Saturday, October 1, 2016

The J/105 JELLY BABY Round Island Experience!

J/105 sailing JP Morgan Round Island Race (Cowes, Isle of Wight, England)- as told by owner William Newton!  Enjoy this fun report on how Newton and team had a most amazing adventure going around the famous Isle of Wight 60nm “America’s Cup” course on their J/105. Courtesy of J/105 Class News!

“The day before the Round the Island Race, the forecast was predicting 25-30 knots from the west going southwest, but at least it wasn’t going to rain, and our start was at a respectable hour so we wouldn’t have to leave Lymington until 0700 hrs.  We had a crew of seven, and fortunately a big boys crew, which would hopefully keep the boat upright! Breakfast en route was bacon rolls and brown wasn’t going to be a day for Weight Watchers breakfast.

We thought long and hard about the start. With the wind in the west, did we start at the island side of the line where initially the current would be favorable? Or the outer end with less tacks and the advantage of the line bias? We went for the outer end. I am still not convinced it was correct. Combined with no clear air and positioned forty meters behind the line (that’s what the machine said!) at the start, this was not one of our better starts.

Beating down the Solent was uneventful except for witnessing one port and starboard collision. At the Needles, I am reminded it is my decision as to whether we pass inside the wreck. We did, but the majority of boats seemed to pass outside, other than another Lymington boat (J/109 Jumbuck) that was alongside us. Unfortunately, they were dismasted later in the race. Having passed inside the wreck, we had clear air and waited for an instance as there were no spinnakers and it appeared a shy reach that would have meant the code O. However, the wind settled and freed, so we set the fractional spinnaker and off we went with the speed at between 14-16 knots with the occasional burst of 18 knots.

Approaching St. Catherine’s, the crew noticed a drone overhead. Did the paparazzi think we were famous? A few days later, we found the clip on You Tube. Nice to see that we were travelling faster than the boats around us!

In spite of it being a shy reach, we made St. Catherine’s without having to drop the spinnaker.

J/105 Jelly Baby sailing Round Island RaceAt St. Catherine’s, the overfalls created a nasty sea state. At one moment coming off a large wave, we recorded a speed of over 20 knots! We quickly made the decision not to try and gybe, so jib out, dropped the spinnaker, gybed, and re-hoisted, having sorted out a mess of a spinnaker with somehow two halyards wound around it!

Once sorted, up went the spinnaker again, and off we went to Bembridge Ledge buoy. At this stage, we were in company with our main J/105 and club rivals— Andy Roberts and Bill Edgerley’s Jin Tonic. The adrenalin kicked in, and we managed to sneak ahead. Afterward, they claimed they had delayed their spinnaker hoist following their gybe to have lunch!

From the Needles to St. Catherine’s, we had not been passed by any boats, but now the wind angle was more favorable for a spinnaker (thought this would change). We considered changing to a masthead spinnaker, however checking the true wind speed at 29 knots quickly thought otherwise, and continued with our fractional spinnaker. The sea was much smoother on the way to Bembridge, so having to gybe four times before reaching the buoy was not a problem.

At Bembridge, down came the spinnaker, and a reach in the direction of the post near No Mans Land fort. The wind had not abated in spite of being in the lee of the island, so we put in a reef. From here, it was a beat along Ryde Sands to the finish, only having to tack three times. At this stage, an absence of boats around us was unusual, but a pleasant change from previous years of continuous tacking in traffic.

The erratic wind off Norris, as always, questioned as to why we didn’t sail further out into the Solent and the adverse tide. We didn’t—just kept trimming and made the finish line without tacking, and continued to sail on to Lymington. We texted in our declaration, and, as always, we were glad to receive confirmation. There is always a concern that we might have been OCS or entered a prohibited area. At that moment, out came the drinks and cake.

During the dreadful return journey to Lymington (all upwind against chop), we received the odd text saying we had done well. Nobody seemed that bothered. We realized it had been a fast race, completing the 55nm in 6 hours 50 minutes. The most important thing was we had enjoyed ourselves, and other than losing two hats and a few bruises, all was well!

Arriving in Lymington, we retired to the yacht club to finish the cake and have another beer, and confirm that we had won class 2B. With our fellow club members on Jin Tonic (J/105) and Boomerang (Adams 10), who won the second place team prizes for the Royal Lymington Yacht Club, a time for champagne!

It is interesting to note in our class 2B (46 boats) that the first four boats were J/105s. And of all the J/Boats competing under IRC, the second and third boats were J/105s (the winner was a J/111 by two minutes).  Not a bad performance for a 25-year-old design!!