BFG started upwind of Cowes this year – we had learned our lesson from 2011! (See BFG 2011 in “Yarns”) and the trip from Poole YC took four hours instead of the 16 last year from Eastbourne. Thus we arrived in time for the weather briefing. In retrospect, this probably didn’t help much. The forecast was 30knts gusting 33, steady at that for the duration. Hey Ho! Another bumpy ride. We also were told to seek out the wind bends down the Wight valleys and where the tide advantages were. The result was that we changed our route from Cowes to the Needles to favour a start at the Squadron end – better tide – and tacks in to the Island shore to find the wind bends. Well the Squadron end was crowded as usual and I think that any tide gain was more than wiped out by being mixed up with so many boats. In previous years we have favoured the ODM end and got clear air from the off. The wind did bend, but overall not hugely to our advantage and by the Needles we were in company with Impro and Hobo. Off to St Catherines and Hobo bravely set their kite. Compared to 2011, I thought that the wind was slightly stronger and with a bit more South in it. With our last year’s calamity, (rudder, kite and outboard got wreaked), and our Nationals next month in mind, we opted for the No 1 instead. As it turned out, honours were pretty even. Hobo had to take a more leeward course and white sail back out for the point. We did a banana-shaped leg to get some tide shelter but still lay it. Bearing off at St Caths, we too set our kite and gradually pulled away from them and Impro. I thought the most testing leg was the passage from Ventnor to Bembridge ledge with big following seas throwing us off course and three gybes needed to stay away from dead downwind.
The Solent beat home was quite tame compared with 2010. Then we ended up in company with a couple of dozen boats all close tacking the sands, Port out, Starboard in. This time we played footsie with the edge until my nerve ran out and we avoided the Ryde ‘trap’, although only by a few centimetres. The most frustrating part was the last half-mile to the finish. We just managed to get ourselves in the wind shadow of the trees and instead of bearing off we stuck it out to lay the line – not a good call.
It confirms to me that the RTI is one of the most challenging races anywhere with very different tactical calls on every leg. Well done to all the finishers. Commiserations to the retirees, including those in the ISCRS fleet. A couple of photos attached – Gary, you might like to contact Sam Field Photography about yours, its a great shot.
Chris Bentley (BFG)