Sailing Logic Blog

Last day of term fun-day

After all the build up and tension to the Fastnet Race, the RORC season’s finale feels like a last day of term ‘activity’ day. The RORC Cherbourg Race is just 72 miles; leaving Cowes, the yachts race out past The Needles and down to the French port of Cherbourg… It’s a Friday evening booze cruise, is how I sell it to my better half, and for Logic Fastnet sailors, a little yellow-sticker bargain to-boot. We have a challenge for the weekend from Allie at Sailing Logic, to amass sufficient points in the last race to claim another RORC School boat trophy – don’t you just hate end of term exams?! There is no ‘pass’ mark however, so all we can do is do our best!

We’re sailing on Galahad, a First 40 yacht, with a mix of crew from Logic Fastnet crews (four of us including the skipper, Tim and Mate, Ollie).  The yacht is mostly ‘deja vu’ (schoolboy French in preparation for Cherbourg?) for me; same design as Arthur, all the ropes in the same place – feels just like home – with some new faces but some more familiar ones too.

With a mixture of crew on board, ‘Sir’ takes us out on the water to get us up to speed: usual test syllabus of getting sails up and trimmed, a few kite hoists and gybes, and we’re ready for the last day of term’s fun. It’s a 7.10pm start for us, 10 minutes after the class 3 and 4 yachts. Last year in very light wind, it took some boats 24 hours to complete the race; a bit more wind is forecast this time so it should make for a faster race.

As the class in front gets a clean get-away in a dying breeze, we’re left a bit short of wind for our own start – sound familiar? A couple of weeks ago we were as becalmed at the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race – thankfully not 600 miles to go this time. Signs of a light air try to encourage the sail tell-tales to lift and show us there’s wind, and eventually there’s enough to move us along.  The new team gets Galahad up to speed as we beat into wind, but with the tide, and on towards The Needles. The tide turns against us, just as we pass the iconic landmark, and we turn south for Cherbourg; spinnaker up in one go, trimmed-on and we’re ploughing along at nine to ten knots (school report: manoeuver executed right first time, gold star, Sir relaxes a bit).

Night closes in and the familiar sights of dozens of masthead lights dot the seascape around us. The race is going to be fast now since the wind is back, with most boats following the shortest route from The Needles to Cherbourg rather than spreading out as usual on different tacks; with a lot of other boats for close company, no sleep or breaks tonight, just trim and weight adjustment with people on the rails to make us go as fast as we can. 

With so many yachts in close proximity, we also need to avoid broaching and lying on our side in the path of oncoming ‘traffic’. While we manage this ourselves, one of the other class 2 boats, over-powered, comes alongside, passes us, and promptly lies down on her side! We frantically steer around and manage to avoid her before continuing south again. The same boat pulls the same stunt again, just a few minutes later, but a little further away – no problem for us this time. One of the other school boats must have bribed them to slow us down!

With a perfect breeze, we sail an almost straight line to Cherbourg; it gets a little tense around sunrise as the 60 boats in the race fleet converge on the narrow gap in the breakwater at Cherbourg; it’s light winds as we enter the final ‘sprint’ for the line inside the breakwater, but we’re safely across in 11 hours and 2 minutes; and we’ve scored 71 points from the race. Will that be enough to win the trophy?  Time will tell!

We’re soon tied alongside Austen Clark’s Class 40, Arwen and join in the birthday celebrations for one of the crew onboard. It’s breakfast time, but offshore sailing has several common denominators at the end of a race, and one of them is the need to find a beer to celebrate with. We settle into a café in town and order beer, pain au chocolates and croissants (with some coffee). 

A short sleep, late lunch, shop for as much red wine as I can carry, and after anther nap, we take off at around midnight for the night sail back. It’s a rather more relaxed cruise, and somehow we manage to sail rather than motor for most of the time, in spite of a forecast northerly wind that should have made it hard for us. 

Sunrise and a cloudless sky at The Needles and we’re practically home (I miss this as sleeping in the warm sunshine on the bow!), but our fast passage has got us there early and we have to beat into the tide to make it back to our berth on the Hamble. As a little extra entertainment for tired sailors, the Cowes Classic power boats charge down the Solent on their way to Torquay and back, rooster tails flying out behind them, exhausts bellowing.

Last day of term over, we have only the school disco to look forward to… or rather the RORC Annual Prize-giving Dinner at the Natural History museum in November. That will be a proper send-off for this year’s Logic Fastnet crews – really looking forward to it. Wonder what people look like out of the ‘school’ uniform of foul weather gear? 

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