Before YW's editorial assistant begins her training for the Fastnet, she decided to get a bit of round-the-cans racing experience during the Warsash Spring Series. Jo Cackett reports
With no racing experience I jumped at the chance to attend Sailing Logic’s Introduction to Racing course. A two-weekend course that involves training on the Saturday and racing in the Warsash Spring Series on the Sunday. Although offshore racing is a much different experience to inshore round-the-cans racing, it still gave me a chance to experience the pressures of racing with a crew.
Aboard we had a few experienced racers and others like me who wanted to get the first taste of it. Most sought after the course to escape full-time work and the office daily grind. Our skipper, Philippe Falle, also trains Global Challenge crews so is no stranger to inexperienced sailors, as well as his first mate Sara who is the Global Challenge Crew Volunteer Coordinator.
The first weekend of the Warsash Spring Series was a little fickle. On the Saturday we trained on the Solent from Southampton with a good breeze and the sun shining. Shuffling around crew positions, we attempted a few spinnaker hoists and a mock race with the other Sailing Logic boats.
But when we reached the calms of the popular Osbourne Bay for lunch the bobbing of the boat led my stomach to bob with it. I kept my composure, nibbled on my baguette and tried to shake the seasick queasiness for the rest of the afternoon. If I was going to be like this on calm waters how would I be when it’s rough? But I didn’t want to relegate myself to a diet of Stugeron tablets – yet!
On the cruise back the tide was low and to our amusement our Reflex 38 friend, Jaguar, managed to run themselves aground. We attempted to throw them a line but couldn’t get close enough without burying ourselves and so had to leave them to wait for the high tide to creep up. It seems Jaguar weren’t the only ones as we sailed past one boat sitting high and dry on a sandy bank! Needless to say we met a tired and hungry crew at The Whyte Harte pub in Hamble later that evening.
The excitement for our first race was dissipated by the lack of wind on Sunday morning. Cruising around the Eastern Solent in a light, cold north-westerly for a few hours it seemed our chances at racing were slim. But a puff of 6kt breeze from the south-west meant we were off at 1pm. The committee decided to race IRC Class 1 and IRC Class 2 at the same time, just to make things a bit more interesting!
The start line was a hustle but beating upwind, our tacking was smooth and spinnaker changes good enough for a bunch of beginners. But the second downwind leg led us to lose pace, after having problems hoisting the spinnaker. Towards the finish line we were forced to put in two tacks that left us behind Sailing Logic boat Panther, but still in front of the other two Reflex 38s. We were happy with our efforts.
After another tough day’s training in the Solent on Saturday, we were ready for the next day’s race. Skipper Philippe, was keen on getting us on different jobs around the boat while we were racing, and although I had been training well in the cockpit on the guy I moved onto the trimming of the spinnaker instead when racing – not a great move!
With perfect racing conditions of 18-20 knots of wind and sunshine in the afternoon, we were firing along after a good start. Already I could sense the teamwork between myself winching and tailing with crewmates Kathy and Sara, and the helmsman and bowmen. But it seems I spoke too soon, as my inexperience on the spinnaker contributed to it wrapping around the forestay in a moment of panic on a gybe. Despite losing our speed, the spinnaker unwrapped itself and we were off for an exciting finish that unfortunately was spoiled by a boat from another class slam-dunking us… We were very happy to hear we came seventh so it was slaps on the back all round and a few Mount Gay rum and cokes!
All in all it was a terrific course that I’d recommend to anyone keen to get racing, for all levels of experience. I only have one regret and that’s accidentally dropping my underpants from my sail bag as I climbed out of the boat for a shower only to return to see them flying off the forestay!!