The last two days and a reflexion on Cowes Week 2015

August 15, 2015

It feels differently writing this blog at a moment we know having won our class, but it is impossible for me to write, pretending I would have know the final score yet. I trust the reader will forgive me. I may be a Goethe fan, but am unable to mimic him.

Thursday started with a tropical rain, an hour prior to the start. I was the only one not getting wet in my navigation seat, but I felt uncomfortable realizing that the rest of the crew was becoming wet to the bone.


We prepared a start, to the West, which would keep us close to the Island shore since the tide had turned already to the West. We expected a better tide inside. At the start we were only 1,6 boat lengths behind the start line. Good enough. What we did not calculate was a better wind a bit more away from the shore.

At the first Mark Salt Mead we rounded as boat number 15, even after MOGAN. We stayed calm (at least showing calm) and managed to climb to position 9 at the next Mark Craftinsurance, thanks to our spinnaker trimming. At Hamstead Ledge we managed to get to position 5, but the first four boats were already far away. We felt uncomfortable in that position, but since we agreed not to give it up ever we continued just awaiting the first boats would make a mistake. Honestly I believed it may be a rat race from here on, keeping us in 5th position on the water.

When crossing the Solent in a heavy tide of say 3 knots the leaders got an excellent chance to make a (big) mistake. We continued on this leg until we reached the mainland shore so that we would have from there the advantage of the lesser tide close to the shore. It was daring on our part but we felt sure it was the right decision. We also realized that when you take such decision you need to do it in an extreme way and not do it half way or half hearted.

All leaders tacked earlier than we and that meant they would have to sail on a tack of perhaps three Nautical Miles against a stronger tide.

Our first victim was COR BLIMEY. We simply sailed faster and after 30-40 minutes we just passed him to windward. Still we kept going to the East very very close to the shore. Not any of the other leaders was in sight anymore. They must have been bearing away already like COR BLIMEY did about 10 minutes after we passed him. (Later we could see they had to make two more tacks to the next Mark Bainbridge Intl in a very strong tide).

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At a certain moment Boj and I started to wonder how long we should continue sailing away from the next Mark, but then we could see ZARAFA, being on the same course, keeping her course almost the same as we did. We came close to Mark Sevenstar. I tried to make on a piece a paper a calculation based upon our speed and the tide -in absence of any lay lines we could trust- but I failed simply because I did not have any graph paper within reach- so it became my best guess. Then all a sudden Laura came out with a brilliant thought i.e. that we might be able to put up our kite after bearing away. Our advantage to go further got a baby in the form of being able to set our kite.

I made the bearing-away moment not only based upon my best guess but also keeping mind how we could stay as long as possible in undeep water.

Boj and I agreed and we did bear away very close to Mark Sevenstar. Indeed we could hoist our Spi I, though Spi II might have been better considering our close wind angle of say 100-105 degrees TWA (ou pour les connaisseurs 70-75 AWA).

We went like a rocket and we could see the leaders struggle below us.

Then we took some chances by staying very close to the Island shore with the frightening point of Egypt Rock.

We finished as 1st on the water resp. 2nd on handicap. It was the perfect race with excellent boat handling.

Friday, our last day on the water, would have to give the decision.

We had a good start. At the gun 1,0 boat lengths below the line however after one hour delay and after four different Pings for the start line, I did not feel 100% sure that our start line was entirely correct. Our bowman to check the line visually, lost sight of the line by other boats obstructing his visibility. Hm hm hm. We continued having no good reason to return in spite of an individual recall (not being WINSOME as we learned later).

We rounded the first Mark Royal Thames as 3rd boat on the water, but we rounded the next Mark Elephant as 1st. We were only passed by APEX and never gave up our second position until the finish which was shortened at Mark East Lepe.

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Then the real troubles started: radio communications were bad and messages were not transmitted in a well articulated manner. I received the shortening of our course for IRC-4 Class and for SIGMA-38 Class and for another class which I could never receive. We were the class after SIGMA-38 Class.

So I called Race Office at Channel 77, keeping my other VHF on Channel 02, in order not to miss any communication. The lady confirmed that also our Class was shortened at Mark East Lepe. Boj took the Binoculars (a present of my mother) but could not see a shortening flag in the first place on the Committee boat North of Mark East and did not see our Class Flag amidst any of the other Class Flags. We finished just after APEX and just prior to BLACK JACK II.

The man at the Committee Boat, who whistled when other boats in other classes passed his line, made strong signs to us that this was not OUR finish line!

We decided to continue to race to the RYS finish line, just in case. The wind dropped and boats behind us started closing in.

I called again the Racing Office at VHF 77 and in a nearly 20 minutes connection the same lady confirmed me in three different way that we had to finish at the shortened course i.e. at Mark East Lepe. When I asked her name she refused to give it. Strange and unpleasant.

At the RYS finish line we were passed by several boats of our class as a result of the dying winds.

Thereafter followed an unpleasant evening awaiting the decision of the Jury. The Jury decided that finishing at the shortened course was the correct finish and CWL was able to register each boat’s finishing time because a camera was installed on board of the Committee Boat.

End good, all good. Our 2nd Class win in 18 years Cowes Weeks racing. On top of that we became 11th in the overall score for the Black Group (all IRC boats racing)

End of the 2015 season so WINSOME was emptied and cleaned right after she berthed at East Cowes Marina.

All readers of our blogs can collect a tin-plated teaspoon with inscription in Locarno CH.


Post by Harry Heijst | August 15, 2015 |