December's Fast Cruise - Folly or not?
December' Fast Cruise took place on the 3rd December. For over a week before a series of deep depressions had been racing across the Atlantic and early in the week some forecasts were predicting force 9 or 10 for Saturday. Would it be folly to go to the Folly?Six of Juno's regular crew had chartered a Sun Fast 37 for the Fast Cruise The majority had not been near a boat since the Fastnet race finished in August and were keen to go. I studied the forecasts for a week before and convinced myself that the worst we would see in the Solent would be 20 knots. Two of us were down at the boat at lunchtime on Friday and the rest arrived in Hamble Point on Friday night. The first bit of bad news we received was that the Ketch Rigger had been booked by BT Sailing and that there was no room at the inn for us. A quick phone call to the team members still travelling down and fish and chips was organised to be eaten on board along with generous quantities of beer, wine and whisky. (Single malt) The fish must have been off as I had an upset stomach the following day!
During the night the wind could be heard howling through the rigging and the boat heeled over at quite an angle. At one point I was convinced we broached even though we were tied to the pontoon. Maybe it was just a bad dream. In the morning I checked Bramblemet and twice during the night the wind had gone off the scale. The scale goes up to 45 knots!
By the time we cast off the wind had dropped to a mere 25 knots and we motor sailed under genny downwind to the forts and the starting line of the fast cruise. I was quite relieved to see a number of other yachts grouping around Horse Elbow around 1100. We hoisted the mainsail, keeping one reef in and had a couple of turns in the genny and crossed the starting line. After rounding the first mark we had a 6.5 mile beat up tide all the way to Peel Bank. This was a long hard slog in 20 knots and we inched our way inside No Mans Land Fort, skirting Ryde Sands and then close inshore off Wootton Creek trying to keep out of the worst of the tide. Having spent the good part of 2 hours beating 6 miles the next leg was back down tide to Mother Bank. At this point Sally Pearce, who was helming, was given the command to steer 090° but couldn't find the compass. The cover was still on after 5 hours of sailing!
The rest of the course comprised relatively short legs criss crossing Mother Bank. Although on paper they mostly looked as if they were cross wind legs the tide was running so fast that they were nearly all close hauled legs which quite often needed a short hitch on the other tack to lay the buoy. Don wisely decided to shorten the course and we were able to enter the Medina at around 1500 and head to the Folly. Eight club boats made it to the Folly, seven of which took past in the Fast Cruise. The walk ashore pontoon had been reserved for LSC and was particularly pleased to see a couple of BT yachts being turned away and directed to the mid stream pontoons by the berthing master. Justice for having booked all of the Ketch Rigger the night before!
The evening was rather cold and so it was decided that the best place for the pontoon party was the bar. And so about 50 LSC members arrived in the Folly dressed as vikings, vampires, nuns (including other characters from the sound of music), rock musicians, Santa's elves and mexican bandits. Some even had bling on their braces and bow ties. The dancing (on the tables) went on way into the night.