2023 Cherbourg & Back

Offshore Series races 1 & 2

 22 May 2023

Fastrak sails into the sunset
Fastrak sails into the sunset

The 2023 SORC Offshore Series had tricky races to Cherbourg & Back with strong tides and variable winds.

Race Report from Chris Morton, skipper of the Pogo 850 L'Adventure

Our first offshore race of the season to Cherbourg on paper had it all, good NE breeze from astern and sun, we started with a very strong East going tide with light and fickle SW winds.

With spinnakers up we ghosted down the Solent, sticking to the channel to make best of the tide, the symmetric boats just managing to sail the rhum line our "Sun Fast"  friends seeking greater apparent breeze and gybing down.

The fleet was pretty close as we rounded Bembridge, the last of the evening glow over the Island.

The wind had now died away to nothing as we slipped through the moored ships, the tide being the dominant factor, I was able to count the number of links in one of their anchor chains as I slid past. The light from the moored ships was dazzling, as it was now dark, really not see past the bow dark, with the ships astern it was a real moment to enjoy the night, with only the gentle rocking of our fellow competitors nav lights to break the inky blackness.

Slowly the wind did as expected and built from the NNE, finally the sort of conditions my Pogo dreams of, with such a slow start it was time to re route, to make sure our final approach was from the West with the tide. As night gave way to day winds were 15 to 20 Kn and it was starting to get exciting, quite a rolly quartering sea made the pilot work hard, but also meant L'Aventure started surfing, nice and fast, importantly in control, I could see Pyxis, Felix and Kit off to the West .

By the time winds hit 18Kn we are full on planning, running that fine line between grin and grimmace, this was only going to end one way but I was going to enjoy it whilst it lasted.

Two big broaches and a burst snatch block later I retrieved the spinnaker glad to be back under full control.

All around me others were having their own similar experiences, it was a good weekend for sail makers!!.

These were conditions the Sun Fast 3300's eat for breakfast, and as usual they were in port whilst the croissants were still hot, both Fastrak and Game On crossing the finish line fully powered up, a fabulous race between Nigel and Ian, with only seconds between them at the finish, one design racing at its best.

My finish on L'Aventure was a fast reach, I was sure I had clinched class two, I had foolishly forgotten Amylou who had sailed a blinder, in spite of his own spinnaker woes.

The whole fleet was safely in with plenty of time to sleep, repair sails and a touch of shopping.

Fleet dinner was most convivial, good food and the wine flowing, although not too much as we all were aware of the forecast for Sundays Race 2.

After much dinner table discussion we amended the SIs to make for a slightly less arduous return leg, North Head as our destination the tide would favour most for getting back to their moorings.

Sunday morning dawned as expected, sunshine and a stiff north easter, the SORC fleet were about to experience my first attempt at the CSB start, usually I struggle managing my own time at the start let alone everyone else's, but over all I think it went ok, all clear on the line and we set off on a starboard beat into 20 angry knots and the usual Cherbourg nasty chop.

In complete contrast to race one, the conditions L'Aventure hates, these were not conditions the small boats favour, with Kit off and L'Aventure bringing up the rear the rest of the fleet edged ahead, greater displacement and water line, oh and water ballast coming into play. I suspect life on Bonkers and Amylou was a lot more civilised than I was experiencing.

But the breeze didn't last, by the time we hit the East going shipping Lane all we had was 10 kns or less and a sloppy sea, we all now put the kettle on and prepared for the long game, the tide making for a very pronounced "S" COG, but eventually the wind filled in and settled somewhere in the North, the faster, longer boats making the most of the new pressure.

This time the one design battle being acted out between Felix and Pyxis, Christoph and Kirsteen also finishing on corrected time with seconds between them.

Quite a long way back L'Aventure was at least now moving in the right direction, finally approaching North Head, short tacking in the pitch black.

A great SORC weekend of racing, and dare I say I enjoyed being race director for the first time.

See you all for RIOW.

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