After 11.46.36 we finally crossed the north line in the annual and one of the largest single mass participant day events, the 2018 Round the Island Race. Catherine, Ella, Boris, Chris and Nigel had been bloodied in their first RTI. In what will probably be regarded as one of the most challenging on record, the 87th edition of the Round the Island Race was complete (as was Catherine’s first ever yacht race!) and we headed for home, a well needed shower and a serious application of aftersun
With a start time in IRC1 of 07.00 and temperatures already rising the crew set off from Hamble at 05:30 to join the 1204 other yachts entered. The start was luckily with a slight breeze of circa 6 knots rising as we headed toward Yarmouth using the 3 knots of tide in the main channel. Aiming to get past the needles before the tidal gate closed around 11:30 we matched the winning boat DVANTI up and into a quiet breezy Yarmouth Bay before sighting J/111 Kestral. We headed hard toward Hurst Castle and keeping wide of the other boats and the Needles we rounded them at about 10:00 well ahead of the tidal gate and forecast.
With the spinnaker launched we headed out to grab a pocket of strong wind. We looked to then come in across the bay and close to St Catherine’s Lighthouse, still obscured save her light in the sea fog. Unfortunately the wind and tide were strongest offshore and we had to stay out and go for speed over course. Fun but we needed this wind to stay good to make this tactic work. We watched as the others worked the inside line hugging the coast as we struggled to round St Catherine’s.
Luckily the wind came back and grew with us hitting 10 to 11 knots from St Catherine’s as we tracked a course directly to Bembridge. Then the first of a series of knocks. One gibe resulted in a twist, which fortunately was recovered quickly by the crew, but places were being lost to the inside fleet hugging the coast. Then a huge wind shift off Shaklin forced a near round up at 9 knots. We were committed, we had to sacrifice course for speed, and now were looking like tracking straight past Bembridge Cardinal and off to No Mans Fort.
Rounding Bembridge at 15:30 we weren’t lokking too bad. We had enjoyed great food and snacks provided by Angela, and despite the beating sun still had water and sun lotion to spare. Then I looked up and said what’s happening there. Too late, we found out. A ‘huge’ wind hole. It was if someone slammed the brakes on, we and the rest of the fleet stopped dead. “Drop the spin, launch the J1 do something!? “ Pure exasperation from the Skipper.
And so the slow draft began, as the compacted fleet settled in to listen to the football. Cheers replaced shouting from the compacted fleet desperately trying to avoid unintentional collisions. Thankfully we were still on the outside of the track. We scored a goal, the wind came in we moved to the Forts. Half time, and we sat in the Portsmouth Car Park, running low on water
Boris threatened to swim for it, settling in the end to chill his heels off the sten with the rest of the crew. A second goal, a huge cheer. Full time and the wind kicked in to another cheer, and renditions of ‘we are coming home, we coming home, the fleet is coming home.’
We had been parked up in two huge wind holes for some thre and a half hours. Now short tacking up the channel, port and starboards through the fleet, we head for the line the wind building just keen to finally finish in glorious conditions, but with no water left, a beer and bed was calling.
A quick clear up on the way in helped make for a short pack up time on the dock. The crew scrubbing Snowy down and leaving her shinny and grateful in her pen. Well down to Snow Leopard and all her crew, particularly the Virgins, congratulations, and after all that in the slowest and most challenging RTI certainly the skipper has done, 65th in class and 278th overall is well won result. Thank you from to all from Snow Leopard, looking forward to Tattinger Regatta.