Last weekend saw 6 LSC boatloads descend on The Solent for Robin Whaites fantastic Shakedown Cruise - and it proved to be a great way to blow off the cobwebs, and test our practical skills!
The event saw a good turnout from the yacht master theory course, and many of us new to the club had no idea what to expect. Robin kept us guessing until the last minute, releasing the course instructions to an eager bunch just a couple of days before the big day... While many of us expected a leisurely potter from A to B, the challenge actually turned out to be a 15 mile course which zig zagged it's way from Osborne Bay to Bembridge, but which also included a set of varied questions and activities to test our seamanship skills.
The late issue of instructions no doubt prevented people over preparing, although rumour has it that at least one attendee is booked onto the Oprah Winfrey show to fess up, lance Armstrong style, to a little performance enhancing satellite imagery to answer "what is the colour of Queen Victoria's bathing machine? "..!
The start time was left open, and keen to make it over the bar at Bembridge we left Portsmouth at 0645; by 0900 we'd dropped anchor in Osborne Bay (under sail to gain ourselves an additional 15minute time bonus!). We briefly discussed our race tactics, then at 0907, sheeted in and lifted anchor (again without engine! ), heading for the first mark.
Along various upwind and downwind legs, we ticked off the challenges; 720 degree turns around buoys, the tiller lashed and course adjusted through the sails, three point fixes mid Solent, then the final man overboard drills.It was great!
Meanwhile other rally boats were doing the same thing but from different directions, and most of us arrived in Bembridge together in time for a late lunch, as the tide rapidly fell away. We couldn't raft up as a group though until the biggest of the bunch Ronhilda arrived bets were taken as to whether she was actually aground in the entrance! But sure enough, with her lifting keel the 45 foot Sadler Barracuda could afford to be fashionably late, and by about 4pm we were all tied up nicely together, recounting our mornings exercises. David Roache for instance explained that Ariel hadn't done any man overboard drills on account of having no volunteers to go in the water... (he later explained that he would have gone in himself, but who would skipper then? Something to remember next time he's on someone else's boat!).
Showered and rested, the rally regrouped on the pontoon with booze and nibbles, and in this confined space Kate Newman press-ganged the newbies for club event volunteers. Myself and fellow Yachtmaster Theory graduate Andrew Usher were late joining, in part due to a last minute beer run, but partly due to a dog jumping off the pontoon into the mud! I swiftly rolled up my sleeve and handed my watch to a bystander...then set about planning the rescue operation. As I prepared, Andrew sprang forth, dived onto the pontoon and scooped under the hind legs of the dog, arm deep in black goo. I was just about to do the same but he beat me to it. Once the pooch was back on the pontoon I promptly legged it, but dog loving Andrew was more keen to check the dog was ok; the mutt showed his gratitude by showering his smart chinos with black sludge!The owners then turned up, a bit nonplussed about the whole thing.
Meanwhile the barbeques were firing up, and by 1900 we had retired to the windproof marquee in the boatyard. With the temperature dropping we donned our Beer-Jackets, and ate our sausages and burgers with relish... and hedgerow weeds! Michael Werle decided that his garlic infused burgers needed a little more flavour, and garnished them with the leaves of wild garlic that he had found in a bush up the road! Luckily Pim (the garlic boat) was moored downwind of us...
Well fed people gradually drifted off to bed, apart from a hardcore group who kept the party going on board Ariel, righting the wrongs of the world to a jazz-funk soundtrack and an apparently excellent bottle of Cognac !
In the morning Ronhilda rubbed it in again, leaving fashionably early, and at about midday the rest of us slipped our berths to head back to our home ports.
Everyone enjoyed the varied nature of the course and challenges, which were fun but also helped keep our skills up to speed. I can't stress enough how good it was! The pontoon party and barbeque was a great way to end a brilliant days sailing - many thanks to Robin and also Kate Newman for their excellent organisation for the whole weekend. I look forward to the next Shakedown!