7am on a January morning in Chichester Marina with the wind howling in the rigging shakes the cobwebs out. Although the meeting place was the normal Forts today would be a slog to the start with a building wind against large Tide. Any thoughts about putting the large genoa on were left on the pontoon although the Spinnaker was in the locker just in case. I opted for two reefs in Ronhildas large main but the Solent-sized blade jib would have a few turns left on the drum to reduce power as required.
We beat down to the start arriving at 10am and hove to. This was planned to allow the first round of bacon rolls/hot drinks to be had in comfort. Food planning on Ronhilda takes as much or more planning input than the sailing. At just before 11, this meant we simply tacked over and rounded Horse Elbow for 1101 only a couple of feet in front of Day of the Races, off for the first mark - Saddle. The wind was just off a best course to windward course so Ronhilda stretched her legs and the lee rail was dipping in and out. However a portent of things to come meant the stronger puffs saw the windward rudder break surface. However I managed to prevent the lee side cockpit dipping into the water as can happen when really over pressed, I try to prevent this, its slows us down and I get tut tut comments or worse from the crew.
Around Saddle and we continued to beat in quite choppy waters now across Spithead up past North Sturbridge to Browndown. Joff Buttery's new 43' flyer Windhover with her crisp laminates had overtaken us (or my helming was crap) but she now seemed to be a bit of a handful in the increased wind and I managed to tack inside shaving the buoy at Browndown and scoot off with apparent wind freed to Mother Bank. Scoot off was the word, the wind strength now meant the main had to be spilled but we still saw 11-12 knots on the dial. A further set of tacks up wind then saw a small downwind leg and more sausages handed out, with our reefed main and small jib the chasing boats caught up a bit but I had spotted some wind dark clouds so opted to keep sail plan as we were.
Another couple of legs and it was now down wind all the way. Wind was 15 knots apparent, boat speed 8 - 10 knots so what about a spinny. Another glance at the clouds and wind astern meant the spinny was firmly left in the locker and all thoughts of shaking out the main reefs left behind as well. By North Sturbridge the chasing Maxi Shearwater was catching up, but Ronhilda was now feeling up to 30 knots apparent on her stern and was trying to plane on the waves, speed was up and down 10-12 knots. I flicked the wind to true and coming through Spithead saw gusts of 40 knots plus.
So we finshed in elasped time of c 2hours 39mins, but time was not really the point for me, it had been a really great day's winter sailing.
An excellent evening was then had in the Pub and we had a gentle genny- only poodle back to Chichester today.
Can the Feb FC be just as good?, here's hoping.
One of my crew was snapping away most of the trip so I will see if I can put some of his pictures up, he has some good ones of Windhover at Browndown.