Tuesday, June 23, 2020

J/Sailors Enjoy SORC "Covid Shakedown Race"

J/88 sailing singlehanded in Solent, England
(Cowes, Isle of Wight, England)- Thirty-four Solo & Doublehanded yachts enjoyed champagne racing on the Solent on Sunday, 7th June 2020. SORC (Singlehanded Offshore Racing Club) staged the largest yacht race since the start of the Covid Lockdown for socially distant compliant solo and duo teams.

Unusually for SORC, which is the United Kingdom's only yacht club dedicated to solo yacht racing, the club also staged a Doublehanded class...it proved to be a wildly popular, prescient decision. Commented the Commodore of SORC, "with the Covid pandemic starving us of yacht racing generally, and Doublehanded racing gaining real traction at the moment, it seemed only fair to share our resources and have them join us in a race. It was a well-received, successful initiative."

The race team behind SORC wisely delayed their inaugural 2020 race from a 30 knot, grey Saturday to a sparkly, sunny, 12 knot Sunday. Given the enthusiasm to get afloat, the epic 27 boat solo fleet extended the race invitation to include double handers, increasing the entry field by a further 9 boats on the start line.

The numerous shoreside observers, perambulators, cyclists, and the generally curious were treated to a mixed fleet apparently aimlessly sailing in random directions, whilst awaiting the start sequence. The DH fleet were planned to start at 1100, but SORC's PRO Steve Cole wisely decided to delay starting the sequence until 1130 to allow the wind to fill in. Perfect timing because the first wind ripples soon arrived, with a steady 10-12 knot westerly propelling the DH start. All starts were “stealth” starts [radio only], so along with obviously only solo or two person yachts, any adverse comments from shore regarding yachts racing would be completely negated. The reverse being true, that the Solent coming alive again was welcomed.

J/99 JET sailing Solent doublehanded race
General Race Report
"The race....should I give a blow-by-blow account of who went where and when? Or, perhaps not! Sufficient to say that from the start, the place to be was in the west flowing back-eddy along the Gurnard shore. Most yachts headed this way, but the art was in gauging when to tack across the easterly flow towards Beaulieu and the first mark. Here, fortunes changed, the leading boats off the line who stayed on the island shore lost out. A group of five boats led by the J/105 MOSTLY HARMLESS popped out in a favorable position.

It was evident that course-setter and long-term SORC race official Dave Giddings with Steve Cole had used the crystal ball to great effect; the course was enjoyable with true windward legs and downwind legs that were actually downwind. The course mainly featured navigation buoys rather than racing marks, giving the solo/DH sailor a fighting chance of finding them!

Heading off to East Bramble, symmetric spinnaker boats were able to lay the mark, whilst the rest zigzagged their way there allowing for much gybing practice. Two tight fetches to S Ryde Middle then NW to Hillhead caused us in Mzungu to decide that we could use the code zero; no we can`t. Yes, we should have done. Presumably everyone else had the same discussion, because I didn`t see one hoisted.  Perhaps the solo sailors didn`t have a crew discussion. Those that did can get appropriate help once the NHS is less busy. A beat back to East Lepe with the now strongly ebbing spring tide was quick, the port turn around the mark into the tide punished slow spinnaker work as SOG dwindled for those with no power. The fleet closed up considerably and had a great, sunny run to finish, Cowes Week style, at Gurnard [many close inshore out of the tide] where competitors took their own times. The J/105 MOSTLY HARMLESS, sailed by the duo of Natalie Jobling and Tom Hayhoe took line honors and IRC Overall.

The weather was kind, the wind was just right, the course was spot on and it was a "free race". Thanks SORC!" Thanks for this report from Tony White.

Class 1 Solo Class
It was a game of "snakes and ladders" in a closely-fought race. Fifteen boats on the starting line with solo skippers can make for interesting incidents, to say the least. After zigging and zagging across the Solent, it was the J/88 TIGRIS, skippered by Sam Cooper that took line honors with an elapsed time of 2 hrs 36 min. However, TIGRIS was closely followed by a bunch of other boats in less than 1 min 12 secs, dropping him down to 4th place on IRC handicap time.  Jerry Freeman's J/105 JULIETTE finished in 5th place about a minute off the pace of the top boats.

J/105 sailing doublehanded on Solent, England
Class 4 Doublehanded IRC Class
While it may have been a closely fought duel in the Solo I class, it was anything but that in the Class 4 Doublehanded class of nine boats. Starting off fast, going the right direction off the start, the team of Natalie Jobling and Tom Hayhoe on their J/105 MOSTLY HARMLESS led the lead pack to the first mark and simply kept expanding their lead. By the end, the "classic J/105" beat some of the newest boats off competitor's drawing boards, taking line honors by over 4 minutes on the next boat and also taking IRC handicap honors by 1 min 33 secs! Unfortunately, their stablemates on the J/99 JET made a few too many "wrong turns" tactically in the swift-moving Solent currents. At one point JET was a top three contender, but fell back again towards the end, so the JET team of James & Charlie Owen crossed the line 8 minutes behind the J/105 to take sixth on their first outing of the year.

A bonus for all sailors was the fact that North offshore expert Ronan Grealish was on the water in the North Sails RIB, offering coaching, sail trim tips, and support to all. Based on their experience last weekend, Ronan came up with three key tips for shorthanded sailing:

Sail Trim:
Optimize your sail controls so you can control the mainsail and headsail from the same position. Cross-sheeting the headsails are a good option to allow both sails to be trimmed from the windward side. It is important to have your sheets marked for average upwind trim so you can quickly pull them to the mark before fine-tuning, once settled on your new tack.

Planning Ahead:
Thinking two steps ahead will mean you are always ready and anticipating the next maneuver, reducing the likelihood of sailing past a turning mark. Sailing the shortest distance will pay more than keeping the sail up until the last moment.

Having an Autopilot:
A good autopilot is crucial, allowing you to concentrate on sail trim which powers the boat and gives you the best speed. Keeping your head out of the boat to look for changing conditions and tactical decisions will pay dividends when paired with effective sail trimming.

Did you miss our doublehanded webinar with renowned offshore sailor Armel Le ClĂ©ac’h and phenom Clarisse sur l’Atlantique? The duo joined North Sails President Ken Read for an inside look into the trials of doublehanded sailing and the grit it takes to race shorthanded.

Doublehanded Webinar
Watch a "Doublehanded Master Class" on YouTube video here.   Sailing photo credits- Rick Tomlinson   For more SORC Offshore series sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.