Flikr Layup Race & prize giving picture album: CLICK HERE
2015 has been a vintage season for SORC, and after 7 offshore races, 6 inshore races and a 5-race channel week the overall series came down to the final inshore race. Deb Fish sailing the Sun Fast 3200 Exocet led the series going into the race, but Nigel Colley, sailing the Sun Fast 3600 Fastrak X, could steal the victory if he won the race and Deb failed to get on the podium. With SSWly winds forecast, the ROs set a reach from Gilkicker to Bembridge Ledge, followed by a short beat to West Princessa and a 5M run to Winner before returning to Gilkicker via Horse Sand Fort.
Nigel was clearly taking the race seriously. At 2200 on Friday night, the fleet were walking back from a delicious meal in the Pump House, and he walked straight past an open pub without even a thought of one for the road!
Here is Nigel’s tale from Fastrak: “Going into SORC’s last race of the season I was pleasantly surprised to find that Fastrak was in with a mathematical chance of winning the overall championship, especially as a number of races were missed earlier in the year due to a family bereavement. Only Fastrak or Deb Fish, on that “pesky little 3200”, could win the Championship, but Fastrak had to come 1st in the last race with Exocet finishing off the podium!!! No pressure then!
After getting up early and out to the starting area in good time, hanking on the correct jib, working out the course and which side to prep the spinnaker gear it was time to decide on tactics. Apart from winning the race what could be done to keep Deb off the podium??? Sail her into to pack and then sail off to win of course! Well, in the vent we both kept a loose watch on each other and both managed to start at the back of the fleet!! With the fleet sailing slightly high of the rhumb line to Bembridge to reach weaker tide or to clear air, I elected to power off to leeward to get clear air and to break through, a task which Deb had to follow but would be harder in her smaller boat. By the time we got to Bembridge Fastrak had pulled level but to windward of Rare and was just behind Rob Craigie’s 3600 sistership Bellino. Bellino tacked round West Princessa in the lead with Fastrak and then Rare in hot pursuit. With wind against tide and 24 knots of breeze things were very lumpy, and Bellino’s slight hesitation in getting the kite up gave Fastrak her chance. Up went my A2 running kite. The hoist was a bit slow and followed by a mini-broach but things were soon under control and Fastrak took the lead. Gybing first to the next mark at Winner, I then did an early drop ½ mile from the bouy to make sure of no foul ups, and the put the nose up under J2 to Horse Sand Fort. At the Fort Fastrak had extended her lead and the next leg to the finish at Darling Associates was a very marginal “I can I can’t fly the Code 0” moment. My fag packet calcs put me ahead of Rare, Bellino and Exocet so I didn’t risk it.
In the event Fastrak finished to take 1st on line honours and on corrected time but Deb on Exocet sailed exceptionally well to take 2nd place, behind Fastrak, but enough to take the overall season Championship by 1 point!!! A fitting end to have the two Championship contenders taking the top two slots after one of the most competitive SORC seasons I can remember. Well done Deb!
And here is Deb’s tale from Exocet: “After an early start to check out the line I had a disastrous start - Nigel and I were so busy stalking each other that we both messed up and I was frustrated at being the very last of the 12 boats to cross the start line! Most of the boats had set off a little high of the rhumb line, so I followed Fastrak on the direct line below the fleet. This gave us better wind, but the boats nearer the island shore had less foul tide and maintained their lead. By No Man’s Land Fort I had managed to overtake one of the three other Sunfast 3200s - Fluke - but was still behind Mzungu and Roxanne and level with Gary Heward’s Maxi 1100 Amy Lou, the sight of his class 2 flag adding insult to injury!
One of the things I’ve learnt from solo and 2h racing over the years is ‘never give up’. I had to give Amy Lou water to pass Bembridge Ledge, and was then trapped on starboard until Gary tacked. By this point, the wind was up to 16-18 kts with wind against tide kicking up some big waves. Mindful of our recent training session, I crawled forward to clip the spinnaker on, thinking I could recover some lost ground with a slick hoist. I was rewarded by a face full of seawater as the bow went through a wave. With 1.5 kts of tide under us I gained some ground by tacking early onto the layline and bore away onto the run. Meanwhile Mzungu had disappeared, and I later found that Tony had been so focussed on sailing fast that he’d overstood the mark by half a mile! Two 3200s down, one to go.
With the wind gusting 25 kts by this point, to kite or not to kite, that was the question. For a while, we all continued under white sails until a big red kite appeared on Fastrak. Nigel took a while to get the kite under control, the sight of Fastrak broaching acting as a deterrent to the rest of the fleet! Ahead of me, Simon on Roxanne opted for a poled out headsail. I passed Concerto and Seahorse going the other way, changing course to avoid Seahorse as David was busy on the foredeck clipping his spinnaker on. Bellino and Rare hoisted and the three big boats were getting away. There was no choice - if I wanted to stay in with a chance of winning the series, I had to hoist the spinnaker. The wind eased a touch and the spinnaker went smoothly but the top batten on the jib had gybed, and the jib was tangled around the spinnaker pole topping lift preventing it coming down. Crossing my fingers that the pilot would keep the spinnaker full in the waves, I released the topping lift, pulled the jib down and stuffed it in a messy pile on the foredeck before dashing back to set the spinnaker pole and take the helm. The spinnaker did the job, and Exocet pulled ahead of Roxanne. Next call - should I risk a gybe in 16 kts? I moved the jib to the starboard side, reached the layline and went for it. Not quite as slick as in training in 8 kts, but good enough. A few minutes on port, then it was time to drop the kite, pop in two short white sail gybes to round Winner, then set off on the white sail reach to Horse Sand Fort, via a short wrestling match to retrieve the spinnaker sheet which had gone under the boat. Behind me, James on Fluke was the only other mid-sized boat to hoist a spinnaker, with David Cowell on Seahorse being the only boat to fly a spinnaker in class 2.
Fastrak reached the Fort about 10 minutes ahead of me - too far. But Bellino was in reach on handicap and Roxanne was safely behind. Past the Fort and I glanced over my left shoulder to see a cross-channel ferry on a collision course heading into the narrow buoyed channel into Portsmouth. Which way to turn? I hardened up and went behind him - how much time did that cost? (Not long, but it felt like a lifetime.) The wind gradually eased and I was lacking power with my number 2 jib. Up with the code zero for the last 10 minutes, a quick check to make 100% sure which side to pass the finish mark and it was all over.”
At the finish, Fastrak took line honours, shortly followed by Rare, then Bellino. On handicap, Fastrak won overall, with Exocet second, three minutes behind on corrected time, and Rob Craigie’s Bellino completing the podium. In Class 2, Gary Heward’s Amy Lou won, followed by George Isted’s Concerto and David Cowell’s Seahorse.
Layup Race results: CLICK HERE
Final Inshore Series results: CLICK HERE
Race winner - Nigel Colley on Fastrak The fleet get under way