Looking Back on RTI 2023

Posted by Mary Coles on 18 July 2023

This year our crew of eight was led with an interesting role-reversal of 2 years ago, with Colin Garnham-Edge as skipper  and Allen Busby as mate. Their motley crew comprised our Commodore David Reed, Kate Bould, Pete Dunn, Stuart Jones, John Skinner, and Helen Hughes.  Our weapon of choice was yacht Vis-à-Vis, an Oceanis 37, chartered as usual from Fairview in Hamble. The crew joined her on Thursday, bagged a decent gennaker from Fairview’s store, and set off early on Friday morning to practice their racing moves.

Well, that was the plan… Unfortunately, winds of 25-30 knots made it impossible to fly the gennaker (15kn limit advised by Fairview), and with drizzle setting in, lunch up the Medina was soon followed with heavier downpours, so the crew headed for Shephard’s Marina in Cowes by early afternoon. We had a very pleasant tapas-style evening meal at MooCow, where fellow HOEOCA member Nina Wilson and her Shustoke crew of Sunsail 41.0 Mermaid Spirit were also dining.

Saturday, Race Day, dawned. We left Shephard’s just before 8am, to get ready for our class 6B start at 09:10. The wind was already picking up, so we set the main with one reef. With 1050 boats taking part, the start line was the usual chaos. I have absolute admiration for Colin and Allen, who calmly managed to dodge so many boats (including Ellen MacArthur), and still get a really good clean start.

For the first leg down to the Needles, we were tacking in north-westerly winds of around 20 knots, aided by a 2kn tide. The wind eased to around 15 knots, so we shook out the reef… No sooner done than the skies became increasingly overcast, the mainland disappeared under a thick cloud, and “the weather” hit. Thankfully the squalls soon passed over and the cloud lifted. Well, at least we got to use our oilies! We held our own against others in class and gracefully rounded the Needles about middle of the field.

Now, action stations! With a freshening wind now astern, and minimal tide on the nose, the foredeck crew Kate and John set about hoisting the gennaker, Stuart winching from the cockpit… and the halyard shackle split open, the gennaker making a break for freedom. Kate and John quickly retrieved the soggy gennaker and packed it away… that was the end of its race. Unfortunately, with no spare halyard aboard, we agreed it was DEFINITELY not a sensible idea to try recovering the halyard from the top of the mast while sailing.

So we were down to our simple cruising sail plan, just genoa and main, Colin and Allen trying alternating tactics of broad reaching and goose-winging to maintain pace. The rolling following sea down to St Catherine’s Point made it increasingly uncomfortable, but we held our own against neighbouring yachts.

As we rounded St Cat’s, the wind increased to around 25 knots.  Spinnakers and gennakers were knotting and wine-glassing all around us – at least that was one thing we didn’t have to worry about! Sadly, others nearby had far more concerns. A neighbouring yacht was dismasted, another’s spinnaker torn to shreds, and we watched 3 lifeboats and the air-sea rescue helicopter go to the aid of several other stricken yachts. As the race organisers later summarised, the sea state and strong gusts made conditions “challenging”. Many thanks to RNLI and other independent lifeboat teams – you’re amazing.

As we passed Ventnor, Shanklin and Sandown, I checked MarineTraffic to see where our fellow competitors were. Keith Harding’s Reach 4 the Wind, and HOEOCA consortium Sea Myth were level-pegging a short distance ahead of us, with Keith being first to round Bembridge.

By the time we approached Bembridge, we had largely accepted “no gennaker equals no chance of a decent position”, but the wind was good, still 15-20 knots, and the sun was out, a nice day for a sail. We consulted the tidal stream charts again, noting the gaggle of yachts hugging the shallower waters toward Ryde Sands. Colin then headed north toward Gosport, where the clearer water and less disturbed air allowed some of his less-than-nimble crew a little more welly-washing time on the weather-rail between tacks.

We cross-tacked with Contessa 32 Starstreak and waved to her skipper, fellow HOEOCA member Roger Shinton, who ignored us as he clearly had more important things on his mind. Meanwhile, another yacht approaching on starboard tack forced us to tack away – onto a now starboard course, setting up a perfect slam dunk and forcing them to tack onto port. Their crew then proceeded to wave madly at us, with many accompanying expletives. Maybe they haven’t read the chapter on race rules yet; they certainly skipped the one on manners!

As those yachts opting for the “north passage” converged with the main fleet on the south side toward the finish line, traffic once again became the marine equivalent of the M25, and Colin’s race tactics of being on starboard at the right time really paid off. We managed to cross the finish line at 19:32, an elapsed time of 10 hours 22 minutes, 3 minutes after D’Artagnan, another of Fairview’s fleet of Oceanis 37s. Exhausted and by now wind- and sun-burnt, we motored back to Shephard’s, rafted 4-out, and without even time for a docking totty or shower, headed off for our already deferred meal booking at the Duke of York.

Early race results indicated we’d gained a very respectable position overall; our final result was 5th in our class of 21, 2nd of the 10 identical Fairview Oceanis 37’s competing, and 222nd overall. An excellent result, Skipper! Especially considering we had no gennaker (not to mention a crew who’d never sailed together and, dare I say, several of us are a few decades past our prime!!).

Congratulations also to other HOEOCA members:

  • Roger Shinton’s Contessa 32 Starstreak, 24th in class and 133rd overall
  • Keith Harding’s Sun Odyssey 35 Reach 4 the Wind, 6th in class and 174th overall
  • HOEOCA consortium Bavaria 38 Sea Myth, 17th in class and 302nd overall
  • Nina Wilson’s Sunsail 41 Mermaid Spirit, 8th in class


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