5 J/109s ventured out into the Needles Channel for the JOG Great Escape race on Saturday. Conditions were perfect, with no repeat of the wind hole at Norris that undid many of us last weekend…
There was another fantastic turnout for the second of the informal races organised by JOG to get at least some of us out onto the water during these virus impacted times. 65 boats completed across 3 classes with the 5 J/109s in class 2. Race organisation was again fantastic with a clear briefing over zoom on Thursday followed by excellent communication with competitors via WhatsApp and e-mail, including the course sent by WhatsApp ahead of the start. Has anyone yet produced the app that takes the course from WhatsApp and gives us the bearings between marks? I’ll certainly download it if its there.
Last weeks two top boats, Jago and Just So were back on the race course two handed, accompanied by Mojo Risin’ and Jumunu. This week, Jiraffe left the ladies ashore and was trying 2-handed, household sailing for the first time.
The course took us from the start at Gurnard, up the Western Solent via West Lepe, Salt Mead, Solent Bank, then out through Hurst to Needles Fairway and back into the Solent via North Head, then back to the JOG finish line at Cowes.
Aboard Jiraffe, the wind was a little stronger than we’d hoped for our first 2-handed experience in a J/109 and it’s fair to say we were approaching the start with some apprehension. But with a reefing line ready rigged just in case, we wound on all the strings and managed to get off the start line reasonably promptly and without incident at the Gurnard buoy end. After a couple of tacks, we were pleased to be in visible range of Just So at the head of the fleet and Jago who was chasing close behind, interspaced with a few other designs, including the eventual class 2 winner, White Cloud charging up the Solent with one reef.
A small incident with the jib tack held Jago back and Jiraffe slipped momentarily into the second J/109 spot behind Just So. With a bit on our hands and little time for tide checking, we followed Just So, now in their local Lymington waters, into the Island shore, but it was the middle that paid and Jago caught up their lost distance, crossing tacks just ahead of us as we closed on Hurst Castle.
At this point we looked ahead to the breaking waves on the shingles and the stronger wind funnelling through the narrows to see Just So, now a fair way ahead, putting in a reef. We hoped that a couple more pumps on the backstay would do us and continued with full main, skirting the shingles to stay in the best tide.
Jiraffe doesn’t venture out of the Solent much and so we found the seas around Bridge buoy off the Needles pretty exciting. We were relieved eventually to turn back downwind at the fairway mark and even more relieved to see that in 25 knots plus, the vast majority of the fleet were taking the safety first approach and keeping their spinnakers securely stowed below. The sight of a fully crewed J/105 powering downwind under black asymmetric did make me momentarily wish for a few more people on deck, but then we got the pork pies out and enjoyed a relaxing run down to North Head.
But decisions had to be made as we re-entered the Solent for the long run back to Cowes. We saw Frank3 spin the gear for a hoist on port gybe, and we did the same, hoping to get into the tidal relief on the north shore, but spun it back again as we’d run out of water before we were ready to hoist. We probably should have just gone with plan A. But once the kite was safely up on Starboard, it looked like we might lay Egypt point in one, so tidal strategy went out of the window and we tried to sail low to avoid having to do our first two handed gybe.
Of course, it never works out like that and we were forced to put in two gybes before the finish, which went surprisingly well, then managed to delay the drop until we had safely cleared the line.
Just So had adopted the more traditional tactic of staying out of the tide and held their first J/109 place. Jago pulled away from us downwind, but we stayed in touch to finish our first father and son 2-handed J/109 race as 3rd J/109, 11th in class 2 and 15th double handed. We were pleased with that, but thrilled with the achievement of getting our yacht around the course in a manner somewhat akin to racing with just two of us aboard for the first time, in exhilarating conditions.
Oh, and we do have to admit to picking up a passenger out in the Needles Fairway. A tired homing pigeon landed on deck for a rest and calmly observed all of our spinnaker flying activities before jumping ship as he spotted land upon re-entering the Hamble River.
Thank you very much to Rick Tomlinson for your fantastic photos (Link to Rick’s site) and again to Martin Banfield and JOG for organising a fantastic event. Final results below.