This year’s Ian Brunt Trophy Race to Yarmouth has been much anticipated. Not only is Yarmouth an ever popular destination, the pub food is traditionally top notch and there is usually a level of high jinks in the planning for the evening. To top it all off, the weather looked like it was going to support us in our goals, rather than blowing old boots and making us divert to Cowes… again!
On the Saturday morning the hatch above my berth showed nothing but blue and there was a gentle whistling of a breeze through the rigging, confirming that all was going to be right with the world. For those who keep their boats in either Chi or Birdham Marina, the good weather also brought with it a building level of anxiety… what would the queue be like to get out of the lock?
With an early morning low water the marina boats were trapped until a time which would perfectly align with team Gin Palace sobering up enough to take their floating flats out to East Head for the day. Therefore there were several confirmed cases of the Chichester Itch, with people pacing the pontoons, engines warmed up and Ch80 turned up to the max waiting for the inevitable queue to begin to lock out. True to form, our very own Captain Keeno, despite having the deepest draft in the fleet, put his hat in the ring early by trying to book an advanced slot to lock out. Not to miss a trick the poor lock keeper then had almost all of the fleet try and do the same and the queue went from zero to 12 in short order. This all happened so fast that Team Gin Palace were still waiting for their Nespresso machines to warm up!
Enthusiastic as we were to get out of the marina, we still didn’t control the tides, so when we on Lyanna exited the lock we were confronted by an outer pontoon full of CYC boats waiting for there to be enough water in the channel to get into the harbour. Thinking light thoughts, Kevin and I on Lyanna thought we would have a go. Closely watched by all, we slowly crept down the channel accompanied by the insistent beeping of the depth alarm as Messrs Raymarine disagreed with our brazen disregard for its advice. It was touch and go at times but we made it and continued into the harbour to do battle with the swarms of dinghies already taking advantage of the amazing weather. Encouraged by our success, and probably after a bacon sandwich or two, the fleet followed.
Once out of the harbour the fleet was greeted with a good breeze, from almost due east which was unexpected as it was supposed to be from the south, but you can’t trust winds these days to honour a forecast. Most boats got off to a flying start with colourful downwind sails breaking out on the bows of many boats as they set off down the course. The fleets’ attention was distracted from Aquadisiac’s usual cruising chute woes by the crew of Captain’s Lady all of a sudden unfurling a hitherto unseen (and only recently purchased) monster blue chute. When I say monster, I am not joking, it went dark in the Solent for a moment as it blotted out the sun. As she shot off into the next ocean, closely followed by Cool Runnings trying not to be out done, we turned our attention back to Aquadisiac to see how she was fairing. Keen not to disappoint his audience, Nick performed a quadruple wrap with a back twist which prompted a disappointed retirement in order to try and resolve it. Up at the front, Crayzee Feeling, eager not be left behind on account of not having a big enough sail in her arsenal, deployed her white symmetrical spinnaker. This sail was acquired some years ago from the owner of a 45ft yacht who felt it was a bit big. The crew of Crazyzee Feeling, at 39 feet, have proved him wrong, providing there is sufficient wind to balloon the sail enough to keep the foot out of the water!
Once the fleet had finished faffing about and set themselves up for a downwind leg, the wind decided it was time to shift about a bit. Firstly it began to swing to the expected southerly. With the fleet trying get between the forts this meant coming up on the wind, and our recently configured downwind sails started disagreeing with the wind angle we were now forcing them to operate in. Say what you will about the CYC racing fleet, we are a committed bunch! After committing so much effort into getting our downwind sails up (except Aquadisiac ) we were very, very committed to not taking them down so soon, regardless of the now unfavourable wind direction. Cranking hard on the sheets, each boat pinched to lay the forts and be rewarded by being able to bear away down to Southampton. Crayzee Feeling, having gone much deeper than the rest to get her spinnaker up, now found herself almost fetching, something I’m sure would not be in the playbook of a spinnaker. Flyer, recovering from a bumpy start was still under white sails so was gaining at pace.
Aquadisiac, even under motor, had not managed to untangle her cruising chute from her forestay so set course for Yarmouth. She was soon joined by both Haraka and Karenza, both of which were also having equipment issues, but keen on not jeopardising time spent with a cold one in hand, joined the motor section. Once through the forts things returned to being a bit more downwind. Kerry Dancer, Pim, Selene IV, Windreaver and Good Day Sunshine were doing just that, having a good day in the sunshine, sailing together. Meanwhile Sally on Serendipity was struggling to get Chris to focus on sailing rather than the opportunity to trawl for a tasty fish. Bugsy 2 again showed us all some tidal tricks by somehow turning a 300 yard trail into a half mile lead on Lyanna by staying on the island side, rather than running down the side of the Bramble Bank. A trick which was followed by Tern IV, but, thankfully for Lyanna, without the same result.
The forecast for the day had the wind predicted to be taking some annual leave in the afternoon, so the fleet had been pre-warned to take their times at the penultimate buoy, off Southampton water. When we on Lyanna rounded this mark our SOG shot up to 10knts so we started mentally opening our first beer, expecting to be alongside, cold snack in hand, within the hour. We should have realised this was wishful thinking. The wind promptly moved into the south west, finally putting an end to our downwind speedy finish. Up front, Cool and the gang were starting to get that drifting feeling as the wind began to fail as they reached Newtown Creek. With 2.5 knots of tide flowing, arriving at Yarmouth was not going to be inevitable. The only problem was making it close enough to the inshore finish buoy for it to count.
After 45 minutes of the speed through the water reading 0.0 knots we stood no chance and were resigning ourselves to a race retirement as we floated by the finish mark, on the wrong side. At that moment I received a call from Peter on Cool Runnings to say that the five boats ahead of us had had the same problem and were now doing their best to sail back to the mark, but Hurst Castle was getting closer rather than further away. At that point it was clear the race had to be shortened and the times from the previous mark used. Engines were promptly started and the fleet headed for Yarmouth. Once moored, and cold beer in hand, the debrief of the day could begin. The outbound race was won by Crayzee Feeling, therefore also claiming victory in the downwind sail arms race over Captain’s Lady, who came second, and Good Day Sunshine who came third. A great night followed with a good dinner and one or two too many sea shanties.
The following morning the fleet were up early for our race home. Being moored at the back of a tight pontoon some thoughtful soul had placed a sign on Cool Running’s transom warning other harbour users quite what a ‘Wide Load’ she is. We never did find out exactly who was so concerned for the safe navigation of the harbour, but I’m sure it is appreciated.
Freshly fuelled on coffee, the fleet headed out into a beautiful sunny morning with a good F3-4 breeze blowing from the south east. A good start was had by all and the fleet proceeded to tack down the west side of the Solent heading for our first mark, Gurnard, just off of Cowes. With the fleet was an east bound tide, adding two knots to our progress. It was a fantastic way to start the morning with beautiful weather and some really close racing, as the boats crossed and re crossed each other tack for tack. Returning to form Tern IV was up the front of the pack with Cool Runnings. Deprived of her massive downwind sail Captain’s Lady returned to her usual station exchanging biscuits with Lyanna as we sailed along in close company.
As the fleet approached Cowes, the old wind started playing tricks again and it began to falter. Some quick thinking was required and some considerable course changes enacted to use the last of the wind’s strength to get onto the Island side of Gurnard. On Aquadisiac the crew were incredibly ‘clenched’ as they only just made it. Unfortunately, Good Day Sunshine and Kerenza were not so lucky and were swept past, so retired, as sailing back against the tide would have been an impossibility.
As the fleet arrived off Osborne Bay, the wind totally deserted us and the water went glassy. Some boats could maintain enough steerage way to at least point in the same direction, whilst some sadly spun slowly in the current. Looking ahead, I picked the closest buoy I could find to finish the race at and we all sat down and waited to drift past it, so as to have a chance at a place rather than picking up the maximum points for retiring. Once past, again, on came the motors and the fleet headed for home.
The results for day two are really interesting as the smaller boats held the wind for longer than the larger ones. So it is with great pleasure I announce that the win goes to Selene IV, her first in three years of racing with CYC. In second place was Kerry Dancer and in third, Bugsy 2. Overall, Cedric and the crew of Selene IV claimed the Ian Brunt Trophy for the best performance over the weekend with Crayzee Feeling second, Kerry Dancer third, Bugsy 2 fourth and Captain’s Lady fifth.
Please click on the link below for the full list of results.