Weather forecasts had indicated winds would be light, this was welcomed by Ronhilda was it would allow us to get over Chichester Bar at near LW ebb on a big tide. The start and course had been moved this year West to somewhere near the Casquets as our Commodore put it, so it was a 5am alarm call to get the crew ready and able. Only 1 - 2 knots proved the forecast correct but visability of less than 50m was not on the wish list. Not to worry, we simply used the tried and trusted bearing and distance run method to get us between navigation marks slowly down the harbour in the dark and fog - Chart plotters being deemed works of the devil on Ronhilda and banned.
As we popped over the bar dawn had come and we could see the exposed sand creeping well south of the old Chichester beacon postion so the keel was left up. This in turn allowed a scrape over the winner at Hayling Island with less than a metre under keel and practice on height of tide secondary port calculations. Going through the submarine barrier dolphin gap we could see the tide rushing east over and around the exposed concrete blocks, no wonder we were going slowly over the ground.
Finally we got to the start and had no problems in selecting full main and no2 genoa for the cruise. We had taken 5 hours and sailed through 20 miles of water if not over the ground due to the tide.
We hung back at the start of number 1 cruise due to the number of yachts competing for just 200m of line space with weak winds, and strong tides. Those with spinnakers or cruising chutes soon drew away, those without including us sedately went around the course following them. I must confess all including the helm spent quite a bit of time on the first cruise reading Fridays newspapers due to the excitement of the sailing. The course was duely shortened and we went back to the start of the cruise 2. It became apparent that this buoy was also a spinny dropping mark for over 20 Sunsail yachts coming towards us. Now I stay well clear of these 'professional skippers' having witnessed the tbones and hull holes gathered during Cowes weeks so we again determined to start a few minutes after the actual time. However a delay of 5 mins was annouced so we were actually in the thick of it at the line.
But wait - were we actually in the Solent or Southern Hemisphere? A yacht who shall be nameless but I understand sails in real races including the Fastnet quite lot had raised his spinny upside down. Sadly we did not have a camera to hand to record this epic event.
The late start soon had us meeting up with a large container vessel at speed making towards his sequence of sharp turns turn off Prince Consort bouy. I turned 180 degrees back to towards the start to allow him to clear, several others did as well. Others carried on, I have not been on the bridge of a container vessel but have been on the bridge of lots of VLCCs and tankers entering what are shallow restrictive channels for them and you do get a different perspective of things knowing that if some one loses wind or falls overboard in front of you nothing can be done to avoid running them down. Its not a good feeling.
Otherwise cruise 2 was a repeat of cruise 1 in being a battle against the now increasing ebb tide. East Bramble cardinal took a long time to round and we had to go stone counting on Lee on Sea beach to get out of the tide and make enough east to cross back to the island. Listening to the VHF a number of others were having troubles as well. Finally we crossed the shortened course final mark and sped off under motor to Cowes Yacht Haven. Here we were given a 10m long slot for our 13m so ended up rafted outside another. No matter more practice in springs and running bow and stern lines ashore. The late finish meant the traditional Ronhilda saloon cheese and wine party was rather rushed.
The dinner was excellent but I was too tired after a very long day to enjoy it so left after our President and turned in for a deep sleep.
Sunday saw me raise the crew by 8am so as get the full flood tide back to Chichester if the wind was still light. We slipped at 9am but were greeted by an increasing NE wind. Indeed by the forts we had reefs in the main and geny, could have really done with another as the gunn'l was under the water, the wind was 25knots apparent over the deck and boat speed was 9 knots.
An enjoyable end to a somewhat different varied fast cruise from previous years.