Yachting World web and magazine art editor Marianne Knudsen was released from the office for a day to sail onboard the Fremantle 8.

Yachting World web and magazine art editor Marianne Knudsen was released from the office for a day to sail onboard the Fremantle 8.

Designed by Lymington-based Rob Humphries and produced on the other side of the world in Fremantle, Perth, since 1994, F’Eightal Attraction is the only one of her breed in the UK. Owner John Roberson (aka Robo) and his team skipper and founder of the class, Australian Andrew Thorpe (aka Thorpy), brought her to Britain in 1995 as a demo boat and started racing against the Melges 24 at that time, although they find themselves up against a broader range of designs now.

Crewing for the Sportsboats Rule race on Thursday under the watchful eye of Robo and Thorpy was Di, the main trimmer, Simon the bowman and spinnaker minder, and Sophie who was in charge of trimming and tactics. I comprised the novice Norwegian extra.

Last year F’Eightal Atttraction won her class in Skandia Life Cowes Week, but poor wind conditions early in the week had given the team 27th, a no declaration and a 19th. That was followed by a first on the Wednesday; that provided cause for hope but was probably going to prove a little too late in a class dominated at the top by Tony Casto’s Cork 1720s and Laser SB3s.

Nevertheless the wind gods had done the right thing by us as we headed for the line. But there was another factor that sailing out of the Nowegian fjords hadn’t prepared me for. The first thing I learned about Solent racing was to read the tide tables. Whether it is ‘in or out’ is all that matters.

We must have got it almost right as we rounded the first mark (Champagne Mumm) in 12th out of 40 and hoisted the kite. With six people onboard an 8-metre boat there is not a lot of room. It took us a while to perfect the gybing; I was allowed the kite-sheet for a while and had a great time trimming although I’m not sure that Simon had such a great time on the deck!

The second thing I learned is how important it is to get the weight distribution right in the Fremantle 8. Competing against the super-fast Laser SB3, we had to maintain balance to pick up maximum speed. When Robo stated, “this could well be the lunch-leg, guys,” as we surfed comfortably with the kite up, Di replied, “well, that’s one way of telling me to move my weight up front, isn’t it?”

The real action came as we turned the second mark. Martin Forster’s Bull 700 Hullabulloo came in too close on starboard and even though there was clearly not enough space and we shouted “no water!” they went for it. Result: loud crunch as our bow met their stern and a full protest from us. This was getting exciting.

The rest of the course was less dramatic and after much fine-tuning the kite-gybes went well, the chocolate box came out and we raced into second, lifting F’Eightal Attraction to 17th overall in the Sportsboats Rule standings. Not a bad alternative to the usual Thursday routine of staring at a computer screen for me and encouraging progress for the regular crew who have better winds to look forward to for the rest of the week.