JOG Race to Deauville

Over the late May bank holiday weekend Juno took part in the JOG offshore race to Deauville. We normally sail with a crew of seven but this weekend we were down to six crew. Then one crew member found that the traffic at Hindhead on the Friday before bank holiday was so heavy that he would not be able to reach Hamble in time for the start!We therefore left Port Hamble marina with only five on board, owner and skipper Charles Whittam, Mark and Anne Blunden, Mark Smith and me.

The wind was from the west at about 10-15 knots and the course was set to leave the Solent, from Cowes, through the forts, leave Bembridge Ledge Buoy to starboard and then to La Semoy buoy, the finish line just off the entrance to Deauville.  This meant that there would be no beating which was a relief for our short handed crew. Our start was at 1845 and, with the last of the eastbound tide we started close to the outer distance mark, hoisted the spinnaker as soon as the gun sounded and headed just to the north of Ryde Middle Ground to catch the last of the flood. (The tide had already turned close to the IOW shore).

After we passed the forts the wind was too close to carry the spinnaker and so we hoisted the number 2 jib and settled down on starboard tack with the true wind angle at about 60-65° and with the boat averaging about 8 knots. After Bembridge Ledge buoy we had supper of Lasagne on the side deck and then settled into our watch system. With only 5 on board we worked the boat with four crew with one person resting for 90 minutes at a time.

On Friday the sky was completely clear with no clouds and although sunset was around 2100 it was not fully dark until about 2230. The Deauville race is organised by JOG, the Royal London Yacht Club, the Royal Southern Yacht Club and the Yacht Club de Deauville and so is a popular event with many yachts taking part. As night fell we could see  tricolour lights all around us. Picking out the masthead lights of shipping in mid channel was a bit of a challenge with so many yacht lights around. (Is that a container ship or 2 yachts close together showing their stern lights?). Still, we managed to cross both shipping lanes without any cause for alarm.

As dawn broke the wind freed enough for us to be able to hoist the asymmetric spinnaker and we had an exhilarating sail for several hours with boat speeds in excess of 9 knots and occasionally over 10 knots when we surfed.

Unfortunately when we were about 5 or 6 miles from the finish the wind backed to the SW and so we re-hoisted the number 2 jib. Normally we would have a bow man to feed the sail into the luff groove and another at the mast to hoist the sail. This time we only had one person who fed the luff of the sail into the groove and then went back to the mast to hoist it. Two thirds of the way up it stuck. We decided to winch it the rest of the way but it only moved another 6 inches before it stopped moving altogether. Now it wouldn't go up or down. The asymmetric spinnaker was now pulling us too far eastwards so we dropped it and sailed with mainsail only. Eventually, with 3 people on the foredeck pulling on the sail, it freed itself and we managed to hoist it fully although we estimate we lost about 20 minutes over this problem.

At about 0800 we sighted La Semoy East Cardinal dead ahead and cross the finish line at 0840 taking just under 13 hours to complete the course of 100 miles. We finished 5th in our class with only 15 minutes separating 2nd from 5th.

Charles had to drive to Scotland to pick his daughter up from university on Monday and so we couldn't stay in Deauville. We pointed the boat north (well 330°M), changed the headsail to the number 4 jib and entered cruising mode. Breakfast of sausages in bread rolls was served and we changed the watch pattern so that we had two people on deck with 3 down below, one person changing each hour. This meant that everyone worked for 2 hours with a 3 hour break.

As we sailed north the next depression started to come through and the wind gradually increased to around 25 knots for quite prlonged periods. We put 2 reefs in the mainsail but it was a wild and wet ride home with some waves coming over the coach roof and soaking anyone in their path. We had heard a "Mayday" call in the Solent over the radio whilst we were in mid channel and just as a particularly big wave hit us someone on the radio announced that "it had been pretty unpleasant in the eastern Solent today". They should try the English Channel!

A little later we heard a Securité message that a yacht had sunk in the Solent and was near Browndown Point. This gave us a dilemma. We wouldn't reach the Solent until after dark so should we return to Hamble and risk hitting a sunken yacht or go into Portsmouth for the night? You may think this is easy to answer but we had been racing and left all our spare clothes in the boots of our cars in Hamble. All the clothes we were wearing were soaking wet from the return passage. we decided to carry on back to Hamble but sailed a long way south over East Knoll to avoid the danger. We eventually arrived back at Hamble at midnight on Saturday and had a late supper of chicken curry with red wine from the boot of Charles's car once we were tied up. We had done 224 miles in just over 29 hours.

Graham Broadway, 30.05.2011 | More from Graham Broadway’s blog