(Cowes, Isle of Wight, England)- England's single-handed racing season opener is the Nab Tower Race- a "quickie" day race that generally starts off the Cowes JOG starting line smack in the middle of the Solent and head east around the Nab Tower that's east of the Isle of Wight-- depending on weather conditions, the RC may also create a course from one or more of the several thousand named/ sponsored marks that colorfully dot the Solent, around the Isle of Wight and the straits off either end.
Seventeen brave souls showed up for the "Nab Solo", the Solo Offshore Racing Club (SORC) season opener. Race officers Kirsteen and David had shortened the course on Friday evening due to the strong winds and freezing conditions forecast for the Nab Tower area and the new course promised a windward leg eastward to No Mans Fort, a reach north west to Browndown on the Stokes Bay shore and a run to finish at Snowden just east of Cowes entrance. The breeze had moderated overnight to 13-18 kts just north of east and the air temperature had dropped to 3 Celsius(!?), so a significant wind chill was to be endured, approximately minus 3 degrees C!
With a strong ebb tide running it was a question of 'who dares wins' as the fleet short tacked round Gurnard, in to Cowes, with a short hitch out to Snowdon and then back in again, with the same formula all the way to No Mans Land Fort. Rare was a casualty of the tactic, getting trapped on Ryde Sands just after Ryde Pier. At the Fort it was the Rob Craigie's majestic J/122 JBELLINO leading on the water from Simon Curwen's J/105 VOADOR, both were clear ahead of the chasing pack.
The following leg was a reach to Browndown in marginal spinnaker conditions. The J/105 VOADOR hoisted her asymmetric spinnaker and managed to hold to the mark, making gains on the Class 1 boats ahead. Rounding Browndown at about 12:30pm the order boat-for-boat was beginning to take the form of a J sweep, with the J/122 JBELLINO in the lead followed by stablemate J/105 VOADOR. It was important to bear away at the mark to get back into mid channel and the last of the west going tide toward Ryde Middle. Boat speeds had dropped to 7 knots sailing deep down wind with the symmetrical spinnakers having an easier time.
After three hours of close and chilly racing, the finishing order at Snowdon was Craigie's JBELLINO first overall, first in Class 1, but could not save her time on Curwen's VOADOR who took the overall handicap win as well as first in Class 2 in a convincing fashion.
Rob Craigie reports from the comfort of the warm and cozy main salon on his beloved J/122 JBELLINO, "First race of the season and its cold and misty. The weather this season has conspired to limit any pre-season practice, so not well prepared. A fabulous social evening on Friday evening in the 'Anchor Pub' with the other Solo competitors set me up for the weekend.
Up around 8 for a 10am start. Full cold weather gear pulled on and power up computer and GPS. Oh yes, lets quickly upload the 2013 Solent Marks. Chris drops in for a coffee, I am still trying to get the files to load when he leaves. Oh well, better leave it un-fixed, I know where the Fort is so best get going.
On the water, still enough time before the start. Hoist the main. Oh my, now why did the halyard tangle up there! Drop main, sort halyard, hoist main. The jib was hoisted and rolled yesterday, so nothing to do there.
Head for the ID gate on a run. Sheet in main to show number, nearly there, just slip below and don the required life jacket, get acknowledgement from Race Officer. Not long to the 5 minute gun now, watch the tide, strong and away from the line, want to stay in touch. A quick check over the deck. Hmmm, the in-hauler will work better if I put the jib sheet through the stainless ring!
Where are we, golly that was the 5 minute gun. Right, a bit of focus needed now. Unroll jib and sheet in, stop engine before the 4 minute gun. Reach towards the shore for start position. What was that about making a trial approach to finalize timings? Forgot to do!
One minute called on VHF, crikey, better tack for the line, get pilot sorted, jib in, main in, pilot off and steer. Line 'All Clear'. Here we go, check the sheet position, sail draught, sheet tension. Set pilot to tack to miss the shore, release jib sheet, wind in new sheet, adjust main track, look for other boats.
All clear now, where is Snowden?? Another 3 hours of this and I wouldn't want it any other way. Weather, what weather? Racing just doesn’t get any better than this! For those who couldn't get there you missed out a bit."
It was great to see some new faces in the fleet in what promises to be a very competitive and closely fought season. The next SORC singlehanded race is the very popular Round Isle of Wight Solo, 52 nm west-about round the Island from Cowes on Saturday 20th April with the pre-race social on Friday evening and post-race prizes in Cowes. For more SORC racing/ sailing information