January 2014 Fast Cruise results
January's Fast Cruise, held on the 25th January, started in fairly benign conditions with around 8 to 10 knots of wind from the west. The start line was set between Spit Refuge and Ridge, two of the red buoys marking the channel into Portsmouth harbour with the first mark of the course at North Sturbridge. At 1055, with 5 minutes to the start and seven boats milling around for the start a large commercial vessel appeared in the harbour entrance heading south. I decided to postpone the start for 10 minutes so that all boats could clear the channel and allow the ship to pass. And so at 1110 all boats began to beat to windward against the start of the flood tide with the exception of Oxygen who had broken a block on the mainsheet. I was sailing with Andy and Avril Ormsby on Shearwater and we decided to tack onto port tack soon after the start to avoid the wind shadow of Spit Sand fort and to go inshore out of the foul tide. We had a few alarming depth alarms as we passed over Spit Sands with it showing less than 1m under the keel but we reached the war memorial/block of flats transit without incident and tacked to follow the channel through the shallows. We continued to go inshore, tucking right in behind Gilkicker where we appeared to pick up a back eddy because we suddenly seemed to pull away from the other boats. We went right inshore and when the depth alarm sounded again we tacked out towards N Sturbridge ahead of the whole fleet. This tack took us to within 500m of the buoy and we tacked again just before it came abeam so that our final approach would be on starboard tack. However after about 5 minutes we picked up a large lift and had to ease sheets as we approached the buoy.
The second leg was a run down to Warner, to the east of the forts, and during this leg the wind began to increase reaching 15 to 18 knots. After rounding Warner it was a short reach across to Cambrian Wreck buoy, where the smaller boats finished, with a beat back to finish at No Man's Land Fort for the larger boats. We opted to stay on the northern side of the channel, where the tidal atlas suggested the weaker tide was, passing close to Horse Sand fort and sailing past No Man's Land before crossing the channel and being swept east by the tide before the final tack to the finish line. During his final beat the wind strength continued to increase with some gusts reaching over 30 knots.
As we sailed to the starting area for the second Fast Cruise of the day a number of yachts radioed in that they were retiring fromthe second cruise and were returning to Haslar. We were now measuring wind speeds of 35 knots continuously and so reluctantly I decided to abandon the second Fast Cruise.
We continued to Southsea marina although we were now much too early to enter over the cill. The only other boat following was A Day at the Races. We managed to pass most of the way through the channel to Southsea but as we turned the final bend we touched bottom and became stuck. Aradio call to A Day at the Races stopped them making the same error as us and they picked up abuoy near the start of the channel. It was only a short while before we refloated and made it as far as the waiting pontoon but this presented yet another problem. The walk ashore pontoon was on the downwind side of the channel but with the wind now in the upper 30s it was debatable whether we would ever get off again. We opted for the floating pontoon on the windward side of the channel and after several approaches we managed to get 2 people on the pontoon and attached the boat fore and aft but on very long warps. Motoring hard forward brought us close to the pontoon and eventually we secured it alongside and had a break for lunch.
During our lunch break there was no sign of the wind easing and the thought of entering the narrow entrance to the marina was not very appealing. We therefore decided to return to Haslar, a decision we should have made when the second fast cruise was abandoned. As we motored back towards Haslar we had gusts of over 40 knots, some reaching as high as 47 knots. The boat could only do about 3 knots through the water with about 2 knots over the ground and when a succession of waves hit the boat the SOG fell to less than 1 knot. Eventually we made it back and took the Gosport ferry and a taxi to Southsea for the dinner as did all the other crews that were booked in.
I would like to thank Barrie Martin who once again awarded his traditional homemade "Marmelade Mug" trophy for January's Fast Cruise. This year two prizes were awarded. The prize for 1st boat on LSC Handicap went to Shearwater and Andy Ormsby and for 1st boat on the Progressive Handicap went to Ronhilda and Brian Humber. The results and overall positions so far for LSC handicap are here and results and overall positions for the Progressive Handicap are here.
The next Fast Cruise will be on 22nd February going to Town Quay Southampton. Details will apprear on the website soon.