2015 Solent to Alderney and back

Solent - Alderney


SORC’s race to Alderney had an element of ‘who dares wins’ to it, with the results rewarding those who dared fly spinnakers into Alderney harbour and worked hardest to cheat the tide on both sides of the channel in a tactically demanding race...


With a strong tide carrying boats over the line and lightish Northerly winds, the SORC fleet got a cautious start to the SORC race to Alderney, heading East to leave the Solent via the Forts. Initially code zeros looked good, but before long the wind backed and it was time for the first of many spinnaker peels to running kites. Rob Craigie on Bellino led the pack of four big boats down the Solent, sailing North of the direct route, which allowed the pack to bear away when the wind veered. Behind them, the two Sunfast 3200s Exocet and Roxanne had taken a more direct route, with Deb on Exocet peeling back to her code zero to clear Ryde Sands, while Simon managed to hang on to his symmetric. The two Contessa 32s, Infinity and Concerto, were having their own battle, while Maeva quietly worked her way down the Solent, ready to pounce if the bigger boats made a mistake. 


Once past the Forts, the fleet bore away onto a run to Bembridge Ledge buoy. The symmetric boats were able to gain ground on the asymmetric ones, and had fun timing their gybes to weave a course between the anchored ships. With several hours of flood tide still to run, Rob led the fleet past Bembridge, aiming to stay slightly inshore out of the tide and promptly led the fleet into a wind hole. Fastrak bore away to head South of the light patch, with Exocet going further South and gybing to stay well clear. At first this looked good, as they sailed past the becalmed boats. But then the boats inshore got through the light patch and Ian Hoddle’s Figaro, Rare, regained the lead, while those offshore found themselves stranded in foul tide. Meanwhile, the wily Frenchman, Frederic Waniart, had sailed Maeva close inshore around the bay, picking up a land breeze, cheating the tide, and arriving at Dunnose Point with the leaders, much to their annoyance!


Exocet sailing through the anchored ships.


As forecast, the wind headed the boats, and most changed back to code zeros for a while, before sailing South into freer wind and being able to do yet another peel back to symmetric spinnakers. Roxanne opted to keep his symmeric spinnaker up, heading South in search of freer winds, but at the cost of stemming the foul tide. Paul Brant, sailing the Sunfast 3600 Ninjod, managed to get his halyards twisted during one of many peels, losing time trying to undo the twists and wishing for a brighter torch to illuminate the knitting. He then rehoisted his code zero, only to have it unfurl during the hoist. Paul decided to drop the zero, but the sail had other ideas and decided to go for a swim, and Paul faced the tiring task of retrieving it from the sea.


The fleet then settled onto the making starboard gybe until the forecast wind veer allowed them to gybe to lay Alderney. All enjoyed a fantastic night's sailing, with a clear sky full of stars and a full moon illuminating the spinnakers. At the front of the fleet, Bellino and Fastrak traded places several times, but Bellino inched her way ahead to get a half mile advantage. Bellino approached from furthest West, with Rob finishing under white sails to take line honours. Nigel used his local knowledge to make the final approach from further East to take advantage of the tidal shadow and a West going inshore eddy, flying his spinnaker into the harbour and over the line, and closing the gap to just a boat length in a nail biting finish. But it was Maeva who stole the show, also taking advantage of the inshore eddy and flying her kite across the line to save her time and take the overall handicap victory by 16 minutes. Further back, Exocet dropped her kite early, wary of the lee shore, but was outdone by Concerto who dropped 7M from the finish, daunted by the 20 kt winds and exhausted after a long night without sleep. George went on to rue this decision, losing to Exocet by under one minute on handicap! On Roxanne, Simon's gybe for Alderney was delayed by an encounter with a tug with a long tow. Like Fastrak, his approach from the East paid dividends, but wasn't enough to catch sistership Exocet. 


Congratulations to Frederic on Maeva for taking the overall victory, with Bellino second and Fastrak third, with full results here. And well done to Wayne Mortiboys on the Contessa 32 Infinity for completing his first solo cross channel race in style, racing overnight with a spinnaker! 


Alderney - Solent - the Needle match continued...


After a very pleasant meal in St Anne’s, the SORC skippers dashed down the hill to catch the 10pm water taxi, only to find a 20 kt NEly wind blowing straight into the harbour, making waiting on the pontoon for the water taxi perilous! Many spent an anxious night bouncing up and down in the chop, waiting for the alarm to go off. It was still dark when the skippers emerged to prepare their boats for the 0700 start of the race back. 



A fine fleet dinner in Alderney. 


Rob was first to leave the harbour, ready to start the 30 minute start sequence as the Competitor Committee Boat for the race back. As ever, Rob did a sterling job, ensuring that everyone had the best possible chance of a fair start. After the gun, the big boats soon took the lead, sailing slightly cracked off in the 20 kt ENEly wind. Behind them, Exocet and Roxanne set a course slightly closer to the wind in anticipation of being slower so having more West-going tide, but this became a self-fulfilling prophecy, as sailing higher reduced their speed still further! Simon on Roxanne won the battle of the 3200s, but both rued not sailing lower.


At the front of the fleet, Fastrak and Bellino continued their needle match, being well matched for speed. Fastrak sailed slightly lower, and took advantage of the wind freeing on the approach to Needles Fairway to creep ahead and take line honours, but the last laugh went to Bellino who was close enough to take the handicap win by just 14 seconds, and push Fastrak into second place on handicap. Ninjod was never far behind the two leaders to make it a Sun Fast 3600 1, 2, 3. The match racing between these 3 boats certainly seems to be paying dividends in enhancing all their overall performances. Results for the return race can be found here. Overall, this was yet another fantastic SORC weekend, leaving the skippers with aching bodies after peeling kites all the way to Alderney and trimming sails in the gusty winds all the way back!


In the overall inshore series, Bellino’s win was enough to give Rob the overall victory and the magnificent Beagle Cup by a single point over Fastrak. Ninjod came third, completing the Sunfast 3600 domination of the podium. Results for the offshore series can be found here. Thanks to Race Officers Dave and Kirsteen for starting the outward race and calculating all the results.


Competition for the overall series remains hot, with five boats still in contention for the overall prize. All will no doubt be seeking that extra edge at the forthcoming North Sails coaching day on 9th October, before the final inshore races on 10th and 24th October, followed by the legendary Laying Up supper and prize giving, which will once again take place at Hornet Sailing Club - details will be posted on the website soon!


Event photos: CLICK HERE

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2015 Solent to Alderney and back