The January Fast Cruise proved for us to be one of the most interesting in the several years that this challenging winter series has been conducted. The weather forecast had been looking dire nearly all week and there must have been those who were planning to forget the whole thing and turn up at the Castle by road with some muttered excuse about the weather.
Oh no! Not in this Club! Saturday morning dawned mild and noisy around the rigging, but certainly not as the Met Office had predicted. So down with the porridge, off with lines, and out to the Cambrian Wreck where familiar sails could be seen with bleary eyed anxious crews, stop watch in hand.
At the appointed hour there developed a procession to windward to the first mark, the wind blowing about 25 knots from the west, scudding clouds passing overhead. The field were soon spreading out across Spithead and onwards to Peel Bank, Ryde Bank, onward and onward. Choppy water and plenty of spray.
The day was brightening, the wind steady at 25 to 30 knots from the west, with some uneasy gusts, judgement dictated a second reef and perhaps and couple of winds of the genoa. The leaders were by now far to the west with Osborne House in sight and ready to turn east for home.
This was a day for the racers, they beat the worst of it, apparently wondering what all the fuss was about! The laggards fell behind but eventually made it to the westernmost mark, turning for home. Something appeared to be stirring to westwards and it wasn’t a light breeze. Up and up rose the wind, checking of wind speed indicators revealed 30 knots, 35 knots, 40 knots and unbelievably 45 knots for a time. With the tide now turning east behind the wind there was a flatter sea.
Now we were on a roller coaster for home, no jib by now and two reefs in the main. A cruising boat like ours is not designed for speed but today at 10.5 knots downwind she was steady as a rock and gave us excitement all the way back to Saddle where we turned for home and bounced back in to harbour. We dropped the main, elated but weary and ready for a rest before dinner and blessed sleep.
All in all one of the best.