A great weekend :-)
Got down to Port Solent marina in Portsmouth on Friday night in time to meet the team (of mixed experience, but who had all sailed tall ships at least once, and were a great bunch), pick up the yacht (a Jeanneau Sun Fast 37
) and get a safety briefing from Neil, our skipper.
Saturday began with bacon butties and a race briefing before heading out through the lock into the Solent to where the first race was to start. None of us had raced before except for Neil, who did three legs of the Global Challenge ocean yacht race
a few years ago - but racing long distance across oceans is a bit different from racing around buoys in a busy Solent. So it was a steep learning curve for all of us!
The weather was very windy (Force 6), but the Solent is sheltered by the Isle of Wight so the seas weren't particularly big. Sailing was exciting but tiring - manoeuvering by last minute tacking to get out of trouble as 18 yachts try to round one buoy takes some energy. As does bracing yourself to even sit still when you're heeled so hard over that the rails to leeward are awash. And moving around the boat at that angle takes a certain athletic ability! Helming closehauled was challenging, too - the boat had a strong weather helm, and kept fighting to come up into the wind - and the wind was was very tricky and kept corkscrewing round and back every minute or so, meaning that as helm you had to be really on the ball to prevent inadvertent and alarming course changes.
Close quarters race manoeuvres are also very good for sharpening up your rules of the road - no time to ponder gently "Hmm, is he on the port or starboard tack?" as someone changes direction sharply and comes screaming across your bow - you have to know
and react accordingly.
Saturday evening we were berthed in Haslar marina. We had drinks and dinner in the lightship there, but we were all falling asleep in the bar and none of us were late to bed.
Sunday the weather had really got up - Gale Force 8 out in the Solent, and heavy rain, so the organisers decided to call off the racing. We took the yacht back round to Port Solent marina, put her to bed, and drove home.
It was a shame that we didn't get to race on Sunday, but given that it's November and this is England, we did pretty well to get such a good day's sailing on Saturday, so I'm not disappointed. All in all it was a fantastic experience (although I do ache a bit today...).