Tough conditions for cruisers

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Mallard rounds the Fairway Buoy

A few weeks ago we reported on the Ladies Race for the cruiser section of Rye Harbour Sailing Club. On that day we had sun, blue sky, calm seas and a perfect wind of around 12 – 14 knots – a perfect day’s sailing. Unfortunately the weather gods, either from a misplaced sense of humour or possibly revenge for seeing us mere sailors enjoying ourselves on the previous occasion, decided that this weekend was to be a sterner test. 

Saturday saw the third race in the Bramley cup series and four boats headed out under grey skies and an increasing wind – Howards Bates’ Mallard, Hugh Redman’s Helena Anne, Paul Parsons’ Lady Jane and Davis Preston’s Limbo Girl. A dutch motor yacht, moored at Strand Quay radioed the harbour master asking for wind strength and wave height: “Wind 22 knots, wave height half a metre” came the reply. They were not too far out on the wind, which was nearer 26 knots but they could do with a new instrument for measuring wave height, which was nearer two metres – the Dutch motor yacht would have been sensible to stay where he was, at the Quay.

For the racing boats, however, it was business as usual in the rough and tumble of Rye Bay as the four competitors lined up for the start of a roughly-triangular course which took them from the harbour mouth to a point off the western end of Winchelsea Beach, then back to the Fairway Buoy which is roughly due south of the start point and well out into the Bay, from there to the RHSC racing buoy off Camber and then back to the start / finish line. 

Limbo Girl

Lady Jane and Mallard got away well, with the little Limbo Girl not far behind, while Helena Anne, unusually, mistimed things and lagged behind the others. While Lady Jane and Mallard fought for the lead on the first leg, Helena Anne’s heavier displacement and ability to cope with the conditions began to tell as she crept up first, on Limbo Girl before starting to reduce the gap to the leading boats.

All was to no avail, however, and after an exciting – and wet – sail, Lady Jane crossed the finish line barely half a minute ahead of Mallard with Helena Anne 4 minutes later and Limbo Girls a further 4 minutes behind. Once the individual ratings (boats’ handicaps) had been taken into account, however, the order changed slightly and the final result, on corrected time, was: 1st Lady Jane, 2nd Mallard, 3rd Limbo Girl, 4th Helena Anne.

For Sunday’s race the weather had not improved and with the wave height, if anything, slightly greater and the wind 26 knots now gusting to 30 knots, it promised to be a wild day’s racing. Mallard and Limbo Girl were there, ready for more punishment, Lady Jane was not racing this time but Bill Lewis in Close Encounters came out to join in the fun. Hugh Redman with Helena Anne was OOD (Officer of the day) and, as the start / finish boat, was unable to compete and could only watch from a somewhat uncomfortable and bouncy grandstand seat as the others made a clean start.

The course was the same as the previous day and with the wind coming from the south west, the fleet had to battle their way straight into an ever-increasing headwind to reach the first mark. After rounding this, the wind was more on the beam, giving a fast run down to the Fairway Buoy – although with large waves also on the beam, it was hardly a comfortable run. The penultimate leg towards Camber had both wind and sea more or less astern resulting in a surfing session until a final beat into the wind back to the finish line.

This time, Mallard was first to finish with Lady Lane some 13 minutes behind and Limbo Girl (who, from a distance, appeared almost as much under the water as she was on top of it for a lot of the race) just 3 minutes behind her. Once again, on corrected time the order changed and the result was: 1st Mallard, 2nd Limbo Girl, 3rd Lady Jane.

Photos: John Minter

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