Old timer's November Fast Cruise
Wednesday morning saw Storm Petrel back in the water after a hard earned rest on the hard for a month. Copper coating in first class condition after just a light rub down with wet and dry, prop anti-fouled, engine serviced and ready to go.
For the November Cruise our Admiral Anne permitted us to have an all male crew so David (he is the Commodore you know) and Duncan arrived on Friday evening to inspect the boat, panting with anticipation and raring to go. We turned in early after a pleasant evening at the Marina café and Saturday dawned with bright sun and not a breath of air moving. Azanti, berthed opposite us, had disappeared having noticed that the cill would not open until 9 oclock. Already they had the drop on us.
As luck would have it the gate opened on the dot and away we went down the channel, out through the harbour entrance and in hot pursuit of Azanti who surprisingly was pottering along towards the start just ahead of us. Still no wind so a chance to have another coffee, another biscuit, a bit of a gossip and to set our course up for the day. What was going to happen if there was no wind?
By good luck and a fair number of revs we arrived in good time at the start to find one or two boats with a few sleepy faces togged up in their winter woollies and waiting for 11 o’clock. Our intrepid hero Don called across from Willow to tell us that we would go ahead with the start but if no wind arrived within an hour he would call the whole thing off and we could all race to the nearest pub.
The weather was amazing. Warm spring sunshine in November, this cannot be UK. Ah yes global warming of course. Anyway we all hung around the start awaiting the appointed hour and the gentlest of south east breezes started to set in, yes from the south east. That was the good news and the bad news. The breeze was also blowing on to the Sunsail fleet just up wind who have to be avoided at all costs if you value your gel coat.
So away we went across the line in fine style, our clean bottom giving us a good lift in the light airs. Oxygen came hammering up behind us, we could hear her bow wave from half a mile away. She of course, and as we all know, is a much faster yacht than ours (well we would say that) with all the latest gadgets and go faster toys. We just made it ahead of them to Mother Bank, no IRC rules = no overlap, rounded up and away across to Browndown. By this time the other yachts were on their way too, all apparently within the ten minute window and all sailing along gently in the light breeze.
The morning wore on with plenty of coffee and more chocolate biscuits including the occasional wave to others in our cruise as they passed across, behind, across and behind and across and behind again on the great man’s tortuous course set for only the most intrepid of crews. We persevered, however, with the poor old arthritic joints giving of their best and convinced that we must by now be well ahead of the field.
Well of course we had not thought of the new shorter course and now we had Odin racing along beside us carrying more crew and canvas than a tall ship. They managed a cheery wave and good luck on our endless pursuit of the long course, but then we needed to be going at least twice as fast as them, and Odin is a slippery little customer. We must try and get our handicap changed, a word with Sir Robin perhaps.
The morning turned to afternoon, the wind continued to rise and we started to make some real progress. And then crossing the Thorn Channel a thousand Range Rovers hove in to view encased in the steel of a car transporter. Our trusty AIS told us she was doing 17 knots so we felt the need to get out of her way as she swept by. Lost time.
Afternoon drew on in to dusk and we began to see a few familiar hull shapes and some faces that by now were looking a little tired. In the centre of the Western Solent, however, there appeared the majestic sight of Lazy Life, now with a bow wave spewing forth at her bow. She loves a bit of weather and at last she was getting it but why was she tacking backwards and forwards in this way? Could she be watching out for some scandal under cover for the News of the World. Backwards and forwards, we didn’t know what she was up to.
At last we made it to the last buoy and headed for Hamstead Ledge where we heaved a sigh of relief, put the kettle on and dare I say it, the central heating.
It was dark by the time we reached Yarmouth, getting our sails down in the dark was fun not helped by the skipper rather testily instructing Duncan to take up the topping lift which proved not to be the second from the left clutch but the third from the right clutch.
We dodged the ferry, found ourselves a berth and got out the scotch.
An excellent day, well done to the organisers.