Light airs close the season

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The unusual sight from Helena Anne of seeing not just one, but two boats well ahead

The final weekend of the cruiser racing season saw light and variable winds in Rye Bay, favouring the more modern and lighter boats.

Saturday’s race was a simple out and back course involving a beat and a couple of legs where a spinnaker could be set. With barely 8 knots of wind, the start saw Roxanne, with her combination of long waterline length (which determines the theoretical maximum speed of a sailing boat) light weight for her size and enormous genoa (the foresail in front of the mast, for the uninitiated) ghost past the other five boats (Helena Anne, Mystic Sky, Mallard, Close Encounters and Jemma) and into the lead.

Helena Anne, despite being probably the heaviest boat, seemed to be enjoying the conditions until a small windshift on the upwind leg put her further away from the turning mark causing her to lose substantial ground to all except Jemma who had suffered the same problem. Downwind every effort was made to catch up with, for one of the few occasions this year, first the full spinnaker being set and, on the final leg, with the wind too far round for the spinnaker, the asymmetric (similar to a spinnaker but not so balloon-like) was tried, but all to little avail. With the wind becoming ever more fitful, Helena Anne had to be satisfied with an unaccustomed fifth place. The rest of the order being: 1st Roxanne, 2nd Mallard, 3rd Mystic Sky, 4th Close Encounters and 6th Jemma.

Some of the boats up on the hard for their winter rest. Helena Anne in the foreground
Some of the boats up on the hard for their winter rest. Helena Anne in the foreground

The following day, Sunday, saw similar conditions and once again a combination of light weight and sail area influenced the outcome. The race was close, however, with the first two finishers crossing the line within seconds of each other and the next two barely two minutes behind. The final result this time was: 1st Mystic Sky, 2nd Roxanne, 3rd Mallard, 4th Close Encounters, 5th Limbo Girl, 6th Helena Anne, DNF Lady Jane.

So the racing year ends, and with a number of the cruisers out of the water for the winter, one can look back on a year when, as usual, Rye Bay has tested boats, skippers and crews to the full. From almost flat calm at one point in the summer, to strong winds, reefed sails and boats crashing through the short steep seas at other times and finally ending with something of a whimper with a breeze only just enough to drive them round the course.

Now winter maintenance awaits the owners, while the crews can look forward to the spring when it starts all over again.

Photos: John Minter

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