Lymington from the Gosport area, the wind is nearly always from the South West and on the nose. Particularly if there is a strong tide running.

Azanti's skipper had the foresight to move the boat the weekend before to Gosport to be unhampered by tidal gates getting out of the marina. This suited me as I was at a posh do till late the night before and was staying in Lee on Solent. So I swapped sequins for oilskins and got to Gosport marina to find a hive of organised activity aboard Azanti. Kate Newman had joined the team for this Fast Cruise and was busy taking us all in hand.

Having arrived at the start late last time we weren't going to make that mistake again so dropped the ropes and were heading out of Portsmouth harbour by 8.30am. Which meant we arrived at the start with at least 40 minutes of faffing time in hand. This allowed us an enjoyable period of heckling Mary Lunn as they raised a sail or two and hurl abuse at Jill and Charles aboard Shearwater (Ronhilda having sadly had to drop out due to engine throttle problems and leaving her crew to persuade boats with spare spaces to take them on at the last minute).

The course was set to start at Mother Bank, those of us who are mathematically challenged not quite understanding what the instruction 200 metres (well, I can work that out) at a bearing of 240 degrees from the buoy means in practice. It was so much easier when you had a 'line'.

So with the helmsman also trying to work the hand bearing compass we got off to a shaky start (literally) and headed down to NE Ryde Middle. The disadvantage of sailing in other boat's dirty air turned into the advantage of watching them tack too soon and be forced to put in a second tack to make the buoy. Without wishing to name names, this became known as "Doing a Juno" for the rest of the course.

The radio channel for this Fast Cruise had been switched to 77 which turned out to be a working channel for various fishermen round the Solent. It was a relief to hear the familiar tones of Graham or Charles from Juno radioing the rest of the fleet and breaking up one long conversation about Whiting. I couldn't work out whether the fisherman was talking about his children or a shoal of fish he seemed to love them so.

Depending on which way round you were reading Winning Tides, the leg from South Bramble to Norris could have had the tide still just with us. As we passed Gales on the way it was clear there was a strong current against us. This is where the Azanti team decided to deploy the Big Blue One… after the requisite amount of faffing required to raise a cruising chute we started to make some way against the stream. The wind died back to 5-6 knots allowing us to creep upstream very, very slowly. Ca'Canny was on our starboard side and made a few attempts to get round the buoy. Blue Lady on our port side crept just ahead. We had an enthusiastic cockpit debate about how to get the cruising chute back down and the genny out without losing ground. The solution was marvellous, just a shame we didn't implement it and watched Blue Lady and Ca'Canny round the mark and put clear blue water between us, heading towards Snowden.

Now the tide was with us, our secret weapon in the form of Tactician Kate came into play. She realised that as Snowden and Gurnard were in line we could leave Snowden far off to port and head direct to Gurnard. This made best use of the tidal stream and we crept back on Blue Lady and Ca'Canny ahead. Next on the course was East Lepe and our combined experience of Western Solent tidal streams meant we made the right call and turned hard right to sail across the tide as soon as Gurnard was passed in order to leave East Lepe to port.

Short course participants Ca'Canny and Azanti were asked to radio into Juno when they reached East Lepe to allow for a course shortening if necessary. We could have lobbed a fish into Ca'Canny's cockpit at East Lepe when we heard the crackle of the VHF and they announced they had rounded the buoy. "We seem to be on our own here but we've got enough wind to sail." This was met with cries of "We're behind you" from Azanti. Whatever happened to that 360 degree look out idea?

The next two buoys, Saltmead and Hamstead Ledge (both on the Island shore) needed careful vector analysis. We wondered what it must look like from the air, with a number of boats sliding sideways (or backwards) towards Lymington. With Peter's knowledge of transits gained from years of sea kayaking we stole up on Ca'Canny and Blue Lady, found a patch of good breeze and overhauled Blue Lady just before Solent Bank, before Ca'Canny and Juno agreed that would become the final mark of the course.

As we were rather enjoying the challenge of sailing all the way, we resisted putting the engine on until we'd crossed the line.

The pontoon party started pretty much as soon as we stepped onto it, Mary Lunn and Willow made their way into Berthon in the dark to be greeted by the assembled mob. Saturday evening was a good meal and socialising in the Mayflower Inn. Sunday dawned bright and frosty with no wind and a motor back to Gosport drinking coffee, eating bacon sarnies and putting the world to rights.

Thanks Graham and Charles for the excellent organisation yet again, a great weekend on the water.