The day started with very light northerly winds off the Squadron start line. We drifted around close to the beach, amongst a number of other boats that also raced around Britain & Ireland recently. Each of the earlier starts had their share of individual recalls, so I was rather line shy when our time came. Much to Jeremy's annoyance we eventually started some four minutes after the gun - sorry Jerry!
As boats headed East and out into the channel to pick up the tide, we took a line closer to the shore and round into Osborne Bay, in close company with Elixir. Compression of the wind along the shore worked to our advantage and allowed us to quickly work our way up the fleet despite being out of the tide.
Whilst many had chosen to head towards the mainland shore our line allowed us to avoid the worst of the turning tide off Ryde Sands and around the forts. Sailing in towards the beach and weaving an intricate course amongst the moorings off Seaview was a novel experience.
It was by this time that we realised we had another J109 to keep us on our toes - Jägerbomb. We had also traded places several times with No Retreat, the eventual winner.
As we approached Bembridge Fort we were gratefull to Lickety Spit, ignominiously marking the location of the nearby rocks.
Those closest to the shore pulled away as a SW seabreeze started to fill in. By the time we rounded Bembridge Ledge the wind was up to 12kts and building, so time to change to the heavy No 3 jib.
As we rounded St Catherines, the tide helping us to reach 10kts over the ground, Jägerbomb was still hot on our tail. But by the time we reached the Needles they had drawn level and rounded just inside us (a previous argument with the Varvassi still fresh in my mind, hence a wide berth).
At this point the two J109s adopted different tactics - we kept south on the Island side to pick up the calmer water and the turn of the tide off Yarmouth. At first it looked to be the better line, but as we progressed up the Western Solent it became clear that Jägerbomb had pulled ahead again, and went on to cross the finish just ahead of us.
An exciting end to a great race. But there was even more excitement to come. As we crossed the channel to Calshot the new spinnaker tackline slipped through the clutch resulting in a spectacular broach. Pinned over with gunnels under and water in the cockpit, the Hamble lifeboat watched in horror at a loss as to what action to take with the Oriana looming large over us. With halyard & sheets blown we managed to drop the kite and trawled it in over the side just in time to clear the channel. The force of the broach and the wiplash at the mast tip had been enough to bend the SeaMe radar antenna mount through 90 degrees.
An agonising wait until Monday for the results to come through - 3rd in IRC Class 1 and only four minutes behind the leader. The same four minutes that we gave away at the start - if only!