Double Handed Round the Island 2004 with all 10 nails in tact!
By Jean Findlay – Superted IV
Bereft from the loss of his crew to Laser sailing and suffering from racing withdrawal symptoms, Matt suggested we should enter the Royal Southampton annual double handed Round the Island Race. Against my better judgement and with a promise of no ranting and raving, I agreed. (In 20 years of sailing I’ve never seen the back of the Island so was looking forward to seeing all those lovely places).
Thursday saw me preparing, not for the race, but for our daughter’s graduation on Friday. As I’d not been anywhere near the boat for 2 weeks, I actually had reasonable nails so thought I’d make the best of them .. 2 coats of base polish and 3 coats of clear top coat – and very nice they looked too! (No bruises on my legs either)! A long drive to York that afternoon and then a long drive back again on Friday evening didn’t leave me much time to think about the impending race. Finally got to Cowes at about midnight Friday and crashed out.
Saturday, we woke to a blue sky and a good breeze. Perfect conditions. By the time we reached the starting area, the breeze was 20 – 23 knots. Now I’m not the happiest of sailors when it comes to being close to other boats, so I don’t relish the thought of starts. As class 1, we were the 3rd class to start and I’d already got through 2 pieces of chewing gum for each of the others. With a couple of minutes to our start and head down over the winch, an announcement was made on the VHF which neither of us heard properly due to the wind and flapping sails. Counting down to the start and suffering from a bad bout of Tourette’s Syndrome (my saving grace being that my mouth was so dry, the words didn’t come out!), I finally heard Matt say ‘Cracking start….’ only to turn around to see all the other boats going back over the start line! The announcement had been that the start had been postponed! So now we had to go through the whole thing again! Another piece of chewing gum was needed to try to moisten my very dry mouth and off we go again – head over the winch ready to go only looking up to shout the countdown time – each time horrified at the flapping sails in very, very close proximity. Great relief when I heard the words ‘Excellent start…’ We’re off.
The beat down to the Needles saw us cross tacking with lots of J105 and 109’s – good fun. Except a very near miss with one of the J’s on port tack, who, after we lurched rapidly to avoid him, told us that we should have shouted ‘Starboard’. By now I had a dreadful pain in my back where I had twisted something and was trying to remember to do a bit of Pilates – suck my navel in towards my backbone to stabilise – not easy to do each time we tacked. Was hoping that we didn’t loose too much ground otherwise Matt wouldn’t be very happy – then we would be “Bitter and Twisted”. I digress.
I’d thought that as we got round the needles we would probably be setting the spinnaker – so was very surprised to see the lack of them on the few boats in front. However the breeze was a steady 22 knots on the beam so I was quite relieved UNTIL came the dreaded ‘I think if we want to keep up with these guys we’re going to have to fly it……..’ Heart in mouth – but no, no, come on, we’ve done it loads of times – no problem. Up goes the kite, up goes the wind, up goes the boat speed. We’re roaring along at 9 – 10 knots with the occasional vibration through the bum (that’s usually around 11.5 to 12 knots) and everything seems settled so we set about having those well deserved sandwiches.
Just after St Catherine’s we need to gybe – no problem, pin in the main, sort out the sheets, put the boat on autohelm, Matt goes up to the foredeck, I work the sheets and hey presto – nothing to it…except…there are quite a few good waves about and a few good gusts and the autohelm decided that it didn’t want to play… Matt up the front, me pulling up the pole and the boat goes into a spin. Quick as a flash Matt is back (good stuff that Philosan – fortifies the over 40’s) and rights the boat. Recovery time is quick and we’re back on track. Now we both need the chewing gum….
Watching a boat in front do a ‘Chinese gybe’ made me concentrate very hard on keeping the boat in a straight line as we sailed up towards Bembridge Ledge – missing all those sights I had hoped to see on my way around the island! Oh well maybe next time!!!
Spinny down at Bembridge – no trouble – on to a beat again it soon became very obvious that we needed to reef down as the wind was getting up and gusting at 32 knots. Reef in, settle down, in amongst boats again – this time overtaking boats from class 2 – that’s cool………
6.5 – 7 knots boat speed but against the tide. Keep a watch for boats on starboard – now have Old Castle Point in sight and doing very nicely Thank you. Small boat coming across on starboard, we bear away to pass just behind his stern and get a friendly wave from the skipper. But just at that moment, an almighty gust comes from nowhere and our boat tries to tack into the cockpit of the unsuspecting 25 footer – while I scream at Matt that we’re going to wipe them out, all three of them in the other boat crouch with their hands over their heads, but again Matt recovers the situation and with profuse apologies blowing in the wind we’re on the beat again, albeit on the other tack..
Finish line in sight and I’m well and truly knackered – I can’t do many more tacks – probably only 2 more I’m told – stick with it – and then the wonderful sound of the gun and that’s it – it’s all over – my first race around the Isle of Wight – and all 10 fingernails still beautifully in tact!!! (and not a bad word uttered – maybe I’ll do it again!)
Jean Findlay – Superted IV
PS We won in an elapsed time of 6 hrs, 53mins!