2020 Covid Shakedown Race
34 Solo & Double Handed yachts enjoy champagne racing on the Solent

34 Solo & Double Handed yachts enjoyed champagne racing on the Solent on Sunday 7th June 2020. SORC staged the largest yacht race since the start of the Covid Lockdown for socially distant compliant solo and duo teams.

Marine photographer Rick Tomlinson was out to take the snaps, and his portfolio link is at the bottom of the page.  Rick's Photos


Unusually for SORC, which is the UK's only Yacht Club dedicated to solo yacht racing, we staged a Double Handed class. With the Covid Pandemic starving us of yacht racing generally, and DH racing gaining real traction at the moment, it seemed only fair to share our resources and let them have a race. It was a well recieved successful initiative.


DoubleHanded Class racing In SORC`s “Covid Shakedown” Race

The race team behind SORC wisely delayed their inaugural 2020 race from a 30 knot, grey Saturday to a sparkly, sunny, 12 knot Sunday. Given the enthusiasm to get afloat, the epic 27 boat solo fleet extended the race invitation to include double handers, increasing the entry field by a further 9 boats on the start line.

The numerous shoreside observers, perambulators, cyclists and the generally curious were treated to a mixed fleet apparently aimlessly sailing in random directions whilst awaiting the start sequence. The DH fleet were planned to start at 1100, but R.O. Steve Cole wisely decided to delay starting the sequence until 1130 to allow the wind to fill in. Perfect timing because the first wind ripples soon arrived, with a steady 10-12 knot westerly propelling the DH start. All starts were “stealth” starts [radio only], so along with obviously only solo or two person yachts, any adverse comments from shore regarding yachts racing would be completely negated. The reverse being true, that the Solent coming alive again was welcomed.

The race.  I`ll give a blow by blow account of who went where and when. Or perhaps not! Sufficient to say that from the start the place to be was in the west flowing back-eddy along the Gurnard shore. Most yachts headed this way, but the art was in gauging when to tack across the easterly flow towards Beaulieu and the first mark. Here fortunes changed, the leading boats off the line who stayed on the island shore lost out. The group of “Mostly Harmless”, “Wee Bear” “Frank 3” and “Alamara IV” popped out in a favourable position. It was evident that course setter and long term SORC race official Dave Giddings with Steve Cole had used the crystal ball to great effect; the course was enjoyable with true windward legs and downwind legs that were……downwind.  The course mainly featured navigation buoys rather than racing marks, giving the solo/DH sailor a fighting chance of finding them!  [DG:  ‘Big Lizzie’ was departing Portsmouth and, thanks to Covid-19, most racing marks have not been laid so there wasn’t much choice!].  Heading off to East Bramble, symmetric spinnaker boats Frank 3 and Adelie were able to lay the mark whilst the rest zigzagged their way there allowing for much gybing practice. Two tight fetches to S Ryde Middle then NW to Hillhead caused us in Mzungu to decide that we could use the code zero; no we can`t. Yes, we should have done. Presumably everyone else had the same discussion because I didn`t see one hoisted.  Perhaps the solo sailors didn`t have a crew discussion. Those that did can get appropriate help once the NHS is less busy. A beat back to East Lepe with the now strongly ebbing spring tide was quick, the port turn around the mark into the tide punished slow spinnaker work as SOG dwindled for those with no power. The fleet closed up considerably and had a great, sunny run to finish, Cowes Week style, at Gurnard [many close inshore out of the tide] where competitors took their own times. Mostly Harmless took line honours and overall, whilst Frank 3 and Wee Bear punched above their weight for the whole race, only losing ground on the last run.

The weather was kind, the wind was just right, the course was spot on and it was free race. Thanks SORC! [Now all we need are post-race beers and……………]

Tony White (Mzungu)


Class 1 enjoy close racing

A game of snakes and ladders in closely fought race, as shown by Jangada, Bellino and Fastrak taking the top three podium spots within 1m 12s of eachother in that order. !5 boats on the line was always going ot be interesting. Fastrak got shut out by Sun Fast 3600 Tigress at the pin end and had to bail out, tack round and come in again. Bellino got away cleanly and headed for the mainland shore towards Sevenstar. Bellino and Fastrak were first round the mark for the run to East Bramble against the tide which favoured the conventional poled boats, and provided lots of gybing practice for the Asymmetrics. Bellino led around East Bramble followed by the closely bunched Jangada, Tigress (J88) and Fastrak who had suffered from a bad kite drop, but managed to claw her way back through on the next reach. Another reach and a beat to East Lepe followed, then a dead downwind leg against a strong tide to the finish. Bellino suffred from a bad wrap which allowed Jangada to sneak through to take the handicap lead, but Bellino just manged to hold of Fastrak and J88 Tigress. A good win for Richard Palmer on Jangada, which had only arrived on a ship back from the Caribbean the week before.


The View from Solo Classes 2 and 3

At last, after 2 months dry at Dry Berthing, Pyxis was out on the water!  The short postponement (great call) gave a much needed opportunity to practise boat handling, recovering Magewind’s hat overboard and returning it using an appropriate no-touch and socially-distanced approach (a racing-weight fishing net). 

My plan for the start was to approach hard on the wind on port and wiggle through a gap in the fleet on starboard to sail straight over to the north shore before tacking for the windward mark.  But the bulk of the fleet queued up on starboard without a gap, leaving Pyxis making a couple of rapid and inelegant tacks (that’s my excuse for the empty sails in the photo).  Off to Sevenstars and the first hoist.  Shortly followed by the second hoist, this time from the sea, the halyard having escaped the jammer before being tailed – these things happen solo.  Heading east, determined to catch sistership, Adelie, I spotted a RORO approaching the turn into Southampton and headed up to clear its stern, gaining significantly (but not enough) on Adelie and Virago, who needed much more dramatic course alterations.  That made the remainder of the downwind leg even more downwind.  Carrying symmetric kites does have some advantages. 

Two short reaching legs gave a good opportunity to tidy up string everywhere and re-pack the kite, then back on the wind again, this time down-tide.  But Dave and Steve saved the toughest leg for last: 1 ½ miles to the finish at Gurnard.  Do I hoist the kite, knowing we will need to short gybe around a rather rocky Egypt Point to cheat the tide, in full ebb by then, in close quarters with the Class 1 fleet, which had caught Classes 2 and 3, before heading out to finish within 50 m of Gurnard as required by the course instruction?  Was it even possible without a kite?  Turning round East Lepe, it was clear the wind had built enough to white sail it and finishing safely seemed the better option. 

Virago (braver than me with the kite on the last leg) and Adelie kept their lead, well deserved first and second in Class, both on the water and on handicap, with Magewind of Roke winning Class 3 (despite his wet hat).

Kirsteen Donaldson (Pyxis)


House Keeping

The Covid Shakedown Race was badged from the outset as a season warm up and non-points scoring training race. So, it is only right that we make the following house keeping notes/reminders to help us all in the season to come...

It is come to our attention that there were at least two close quarter incidents with risk of collision, not good  at the best of times, worse during Covid. You are reminded that under the Racing Rules of Sailing,  boats are required to avoid contact (RRS 14) and give room to keep clear when acquiring right of way (RRS 15) or changing course (RRS 16).  A solo boat may well need more room to avoid contact or keep clear than a boat with more crew.  Please be understanding of others and give them as much room  as you would like them to give to you.

A reminder that in SORC, for hopefully obvious reasons, finish time is taken from the normal helming position, not the bow.

We are aware that a number of boats finished well inshore of 3U Gurnard, despite a requirement in the course text  to be within 50 metres of the buoy. These boats gained an unfair advantage by cheating the tide. One boat was protested and retired, but others also offended.

Please note that it is a requirement, not a request, to text your finish declaration as soon as possible and no later than 1 hour after finishing (General Condition 15b).   If you are tardy in doing so, time has to be spent chasing it up and publication of the results is delayed.  In future, culprits may find themselves scored DNF - no declaration. There is also a safety issue.  If we don’t know what has happened to a boat, we may well raise an alarm (General Condition 10b).

Finally, a reminder that SORC is run entirely by volunteers and late entries, incomplete information, late IRC rating applications, last minute changes and so on, all add considerably to the workload.  Please be considerate and help SORC to achieve the high standard of race management it aims to provide by avoiding these sins.

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Covid Shakedown Race