Tales of derring do etc.

marklucas

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A thread to capture those moments of "Oh s**t!" combined with "What now skipper?" and celebrate the Corinthian spirit of racing yachts.

So, my starter for 10.

I was crewing on a Sigma 33 in a JOG race Cowes to Fecamp (my first time on this boat).

Usual 6pm start off RYS line heading out through the forts. It must have been April or early May as by the time we cleared the forts it was virtually dark and we could just see dark clouds building over the mainland heralding the predicted veer to a NW F5. But we were the first in class through the forts (I was on mainsheet :cool:) and we prepared to bear away and pop the spinnaker. Well it went up alright, but with a perfect hourglass figure. No end of trying to either sheet it in the wind shadow of the main or just brute force pulling it down achieved anything.

I posited that we needed to find a wind shadow and so get the power out the damn thing as it was now a F6. Great idea was the reply, but where? Well we could duck into Sandown bay, head South of the Island or ... use the wind shadow of the oil tanker anchored half a mile away which was ignoring the tide and pointing directly into wind.

Now oil tankers are pretty big, but when you only have their width to provide a wind shadow you have to get pretty close (in the end less than 20m) which really put the heebie jeebies up the skipper's wife. So I thought it prudent to radio the vessel just to check they weren't planning to up sticks any time soon. After about three calls the low life left on anchor watch responded and really couldn't grasp what I was trying to explain, so I just asked what time their berthing slot at Fawley was - it was the next day so we were OK.

So back to our spinnaker. Now in the wind shadow we tried pulling down by pulling down on the pole. No joy. We tried having someone standing on my shoulders so that they could grab the b*****r just below the twist. Still no joy.

OK, the shackle is jammed in the sheave, who's the lightest. So we sent the skipper up the mast. Technically his wife was the lightest, but she was already a sobbing mess and whilst possibly being of use as a ship's figurehead, she would quickly have become a casualty that high up. And voila, we got the f*****r down.

After clearing up the mess and advising our friendly tanker jockey that we were clear of his stern, we decided to abandon the race and head for Gosport, under motor, and I went down below for a well earned nap (it was about 0200 by then) . The only thing was, the skipper simply took the reciprocal of the CTS from the forts to Fecamp. We had headed a good 1.5 miles west of this to try getting the spinnaker down and to get to the tanker.

And the perceptive amongst you with a working knowledge of the Solent area can predict what happened next.

Yes, we found Bembridge Ledge with the most almighty bang. I jumped up from my bunk, stuck my head out into the cockpit, pointed out Bembridge Ledge East Cardinal buoy 300 yards to our East and then went down to pull up the boards to check the keel.

We made it to Haslar and crashed out. I left before breakfast.

Not surprisingly that was the last time I crewed on that particular boat!
 

Birdseye

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Well this one isnt race related. We were two up, bringing my med displacement 35 footer up from Lands End heading towards Cardiff and had just passed Bull Point where the Bristol Channel starts to narrow. There had been a storm out in the altlantic so there were rollers underneath us made bigger by the last of a spring ebb. We had the genoa poled out and the main strapped down, goosewinged. The westerly wind behind us had been rising but the boat on autopilot was behaving very well. I guessed we hadnt noticed the wind speed which had reached 20 knots over the deck until the boat started surfing down the wave fronts hitting 15.4 knots on the log. The bow wave was a good foot higher than the guard rails. An "Oh Sh*t " moment with the two of us scrabbling to untie all the tied down bits hoping that the pilot would continue to cope and the boat wouldnt broach. It did and the boat didnt.
 

Racecruiser

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Well there have been lots of 'oh ****' moments over the years but my latest was 3 weeks ago on the JOG Alderney race, bit light with 3 on board and punching into the SW'er about 10 miles south of the Needles about 23:00.

I had selflessly volunteered to do the first off-watch and was in the weather bunk thinking the boat is hard-pressed and we need to reduce sail when I heard from shouts on deck that my two trusty crew-mates were about to get a reef in the main. Bit of main flogging as the reef cringle goes on then sounds of it being winched when suddenly the boat is getting too upright and I'm thinking 'oh **** involuntary tack coming up'. That's just what happened and my world was quickly re-orientated hove to on the new tack.

I got to the hatch with no footwear wearing just a base-layer; thought 'no way I'm coming on deck' but the reef only needed a couple more turns which I managed from the steps then the guys tacked and we were off again. I went back to the bunk for an hour. 2nd place by 27 seconds - hey ho!

Mind you, as always, reviewing how we played the tide and approach to the finish was probably worth more than the time we lost hove to!
 

Birdseye

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Mind you, as always, reviewing how we played the tide and approach to the finish was probably worth more than the time we lost hove to!

I know that feeling. For long enough I used to record the track we took on a garmin hand held and then download it onto the home PC for analysis. Thoroughly depressing the number of races lost by less than the delay over the start line. Not to mention the spinnaker delays

But thinking of ooh-err moments, I remember once on a run to a turning mark alongside our great rival, A Gibsea 9 foot longer but full of cruising kit and so of a very similar speed downwind. We both got to the mark to turn off onto an upwind leg only to find him rounding the mark to port and us rounding it to starboard, simultaneously. He was in the wrong but that doesnt comfort when you see 10 tonnes bearing down on you at 5 knots. Luckily we both reacted in opposite directions and missed each other.

Or on another occasion approaching a downwind mark for a turn to port with two smaller competitors in front . They were focussed on messing up each others rounding as best they could and not looking astern at all.. The wind gusted stronger and we started to blanket their sails with the result that we found ourselves maybe a couple of boat lengths behind doing 2 or 3 knots more. To starboard of the mark was shallow water and then some stakes protecting a bird reserve. Instant decision that the gap between them looked big enough - then they started to close still squabbling. By that time the bail out to port and miss the mark option was gone. No alternative but shouting for room which brought two horrified faces looking astern and realising what was almost down on them. We just slotted into the gap without touching them until the inside one decided to tack at which point his stern swung to starboard and hit us. Protests all round.
 
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