Ronhilda's FC in Variable Winds - A weekend for the Weather Buffs

Brian Humber's picture
Submitted by Brian Humber on

Ronhilda was rerigged for the third time in my ownership (time flies by ever faster) in the week before the FC and as always it takes far more time to reset things up than it did to take the mast out.  So it was not until Friday afternoon we were ready to bend on the mainsail and do a test hoist.  Unfortunately the sunshine of the morning had disappeared and the sail was put on in torrents of rain.  We then had 30/40 knots in Chichester Marina for 20mins which was an omen for the following day. All systems passed the static tests apart from having no main VHF arial and the backstay tensioner was found unserviceable.  So the crew arrived and on Saturday morning we past through the lock at 7am and down to the  Chichester Bar half an hour before LW.  Plenty of breaking waves in the swell  to remind one the Bar is no place to go off line at LW.  Unlike Juno tucked up in the warm climes of the Hamble,  we had the predicted westerly wind bang on the nose so had to motor into the increasing flood tide.  Just after South Winner Cardinal the wind suddenly increased to 30/40kts and it bucketed down until we had passed the Dolphin gap,  then the wind dropped back to 4/5 knots. Apart from the helm we kept  below and carried on eating our bacon butties arranging our speed to get to the start for 11am - after all no point in getting everybody wet. With high winds forecast and new rigging predicted to stretch, I had opted for the small 90% jib again so after the start we saw all the rest of the fleet sail away in front of us as we crept forward against the flood tide in 5/6kts apparent wind.  As we got half way to the first mark we could see very black clouds to the north blanketing out Calshot, then the Sunsail fleet white in the sunshine then us under blue sky, with the island in cloud very remarkable cloud conditions. Soon we lost sight of Osbourne house in heavy rain and then saw the boats in front struggle in high winds whilst we still had about 6kts apparent.  Seeing Sheerwater get pushed sideways and over on her side  we quickly furled the genoa, there was no time to reef the full main the crew just huddled in the bottom of the cockpit. When the wind hit us with rain and hail I was able to follow the wind as it first veered then backed just by using the power of the shaking main keeping about 10 degrees to the wind and 2/3 knots boat speed. The rain was so heavy it had flattened the Solent. Then as soon as it had arrived all wind was gone, we unfurled the geny and carried on with our struggle to make the first mark. Annoyingly the wind  had delayed the production of the mid cruise sausages and bacon butties so it was a relief to finally round the mark and see them arrive. The cook was heard to mutter something about being concerned about the weather rather than getting on with the food. By this time I could barely hear any conversations about course shortening etc on the handheld VHF as most of the other boats I assumed where already waiting to start the second cruise at North Sturbridge.  As we were a little wet, and it would take a further hour+ for us to make the start of the second cruise we decided to call it a day and motored to Gosport Marina for Ronhilda's traditional marina fest of Wine, Cheese and Biscuit's. Meeting up with the rest of the fleet in the Castle Inn we had not remembered the massive portions this pub serves up so we rathered waddled back on board well past our respective load lines. Sunday saw us geny sail back to the Gulag of Chichester harbour in a F5/6 which made a nice sail at the end of an interesting weekend.