Forecast was a bit scary with the inshore saying 5-7 NE and the shipping forecast having the dreaded "perhaps 8 later" in it but as a North Easterly would mean it would be downwind hopefully we could out run it if it the 8 did come through. Not too good a start with everybody at the pin end so tacked away to get some clear air which put us in a good position to clear Snowden inside the landing craft which was moored on the Trinity House buoy. Good run down to the Forts with a strong tide under us and stayed in the Nab channel until we could pop the 90% kite. Bit hairy with a few broaches but speed was good for a few hours with plenty of surfs over 10 knots and maxed out with a sustained 15 knoter with bits of the boat humming we had never heard hum before. Kept the kite till 22:30 but by then we were 20 degrees off the rhumb line so took it down and white sailed. Kept a pretty good approach to the finish with only minor adjustments as we came in and slight confusion as we were expecting to see a light on the inner mark but there wasn't. Heard Xara's finish time and worked out we could be ahead but surprised that we actually got the win. Needless to say additional beverages were required and a nice meal in a local restaurant. Pretty good trip back too and actually saw some sun eventually.
JOG ReportDuring the week the forecasts were predicting strong winds mainly ENE with slightly reduced wind at St Vaast. OK for white sailing but not ideal for non asymmetric spinnakers. The forecast on the day turned to all North Easterly but 5 to 7, possibly 8 later. We assumed, or was it hoped, that no force 8 would appear during the race so went to the start hoping for a sleigh ride to St Vaast.Our start was pretty average and coming off the line we were getting dirty wind from yachts ahead. We put in a quick clearing tack, unfortunately putting Nokomis about as well, and then settled down to sheets just eased fetch to the forts. We were holding Alchemist, Raffles slowly edged up to weather from behind and went ahead. Xara went very high towards the middle of the Solent. Black Diamond as usual quickly pulled out a commanding lead, followed by Footprint.At the Forts is was just a bear away with white sails, we kept higher than the rest of the fleet hoping that the tidal stream in the Nab channel would gain us a bit over the fleet. Once the bearing of Bembridge was on our course for St Vaast we bore away and hoisted the 90% heavy kite expecting the wind to increase during the trip. Footprint had hoisted once past Bembridge and appeared to have considerable trouble with the spinnaker and ended up pointing back towards Bembridge with no headsail and spinnaker round her knees. We had assumed she was retiring but in the event was just sorting out prior to rejoining the headlong rush to St Vaast. Raffles turned around shortly after Bembridge and retired, we assumed the forecast for the race and the return had caused a rethink.We passed Alchemist at the buoy in close company with Splash, Xara was ahead with Nokomis and Black Diamond yet further ahead all with spinnakers flying. We tracked Xara for a while and until the broaches became thick and fast were very slowly catching. The broaches eventually became too much to handle so we bore away 10 to 20 degrees from our desired course to have a more stable safer ride. There was a lot of speedo watching during the surfs. Exhilarating to watch 9, then 10 through 11 into the twelve knots on a number of occasions. The highest speed we had was during a particularly long surf, possibly proper planing as it went on and on. No weight on the tiller, the normal hum of the rudder that starts around 7 knots had reached fever pitch, the speedo surged through 10, 12, 14 and eventually settled on 15 knots and held for quite a few seconds before slowing back to a sedate 7 to 9 knots. We held the spinnaker on a low course until around 22:30 when apparent wind speed of 20 knots was getting too hard to handle and we needed to get back on course for the finish. Even though we had gone low for a couple of hours we had seen Xara's lights up to weather and had seen them go green so as long as they were still on course we had got ahead. Bearing away onto a run enabled a safe and secure spinnaker drop followed by hoisting of the #3 headsail. (we had stowed the #1 as soon as we had dropped it on hoisting the spinnaker and replaced it with the #3 on deck ready for this eventuality) Back on course for the finish now the whole ride seemed secure and a little staid only getting boat speeds in the 7 to 9 knot range most of the time and a very occasional 10 knot surf. At times we felt a bit underpowered but agreed that the next biggest sail, the new #1, would probably be too big and we didn't want to thrash it to death.Barfleur light came up nicely on the starboard bow and it became interesting to keep the speed over the ground high as we crossed the last of the strong ebb near Barfleur. Just coming up a few degrees dropped the SOG dramatically however, with the tide about to turn and help us on the last few miles to the finish we could spend a bit of time a little high. We heard Xara announce her finish time as 04:47:38 so on a very quick mental calculation worked out we had to finish by 05:06 to beat her. Our ETA was 05:11 and in the end finished at 05:12 just a couple of feet outside the buoy to ensure no problems with the transit. We thought we had missed out but on a proper calculation we had a minute in hand on Xara.(on the mental calc we had used too low a rating!!)Where were the others? On entering the bay to await the lock opening Xara was anchored, Black Diamond was anchored behind Xara, did this imply finishing order? As it happens it did and we won the race by 45 seconds. The rest of class 5 finished behind us with the 2 lowest ratings boats, Aquila and Get Carter sufficiently far back to not be on the podium. On comparing stories after the race there seemed to be a lot of missed opportunities and some breakages of spinnakers and sheets. On dropping our spinnaker we sailed conservatively and managed to home in on the finish with no great course alterations giving us the race win. Time under spinnaker was definitely exhilarating, very challenging, potentially boat breaking but very fast for 28 foot of cruiser racer. We all agreed that we couldn't have kept the concentration level up for much longer as just a slight distraction or a wave not caught correctly led to a broach. Most of these we recovered in one with only a couple taking multiple bear aways to get back on our feet.A great sail, wonderful result, the trip back was a breeze, leaving at 10:00 on Sunday, in via the Needles and back on the mooring at Cowes by 23:45 having had the tide with us up the Solent for all but the last half mile.Many thanks to the race organisers at the start and the reception at St Vaast and of course the drinks party courtesy of RS Divers