CLASS 1 Report from Simon Mitchell on the Sun Fast 3200 "ROXANNE"
34 solo skippered yachts competed in this years SORC RIOW race around the Isle of Wight, including a good number of SORC Newbies. This annual iconic SORC race did not disappoint and was hotly contested throughout the fleet.
Class 2 and 3 started off Gurnard at 07:30 with the fatser Class 1 boats 15 minutes later at 07:45, into a 12 to 15 knot WSW wind and an ebbing tide. A number of boat on boat tacking duels up the Solent ensued, with places being traded back on forth on each wind shift. In Class 1 the larger Sun Fast 3600 "Bellino" eked out a small lead over the pursuing pack of J105 "Jester", JPK 1010 "Jangada" and Sun Fast 3200 R2 "Fastrak", all similarly rated, with the Prima 38's and others thrown into the mix.
The Class 1 leaders caught up with the bottom half of Class 2 fleet shortly before the Needles, where all boats had to round an experimental virtual mark designed keep everyone clear of the Varvassi wreck. Feedback on this is welcome for our end of season clean up. After rounding the Needles the wind was quite shy for spinnakers, lulling many boats to hoist reachers or A-sails, if they had the choice. "Jangada" went for hew A5 whereas "Fastrak" went for her S2. The wind quickly freed, in favour of "Fastrak" who got level with "Jangada" who then had to peel to her symmetric spinnaker. Meanwhile "Jester" had a problematic spinnaker hoist and allowed both "Jangada" and "Fastrak" through to pursue the Class leader "Bellino".
The wind increased with gusts to 20 knots allowing for some fast surfing conditions. "Fastrak" was happily hitting speeds of 12.5 knots, with a few broaches thrown in when the quartering sea caught the sklipper or the autopilot off guard! There was the usual chop off St Catherines, where the fleet could bear off for a few miles, before gybing towards Bembridge Ledge bouy. Judging when to execute the kite drop at Bembridge, and doing it well, with a following tide could gain or lose lots of distance. After Bembridge, a foul tide meant judging how close to go to the beach and navigating Ryde Sands became paramount, with "Fastrak" going aground twice and "Amylou" once. And then finally there are the Norris Nadgers to contend with - go in close out of the tide or stand off for better breeze?
The leading Class 1 boats finished the race in well under 7 hours. "Jangada", last years overall winner skippered by Jeremy Waitt, took the Class winfollowed by Rob Craigie in "Bellino" 4 minutes later and then another 30 seconds Nigel Colley In "Fastrak". However, these skippers were royally beaten by the 4 Contessa's racing in Class 2 for the overall results. The overall winner, and by a large 9 minute margin, was Charles Charlesworth in the Contess 26 "Meow" followed by Rupert Houlton in the Contessa 26 sistership "Elinor". Coming in to takle 3rd and 4th overall were the Contessa 32 sisterships "Pancahe" sailed by Alice Butcher, whoi was delighted to come in ahead of George Isted on "Concerto".
The convivial prize giving and excellent dinner were held at the Island Sailing Club.
CLASS 2 Report from Chris Charlesworth on the overall winner - Contessa 26 "MEOW"
The Solo Round the Island Race had an upwind start for Class 2 from the Jog Line at Egypt Point which was challenging especially as it was early in the morning in relation to my previous night's frivolities. The breeze was on and the ebb tide was ripping at the favoured pin end making for a tricky start with most of the Class hanging back in the choppy water kicked up by the 15 kt West South Westerly and opposing tide but I was able to be near the front row and got a lane and then tacked out into better tide quickly.
This was my first SORC race with a tiller pilot but with a big sea running I discovered I was unable to use it as it could not cope with the weather helm in the strong breeze. Looking for a lane and working the shifts was full-on especially whilst trying to stay upright with no reef and follow my tidal strategy. I crossed ahead of one of the Contessa 32's and Kirsteen Donaldson's X-332 Pyxis and behind Fredderic Waniart's Super Arlequin Maeva but apart from those I could only see the two fastest boats in the Class leading the fleet some way ahead.
Just after Hampstead Ledge I got a scare from Rupert Holton in his Contessa 26 Elinor which I had not seen at the start or for the first 5 miles. I crossed about 200 yards ahead of him and I had clearly been sailing with the slows for a while as he had speed and height on me so I put a loose cover on him and played with my sail and rig settings on both tacks for about a mile until I had the required speed and height. We maintained a tacking dual up to the point we were opposite Yarmouth Pier before I split with him to maintain a clear lane and go for more tide. By Fort Albert I had pulled out several hundred yards on him but I had Pyxis crossing behind me threatening my lane and I think both Contessa 32's were now between me and the Needles. Also the leading Class 1 boats were overtaking us at this stage and I had to duck one or two to get to the right side of the track. I also encountered a lot of cruiser traffic between Yarmouth and the Needles which were giving me a lot of dirty air and stopping me tacking out from the Island Shore.
I was pretty overloaded with no autopilot and the competitor and cruiser traffic but now had to use my hand held plotter whilst steering to find the virtual waypoint to the north of the Varvassi wreck as I approached the Mid Shingles Buoy. It was difficult to visualise where this virtual mark should be from a mile out and none of the bigger boats ahead were going very close in so I didn't want to follow their track. The breeze was oscillating more after Hurst and it was going to be difficult not to over stand or under lay the virtual mark. Any extra tacks before the wreck were going to be costly as they had low VMG even with a following tide but fortunately I was able to lay from half a mile out and make the best rounding I've ever done on a virtual mark. Kass Schmitt in her Humphreys 36 Zest was behind me when I rounded and later confirmed I was where she thought I should be.
At the bear away the tide was favourable according to my boat speed versus ground speed so I went for the straight line to St.Cats but noticed Elinor go into Freshwater Bay seeking early tidal relief and she was not flying her kite. I popped the S2 and started surfing and matching boat speed with Zest who was white sails. I then realised I would not be able to reach my suncream or food or have a pee for several hours as I was dropping down some serious surf at over 10 kts with a 40 sqm kite choked down and I needed both hands on the tiller all the time to steer to the kite and stay upright.
A big back eddy was running inshore at St.Cats so I went half a mile out to avoid this and the confused sea it caused. My plotter had died of a water leak and whilst messing about looking at my plotter I managed to collapse the kite and wrap it several times round the forestay. It took a long time to get the kite down and I nearly went over the side a few times as it is very narrow on deck at the forestay and very precarious even in a calm sea let alone a lumpy one. I am still not sure how I got it down or gybed the boat and put the S1.5 up but by the time I did I could see Rupert about a mile away and he had his asymmetric kite up and was flying and Zest had disappeared.
With no pilot I knew the drop at Bembridge would be a problem so I had to go for a cockpit drop not the usual hatch drop. The tide was converging from two directions at Bembridge Cardinal so I needed a good rounding to stay on the mark. I did a late drop but when I blew the halyard it just went in the drink powered up and stopped the boat dead. I somehow managed a reasonable rounding and pointed the bow at Seaview and came up on to the breeze.
Nav and tidal strategy was pretty intense as I was cutting over Ryde Sands after Seaview and going inside the second red post without my plotter and no one to follow. I managed to avoid going aground and kept out of the foul tide until I passed the second red post. I then put a couple of hitches in after Ryde Pier to keep in the shallow water past Peel Bank and then straight lined it to Norris in very little tide.
At Wootton Creek I was level with the Pogo 850 L'Adventure but she stayed offshore in the foul tide and I matched her speed over the ground prior to Norris after which she reached slack tide and shot off finishing about five minutes before me. I only had one or two tacks left in me by Norris and I knew I needed to stay in to cut the corner but its high risk as the wind separates and goes flukey in the Norris Naggers. I aimed for the Shrape Post and hoped for the best and the gods delivered a steady breeze and a lift and I only needed two more tacks at the moorings just before the finish line at Cowes.
I finished in 8 hrs 6 mins 36 secs which is the fastest ever of my dozen roundings by over 50 mins even fully crewed. I was delighted to hear that I had won overall by over 9 minutes on corrected time leading a clean sweep by the the four Class 2 Contessas with the Contessa 26 Elinor in 2nd and the Contessa 32's Panache 3rd and Concerto 4th. This shows how well our locally designed and built 50 year old boats can do when sailed well against the latest state of the art, high budget, International race machines optimised for Single-Handed Racing. It also bodes well for our our Class in the future as this is the predominant wind and tide direction for this annual race.