Snow Leopard made it through her first Cowes Week with the generous support of her crew and shore support. The week was a great learning curve with objectives set each day and with the exception of one slide back on a very fluky wind day all objectives achieved. Given the new and ever changing crew with many novice sailors onboard, and our sail configuration and tuning still to be sorted, 6 finish places out of 6 was a result in the Black Group.
Delivery Day - Friday
So much to do, and putting Chris up the mast for the first time. We booked in to the Crew House c/o Regatta Lets and Andrea and Mark at the Caledon Guest House. Birthed at the East Cowes Marina was also a good choice. RORC launch party for some lovely food, and the rather sleepy band, so time to break for the bar at 'Animal Farm'.
Thanks to the delivery crew.
Day One - Saturday
Racing got off to a nervous start for only her second race following the RTIR 2016. The days objective set as pick up the fleet and follow them round the course, and get over the line with all on board and everything in one piece. Racing got underway after a two-hour postponement to allow the breeze to build to a 14-16 knot sea breeze, with occasional stronger gusts, made for fabulous racing on the opening day of Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week in bright sunshine.
Bramble Line Start 13:30
Caldwells Estate Agents(PR)
S Bramble to Prince Consort Gate(GT)
West Ryde Middle(SR)
Trinity House Buoy to Volvo XC90 gate(GT)
RYS Finish Line (23.6nm)
In Black Group we started on the Bramble line, where the new FAST40+ class was subject to two general recalls before the fleet finally got away under a black flag. Not the best start due to other class yachts hanging on the line but we eventually picked our way through, and following a hard fought and gusty day we completed the race, objective achieved, 'Not timed out and race completed'. A very long day on the water and grateful to Helen and Michael for the RIB ride back into 'Rib City'.
Thank you to Sam for your help on day one.
Day Two - Sunday
With a 10.30 start our objective set to halve the deficit from day one.
Bramble Line Start 10:40
Gurnard to KMS Gate(GT)
RYS Finish Line (22.8nm)
A sunny day for us again with stunning conditions and the wind gusting to an adrenaline pumping 25 knots, before the breeze settled down to 16-20 knots for the rest of the morning. Sailing was predominately in the western Solent where we had a tough beat upwind, all the way to Hurst Castle. Marcus and Olly nailed it by the end with some great tacking team work in the pit. Then downwind sailing in the sunshine, 20 knots of wind and the fleet in sight. With us working the shallow water on the mainline side of the solent, we touched the sand as we rolled the tack and off to deeper water. We were not alone, and a couple of yachts hit a shifting sand bank and remained stuck until pulled off.
Thank you to Clare, Suzie, Marcus and Olly who now head home, and Chris to return on Thursday we home.
It was a very rewarding day on the water, with the objective achieved and the deficit halved the crew returned to East Cowes Marina for well deserved beer, and BBQ at the Crew House. Progress.
Day Three - Monday
Todays objective to again, halve the previous days deficit and get within 15 minutes of the leading boats.
Today we felt like we were in the mix, and heading to the mark with kite flying and above Kestral a gybe round the mark and we looked well placed to be in the mix by the end. Then disaster, Kestral would but go down wind and could not Gybe. Safety as ever being the number one priority, we sat and waited before now having to Gybe and follow her up the course. Disappointing but an adrenalin moment that is yacht racing.
Committee Boat Start 11:30
BGCV Laid 1st Mark(PR)
No Man's Land Fort(PP)
RYS Finish Line (22.6nm)
The Solent delivered a classic conditions, with a north-westerly breeze that varied from eight knot lulls to 25 knot gusts, giving varied conditions to challengeable on the on the water. And we were no exception in the Black Group yachts starting later at 11.30 on the Committee Boat Line. There were plenty of thrills and spills on the water and with us breaking out the A2 for the first time. We joined plenty of boats broaching on the boisterous RYS finish line with the wind switching off Egypt Point.
Finishing less than 4 minutes behind British Soldier, a slight kink in the forestay and a hole in the head of the new A2, a very well fought day from the team. Objective achieved.
Day Four - Tuesday
Todays objective to hit the start line with the fleet.
Today was “Slingsby Gin Ladies Day” at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week, which celebrates women in sailing. On the water 80 women helms across varied classes raced for the Royal Southern Yacht Club’s Ariel Trophy. With Helen taking the Helm today was one of civilised sailing in bright sun in an unstable and gusty north-northwesterly wind that produced gusts of 17 knots. But also the wind dropped to as little as 6-10 knots at times.
Bramble Start Line 10:40
Champagne Pol Roger(SR)
Darling Associates Architects(PR)
Stokes Bay SC West(PR)
West Ryde Middle(PR)
AAMCW laid mark 'b'(SR)
Shrape Finish Line (18.2nm)
The conditions created a serious challenge for teams to judge time and distance on the fixed start lines. With the wind further into the north than yesterday the Black Group yachts starting from the Bramble line had a fast reach to East Bramble, their first mark. This was Code 0 days however the J/111 one design rules don’t allow for Code 0s, so all boats opted to start under main and jib, rather than risking an asymmetric spinnaker.
Team Sweeny led the fleet into a perfect start, hitting the line at speed two lengths clear ahead of us however we were McFly and World Champions Jelvis, in hot pursuit. A great day on the water and well helmed by Helen in her first Cowes Week race at the helm, a slight navigational issue at the end, but resolved and drifted home in light and very fluky winds with the race being shortened as a result.
A big thank you to Micheal, Helen and Robert who are now heading off leaving some great sailing and banter behind.
Objective accomplished, time now to head home for the Key Yachting 20th anniversary party at the Island Sailing Club and dinner at Coast.
Day Five - Wednesday
Todays objective was to hit the start line with the fleet then head for a swim at Osbourne Bay and test the anchor.
With the Black Group yacht start, we had a tight reach for the first leg, heading east from the Royal Yacht Squadron line with the tide behind us. It was always planned that this day would be the lay day, however with crew looking slim for Friday, we hit the line well in touch with the fleet. With Alice (AKA Management) taking the helm from the skipper after the line, the sun shining and a calm constant breeze we sailed the course. Ben providing excellent instruction to the novice helm the course was sailed well.
RYS Start Line 10:40
North East Ryde Middle(SR)
AAMCW laid mark 'e'(SR)
West Ryde Middle(PR)
West Ryde Middle (20.0nm)
Not exactly as planned but a great sailing day, and finished with RORC Cocktail Party, and Chris P's great Pasta flushed down with a glug or two of vino.
Day Six - Thursday
Likely to be the last sailing day as we have sufficient crew. If we have learnt one thing this week, the boat takes everything we throw at her, but she needs 6/7 crew with good weight and experience to handle those kites. So the objective of the week of learning has certainly been achieved and today's is to get our best start yet.
The weather is again providing excellent conditions for racing and it seems to be boats everywhere today compared with the more quiet scene yesterday. The westerly 10-14 knot breeze gradually swung towards the north-west through the morning and the thin cloud over the race area was predicted to break up during the afternoon and the sun certainly shone again.
Committee Boat Start 11:30
BGCV Laid 1st mark(SR)
The English Summer Berry Company(SR)
Caldwells Estate Agents(SR)
The English Summer Berry Company(SR)
RYS Finish Line (25.1nm)
The start was definitely our best, sitting nicely in side of British Soldier and on the mark with McFly at the start close enough to hear the fleet count down, with excellent guidance to helm from Ben on the Bow we were game on. Immediately it was clear we could not stay up on McFly as we slid down the fleet and took dirty air. We should have tacked out and headed for clear air, but British Soldier had us pinned. When it was clear to go we were down by Sweeny and a tack now seemed pointless. We need to get her pointing higher with the others. That will be the next step. Furler off, tuff luff on, and the new head sails and rig set-up should help significantly. Its all part of the process.
With a lovely sail unto Lymington and a long run home with the skipper back on the Bow, up went the A4 and new boy Tim helmed his first race over the RYS finish line in style with the kite up. Time for home with our objectives achieved, and our 6 race requirement in the bag.
Beers calling at Shepherds Wharf, and The Duke of York for food and the Red Arrows display team above. Time for Chris Palmer and Thompson to depart, the journey nearly done.
Day Seven - Friday
Time for us to pack up the crew house, shift the huge amount of baggage onto Sally the River Taxi. Not without first a cracking fry up from Keith to clear the head. Pack Snow Leopard, cast off our lines and chug home on the tide hitting Hamble at 12.30.
A complete clean of the boat, flush the bilges, sails to the loft and 'to do' lists made. Leave her to tryout in the sun back in her pen, lunch at Banana Wharf. Start your engines and head for home.
Thank you to all the crew without home we could not have had so much fun and enjoyed the sailing, Alice (AKA The Management), Chris T (AKA Dark and Stormy), Suzie, Marcus, Clare, Helen, Micheal (Sit Down!), Sam (OMG there are boats everywhere), Ben (Still not impressed by the fly boys), Chris P (Can I have some water please), Olly, Tim (Now thats a tie!), Keith (Hold your Course), and Robert (Honestly I'm still 25).