Our Fastrack student makes her Cowes Week racing debut in week eight of the course

Day 36 – Cowes Week Day 1

We’ve spent the last week preparing for our racing debut at Cowes Week. Very few of us knew what role we wanted to play aboard, so we swapped positions regularly, taking turns to grind, trim, do pit, foredeck or mast. It took a while to get in the racing mindset. For the last six weeks we’ve focused on general cruising and practical theory, now we’re fixated on speed and perfecting our tacks and gybes! We practiced various manoeuvres over and over, and got to grips with our biggest challenge – the spinnaker! Swapping roles was great and meant we became familiar with all areas of the boat. Within a few days we’d found our niche and worked hard to perfect our specific position. I loved it in the cockpit, working in the pit.

Excitement was running high as our team met aboard our Dehler 34 Official Business for our first ever official race. While we waited for the wind to fill in we drank as many cappuccinos as we could to kill time before being shepherded out of the marina to make our way to the west Solent. A frustrating three and a half hours passed before we finally got word from the committee that the start was going ahead.

We had a reasonable start about half way down the pack of over fifty boats in Class Five. The windward leg was pretty encouraging, with the guys trimming the main and headsail doing a great job. We began to claw our way through the pack until we made a minor error at the windward mark and got the spinnaker sheets and guys wrapped around the guardrail. It was so frustrating for us all as we’d practiced the ‘bear away set’ over and over again last week. Thankfully we sorted out the problem and had a great leg under the kite. I worked in the pit and had a hectic time releasing clutches and hauling halyards. By the end I felt as though I had ‘rope dyslexia’. The team worked really well together and no one was awarded the ‘dummy’ for having a tantrum on board.

Though we’re competing against all the boats in class five, our main rival is the other Flying Fish Dehler 34 Foreign Affair. Over the two hour race we changed lead many times but in the end we managed to pip them to the finish line. Yippee!