The day started very early with rain and strong winds. We only had to get from Cowes Yacht Haven to the start line but even in that short space it was very clear that the wind was very lively and of course, there were lots and lots of boats to contend with. It was great to be back out on the water with Mike but I knew it would be challenging with me skippering Arvika and him taking a more passive role! I had confidence in my crew though as they were Kathy Mason’s Fast Cruise team.
My main, well only, objective for the start was to be on a starboard tack, so we made our way to the top of the line and made a reasonable but not heroic start. With a westerly we only managed to stay on that tack for a while and then had the adrenalin-fuelled tack back out. This pattern was repeated down to the Needles.
By the time we rounded the Needles, impressively in just over two hours, the weather was brightening but the wind was even more gusty. Much to Mike’s disappointment and the crew’s relief the decision on the spinnaker was an emphatic ‘No’. Those few who did fly their kite’s seemed to be in all kinds of difficulties with wrap and broaches. Poor Jez who had spent two hours ‘spotting’ on the bow down to the Needles spent the next two hours puking off of the back of the boat. We managed to stay clear of the melée apart from a run in with a beautiful French ‘Smack’ who was pushing us up dangerously close the rocks at St Catherine’s, until an exchange of words – mine being more of the French kinds than his! – and he moved to give us some room.
Having rounded St Cats we thought the worst was over – then disaster struck. The shackle at the top of the headsail halyard sheared off and our Jib ended up in the sea. Fortunately it was anchored at the furling drum and we managed to hoist it back on board. We considered our options and after a crew vote we decided to re-hoist on a spare halyard and continue the race. This proved more difficult than we expected and took a couple of attempts (and lots of strength and loud instruction from Susan) and plenty of practice in bowlines and stopper knots to keep the Jib sheets in place!
From then on it was plain sailing (relatively) with Arvika doing what she does best – plowing through the water leaving all in her wake. We passed several multi-hulls that had upended and heard almost non-stop Maydays and Pan-Pans. Once past the Forts we planned to move into the IOW shore line to get the best of the tide but as we seemed to be going faster than most and we could make the line on almost a single tack we decided to enjoy the spectacle and have a lovely run in.
Once safely back in to Cowes Yacht Haven we had a welcome and well-deserved glass of bubbly and reflected on our race. We all came to the same conclusion – if it hadn’t been for that shackle WE COULD HAVE WON!
Maybe next year.
Skipper – Carol Gorvett
Crew: Mike Gorvett, Kathy Mason, Susan Went, Richard Mason, Cliff & Jez Taylor