A close run thing


Sunday, September 18 saw race number 6 in the Rye Harbour Sailing Club’s Pocket Cruiser series.

For once the day had dawned bright sunny and with a relatively gentle breeze coming from the NNW and therefore coming off the land. The wind direction makes a big difference in Rye Bay: blowing from the South or South West and therefore towards the land, the shoaling nature of the sea bed can cause (and usually does) short steep waves that the boats have to punch through. In 20 knots or more of wind, this can make hard (and sometimes wet) work for the crew.

The wind in the reverse direction, however, tends to flatten the sea, and this was the case on Sunday together with wind speeds rarely rising above 14 knots.

Mystic Sky - too close for comfort at times
Mystic Sky – too close for comfort at times


Due to owners’ commitments elsewhere and, in one case, a damaged boom awaiting replacement, the racing fleet consisted of just 3 boats: Roxanne (38ft), Helena Anne (38ft) and Mystic Sky (32ft).

The start, as usual was off the mouth of the river and with Limbo Girl as OOD and start boat, the three racers crossed the line in close proximity.

Roxanne, for whom the conditions must have been almost ideal soon pulled out a small lead with Mystic Sky keeping pace with Helena Anne for a while before her smaller size resulted in her dropping behind.

A reach turned into a run and Roxanne hoisted her spinnaker. On Helena Anne, sailing short handed with just two crew, the owner Hugh Redman and the author, it was decided not to use our spinnaker as, with so small a crew, it might prove difficult to retrieve at the end of the run. Surprisingly, and despite this apparent disadvantage, Helena Anne started to make ground on Roxanne and before the next mark was reached, was close enough to steal wind from her spinnaker, thus slowing her down a little.

Slowly, slowly Helena Anne crept up on Roxanne
Slowly, slowly Helena Anne crept up on Roxanne

This cat-and-mouse-like approach continued for the rest of the race with Roxanne pulling away but with Helena Anne closing the gap on some points of sailing and often when rounding a mark. Mystic Sky, all this time, was dropping behind, but not so far that her handicap, designed to keep her competitive with the bigger boats might not pull her back into contention.

Finally, after an hour and a half racing Roxanne crossed the finish line with Helena Anne a little under seven minutes behind, and Mystic Sky followed a further four minutes later. Now the wait while corrected time (after allowing for handicaps) was calculated. Had Helena Anne been close enough to beat Roxanne? Probably not. But more important had the well-sailed Mystic Sky finished close enough to overtake one, or even both of the bigger boats?

The answer soon came: Roxanne had won and Helena Anne was just 30 seconds behind. But what about Mystic Sky, had she beaten us? Not quite, just a touch over a minute behind – so close! An excellent day’s racing.

Photos: John MInter and RHSC

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