Jerry Freeman reviews the successfully concluded Solo Festival

Famous faces, new faces, old faces and regulars all mingled  together for the first social gathering of the SORC 2016 season at Hornet Services Sailing Club on Saturday 27th February.

Solo sailors are a gregarious bunch who very much enjoyed the greeting and the catching up after the long winter break. Slightly concerning was the large amount of food consumed by the athletes at lunch and supper, presumably in the carbs loading phase of a weight training programme. There was one disaster to report when the tea urn ran dry in the middle of the afternoon and naturally being British the restart was postponed until the kettle had boiled.

The highlight of the day for many present was the announcement of the new name for SORC flagship race to the Fastnet rock and the unveiling of the title sponsor - Virgin Media Business. There is no doubt that Rob Craigie and Ian Hoddle have conceived a race that will be a landmark event in the history of SORC and for single-handed racing in the UK.


What did you miss? You missed Mike Golding on the evolution of the latest IMOCA 60 and why the previous generation may still be faster in the Vendee Globe. You missed Sam Matson and the Figaro secret; Road Book. You may have escaped being signed up for the OSTAR 2017 by John Lewis of RWYC in a side meeting for the chosen few before lunch.

Simon Mitchell outlined the SORC regular season which starts on April 16th and17th with two inshore series races in the Solent. Merf Owen fresh back from his win in the Miami to Cuba race aboard his new design Class 40 Longbow, revealed the thinking behind chines at 20 degrees of heel and why twin rudders are obligatory. Ed Hill was overwhelmed by orders for North 3DI sails in time for the start of the season and stressed the value of sail cross over charts, reefing jibs and woolled spinnakers.

When the kettle eventually boiled and the biscuits - also running late arrived, it was time for Ian Hoddle to update the skippers on the progress of the solo Fastnet with 52 deposits paid  and 8 places remaining, The international fleet includes a lot of hot boats from France and it promises to be an outstanding race. To save time in July Rob Craigie did the pre start briefing which got the adrenalin pumping a bit too soon.

Radar Target Enhancers are invaluable items that, along with the AIS, have made a step change in solo racing safety and John Simpson of Echomax had clear views on where to stick it. You may also need his cunning collapsible radar reflector that ticks the box for the passive reflector, compact, effective and certified.

Kass Schmitt scared everyone to death with her studies of 19 metre rogue waves in the ocean off la Corunna and the destructive forces experienced by Zest on their autumn escape. Rupert and Kass are to be applauded for their seamanship and fortitude in sailing the dismasted and badly damaged Zest back to port without outside assistance and eventually home  by road to Cowes for repair.

To close the show we went back- way back- to 1968 and the Golden Globe race won by you know who. Those with a taste for serious adventure in retro style can dig out their Walker logs and sight reduction tables and gather at Falmouth in June 2018 on the fiftieth anniversary of His departure for the reprise. If you have a Rustler 38 slightly underused, then call Barry Pickthall  and get signed up.

The talks touched on many different aspect of solo racing revealing why the sport is so demanding and addictive and why we cannot wait for the new season to start.

Proposal for the next meeting in 2017; If anyone here present knows of any reason why the next Festival should not be held on Saturday February 25th 2017 let him speak now or forever hold his peace.

Jerry Freeman



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