Saturday, May 7, 2011

Roller-coaster Cervantes Race For J/111

J/111 one-design racing sailboat- sailing under spinnaker
J/111 ARABELLA Wins 4 of 6 Legs!
(Le Havre, France)- Over 100 boats were bound for Le Havre, Frances from Cowes, Isle of Wight, England for the RORC's first race of the European season, the Cervantes Trophy Race.  Just a 125 nm race- WSW from the Cowes/ Royal Yacht Squadron starting line to the renowned Needles (and the darn wreck!).  Turn left and go SE to St. Catherines Point.  Then back NE across Sandown Bay to Nab Tower (off eastern point of Isle of Wight), then SE 90 nm across La Manche (English Channel) to Le Havre, France.  Simple race?  Hardly.  And, it can be fraught with shipping channel issues, massive holes in the middle of 20-30 knot winds and the like.  This year was hardly any different than past "ditch races".  Smart sailing tossed in with a bit of luck would pay off yet again.  It was a race that had about 80% beating/ fetching and the other 20% a mix of the rest, in other words a waterline race.

IRC Two had no less than 25 yachts.  It was a close battle for line honours in class between the J/122 JOOPSTER sailed by Neil Kipling's crew and the J/111 sailed by the well-traveled Niall Dowling.  At the end of the race, the J/122 finished in front by 22 minutes.  As a result, JOOPSTER got second corrected and ARABELLA 4th on handicap.  Overall, they finished  4th and 7th, respectively.

An impressive line up in IRC Three had ten J/109s, including proven competitors such as Robin Taunt's JIBE and Paul Griffith's JAGERBOMB. At the finish, however, it was David Aisher's YEOMAN OF WIGHT that finished 3rd in class by 23 seconds!  J/109s also managed to clean out most of the top ten, taking 5th to 8th, including Robin Taunt's JIBE 5th, Paul Griffiths' JAGERBOMB 6th, Andrew Bird's JAMBALAYA 7th and Greg Nasmyth's JARHEAD in 8th.

The IRC Two-Handed Class, an increasingly popular discipline, attracted 18 yachts.  The J/109 JAMBALAYA sailed by Andrew Bird managed a fourth in class, missing overall honors by 15 minutes!

Paul Heyes was sailing on Niall's J/111 ARABELLA and offered this insightful report on the race proceedings:  "The start was downwind in 10-14 kts, dead run down the Solent with tide, so about an hour and a half to the Needles turning mark.

At the start, ARABELLA took off with the first group, which included "La Reponse", a very custom First 40 built by Beneteau as a works boat for Gerry Trenteseaux. JOOPSTER, the hot J 122, and a successful Beneteau 40.7.

On the run we could not quite match the VMG of the 2 or 3 fastest symmetrical boats who were sailing at 170 or deeper to our 160. Our VMG was identical to the Elan 410 and X 41. We arrived at the Needles Fairway buoy 4th in class just ahead of JOOPSTER and JELLYFISH, another J/122.

We then had a 15 mile beat against the tide to St Catherines Point, slowly the 40 footers edged away from us, we were sailing with 7 crew. Many of our class sailed at IRC max weight of 12 bodies, so giving away nearly 500 kgs on the rail for stability is not helpful in these conditions. The wind built to 25 kts as we approached St Catherines Point sailing upwind.

Shortly after the point the breeze reduced to less than 10 knots and we quite quickly regained all our losses.  In under one hour we passed the 5 or 6 class 2 boats that had been ahead of us, the class 1 leader (a 54 footer) and the remainder of the class 3 and 4 boats that had started before us. The performance of the J/111 was awesome on this short tacking against the tide light-airs situation. Normally in this situation you gain places on the tack in and lose after the tack to deeper water. ARABELLA gained a place on every tack and conceded none, we must have passed close to 30 boats arriving in Sandown Bay leading on the water of everything that we could see, the race winner a Farr 52 having disappeared over the horizon.

The original SE breeze re-established itself at 12 knots with the J/122 JELLYFISH furthest offshore and first to find the breeze, taking the lead. As the breeze filled in a drag race for the Nab Tower ensued between ARABELLA, La Reponse and the 2 J 122s.  Once again the 40 footers slowly edged ahead, La Reponse and JOOPSTER arriving at the Nab some 5 minutes prior to us after probably 10 miles of sailing mostly against the tide. The J/122 JELLYFISH was just ahead of everyone.

Prior to starting we had been told that the long leg of the race which was 60 miles from the Nab to a buoy off Le Havre would be a 110-115 TWA leg, so we had anticipating trying the A0 (Code 0) and making pace, sadly for ARABELLA the wind had clocked and it was now a 65 TWA leg, so another benefit for waterline length.  Couldn't "buy a break", could we?

After an hour or so the wind backed enough to allow us to change to a Jib-top, this was a sweet sail and we made good progress, with a wind that built to 28kts at one point. At this point we were flying.

At the end of the 60 mile leg we were unsure of our fleet position, with the exception of an X 41 that we rounded the mark with, the final 20 miles in to the finish were pretty much close hauled.

The final result showed us 4th in class and 7th in fleet. We were beaten by La Reponse and the J/122 JOOPSTER who took about 20 minutes out of us on the 90 miles of fetching and beating.  We were pretty pleased to have held off the many, much faster-rated 38-40 footers with longer waterlines that followed us in.  Next time we need the course setters/ Wind Gods to just give us a quarter of the course or more as a reaching leg, then the ARABELLA will really light up--- here's to looking at the Fastnet Race!"
For more RORC Cervantes Race sailing information.   Sailing photo credits-