It was billed as a Lad's weekend so we weren't going to take the Round the Island Race too seriously; well that depends on what you mean by seriously!
Two of the four owners of J24 Jobs for the Buoys were away, one in Gothenburg welcoming his daughter, and yacht SCA, at the conclusion of the Volvo Round the World Race. The remaining two, Bob and Wade, needed three Likely Lads to join them on a much shorter circumnavigation. So along came Pat, Craig and me, and I was the lucky one to be given the helm, at least for the start.
After a beautiful 4 hour spinnaker run from Poole to Cowes on Friday, it was early to bed and up at 05.30 on Saturday morning.
A gentle breeze was steadily increasing and by start time, 08.20hrs, the gusts were increasing handsomely. A genoa was chosen, and, despite misreading our watches, our start proved to be perfectly acceptable. Ducking and diving, finding lanes and clear air, minimising tacks (it's a marathon, not a sprint!) and just generally trying to avoid the bigger boats, was the order of the day, as we carried the ebb tide down towards the Needles.
We missed the family waving from Hurst Castle whilst endeavouring to get to the faster tide adjacent to the Shingle bank. The Needles were viewed a little too closely for some but that enabled us to put in the shortest port tack before setting off towards St. Catherine's. Leg One complete.
A two sailed reach or a tight spinnaker reach? OK let's go for it. It is a race after all. A few broaches but many smiles and a few good sleigh rides down the waves ensued, and then a fabulous view of the lighthouse at St. Catherine's, as we bore away from the increasing SW wind. Wind over tide conditions can cause some steep waves, but these can be avoided by staying close in along to Ventnor, so not a difficult decision.
A pleasant run down to the Bembridge Ledge, drop the spinnaker and turn back into the wind. Initially it would have seemed that a jib would have been a good call, but once Ryde Sands was negotiated, once again ducking and diving to avoid the bigger boys, the breeze eased and only a couple of tacks were necessary before we found ourselves trapped under the hills surrounding Osbourne Bay. In there one can avoid an adverse tide. Steady wind and adverse tide out in the Solent versus flukey breeze and a slack tide in the Bay.
The latter often proves to be the best option and at last, at 16.30hrs, we crossed the finishing line and were looking forward to that first beer, 8hrs 10minutes after our start.
The J24 proves to be a very capable boat in strong wind conditions and Jobs for the Buoys certainly looked after five slightly older gentlemen on a great "Lad's weekend". A couple of beers and an Indian dinner, a perfect recipe for the beginning of a great night out? You might think so, but for us it was bedtime by 9.30!!
We might even pick up a trophy as the other J24s finished a little later than us.