This race certainly lived up to expectation with close racing, especially against the J109 fleet. As we rounded the Eddystone light, J-Taime were about 3nm ahead with Jolene II less than a mile behind and several others in hot pursuit with spinnakers flying in all their glory. As we approached Start Point we headed inshore to pick up the turn of the tide. But as the wind dropped under the cliffs we began to regret the tactic. However without too much damage done we continued the chase, changing down from spinnaker to Jib Top early for a fast reach across Lyme Bay.
Having stayed with the peloton, the race was in the balance as we approached St Albans. With up to 3kts of tide against us over the ledge we chose to stay close inshore under the cliffs. Code 0 hoisted but remained furled, thankfully as the breezed picked up. By this stage both J-Taime & Jolene were just ahead of us and slightly offshore. But we stuck to our gameplan, and stayed in close to the cliffs to keep out of the tide. As we emerged into Swanage Bay we just managed to squeeze past J-Taime. Behind us the wind dropped slightly and the chasing pack struggled to keep up against the tide - we'd squeezed through just in time.
Then we switched tactics and headed slightly more offshore than the rest of the fleet. Picking up a wind shift in the closing miles, with a quick change from Code 0 to A2 spinnaker we just managed to creep ahead, crossing the line 10 minutes ahead of the other J109s.
The J109 fleet certainly offers exciting racing. With only four of us onboard it is hard to keep up such high levels of concentration. Off watch sleep is interrupted to help with sail changes adding to the challenge. And without the benefit of the autopilot that we are so used to double-handed we are all aching from the time spent on the helm.
After two RORC races we are currently leading the J109s in the series. We have set a high benchmark for the Fastnet Race - bring it on......