The weekend of the August bank-holiday was, as it usually is at the Sovereign Harbour Yacht Club, the date for the RNLI regatta. “Aeolus IV” took part in races all three days, here are details of our escapades.
There wasn’t much wind on Saturday. Jeff had changed the head-sail to the largest one he has to ensure we had enough canvas to catch whatever wind there was. Aeolus is quite a heavy boat and likes quite a bit of wind, so by the time we rounded the first mark we were near the back of the field. Looking at how the other boats were doing after rounding the mark, they all seemed to be moving down-tide quite fast, but not through wind power. Jeff decided on a different approach and headed further off-shore… there was no point in following them all into an area of no wind.
John and I bounced around on the fore-deck and put up the spinnaker, and it filled with wind! This was quite a surprise, because everyone else still seemed to be struggling against the tide. Heading for the next mark we were looking out for other boats rounding it to help us locate it, but no-one was near it, they’d all been carried a long way past it by the tide, and had no wind to help them come back. This isn’t normal for us, we’re not used to being in the lead, and were left wondering if we’d got the course wrong. Where Aeolus is a heavy boat, she is also a bit slower than some of the others. To make races fair there is a handicap system, so we can finish last over the water, but as long as we’re within a certain amount of time of the first-to-finish boat, we could still win the race. So, where was I… Oh yes, we’re looking out for the second mark, and flying along under spinnaker. Then things all seemed to happen at once, we were at the mark and needed to drop the spinnaker, but the wind had got up and we were over on our ear. Just the conditions you don’t want to be on the fore-deck, but you have to go. We got the spinnaker down, and rounded the mark, heading for the start-finish line.
The other boats were still nowhere near us, and we were becoming concerned that we’d got the course wrong. We were resigned to the fact that one of two things was going to happen, we were either going to be disqualified, or we were going to win. While we liked the idea of a win, we were quite concerned about the possibility of disqualification.
It turns out our concerns were unfound, we had one, and by quite a considerable margin. Jeff’s decision to go off shore was a very good one indeed; we found wind while everyone else struggled to find any, and were carried almost to Pevensey by the tide.
The weather was very different to Saturday, gone was the sun, gone was the zephyr breeze. We were up into force 6, with a nasty chop on the sea. I didn’t enjoy Sunday much, I’d taken my Stugeron, but that didn’t seem to matter to my stomach. Still, once the Bran Flakes had re-emerged I felt much better.
The conditions were quite suitable for Aeolus, and we kept up with the fleet with no trouble, we were actually in the thick of it, which made for some exciting moments. One in particular sticks in my mind, we were approaching the last mark before the dash for the finish, another boat was coming at it from a broader angle and we were coming up their inside. They turned giving us very little room (Aeolus doesn’t turn on a sixpence), we were very, very close, it’s difficult to tell how close from way back down the boat, but crew on the other boat who were near the bit we’d have hit (T-boned if we’d made contact) reckoned three inches – really close! From there on it was a dash for the line, Aeolus matching the other boat tack for tack, and getting very close to the beach at times too. I’m sure I could have leapt to dry land a couple of times. The other boat beat us over the water, but we beat it on adjusted time due to our handicap. But we still managed only second place overall.
More of Sunday’s weather, but the seas were a little less choppy, and I hadn’t eaten breakfast (just to be on the safe side). Another close race in Aeolus’ preferred conditions. No events to speak of, apart from finishing second over the water by a short enough margin that meant another first place.
So two first and a second, a pretty good show, and it gave us the series win too. That’s four peices of silver for a three day series. We’re all quite pleased, and none more so that Jeff. Here’s some photographic evidence (sorry, I blinked) of the silverware, it’s a shame there’s no-one out taking photos of our racing.