With a fleet of ten Class40s assembled in the Solent, five of which have entered the upcoming Transat Jacques Vabre doublehanded race to Brazil, it was no surprise when an informal race was organised to provide some competitive training run in parallel with the SORC Poole and Back races over 14-15 September.
Six 40s came to the start line off Gurnard buoy on Saturday morning; Al Bucq sailed by Andy Greenwood , a new Akilaria RC3, had the best start which they held for 14 miles to the first mark at South West Shingles, Al Bucq was leading from Vaquita, a new Humphries boat, and sailed by the Austrian ARC winning team of Christof Petter and Andreas Hanakamp.
At the end of the four very shifty windward-leeward legs in Christchurch Bay, Al Bouq held the lead with Forty Shades of Grey, an Akilaria RC1 sailed by David Pearce and Tim Rogers, rounding second from Phesheya-Racing, sailed as ever by Phillippa Hutton-Squire who has massive experience, sailing with Sandy McPearson.
By the time the boats got to the finish more places had changed, but Al Bucq was first across the line having led from start to finish. Forty Shades of Grey crossed second, but with Phesheya-Racing crossing the wrong side of the line and having to re round losing their third place to 11 Racing (ex-Forty Degrees) a third generation Owen Clarke design, sailed by Hannah Jenner and US Class 40 ‘guru’ Rob Windsor, which managed to sneak into third. Final place went to Swish, sailed by Rod Knowles and Paul Peggs on a first generation Rogers design.
The fleet of Classe 40s assembled in Poole made an impressive and unique sight as the crews gathered for post race analysis and supper.
On the Sunday return race from Poole the forecast was to finish in the Solent with winds of 35 knots and as it was relatively short race it was a tough decision on the right sail choice: masthead or fractional kite, full mainsail or one reef in the main? With five boats coming to the line, Al Bucq having to go back early, it was Vaquita that led away from the start with a new co skipper Marc Lepesqueux carrying full main and mast head kite surfing at over 20 knots at times, followed by Forty Shades with fractional kite and full main. 11th Hour Hour Racing’ was laying third with the same sail configuration, following close behind Phesheya-racing and Swish, both with one reef and fractional kites.
As the fleet closed on the Needles and with Vaquita building a reasonable lead, the decision to be made was whether to gybe early for the North Channel and flatter water or gybe later and head down the Needles Channel with the wind against tide, where there were some big breaking seas.
Swish was the only boat to take the North Channel option. Unfortunately before 11th Hour Racing could gybe they had a big wipe out and before they could get things under control their fractional kite was torn, leaving a big mess to clear up and worryingly close to the Shingles Bank but all was sorted out to head home just under main and Solent.
As the fleet came through Hurst Narrows, Vaquita, with their masthead kite still under control had opened a large lead and took line honours. 50 Shades was second with the kite up as they gybed into Lymington and with a fairly safe second place assured and little chance of catching Vaquita they sailed conservatively dropping their kite and sailing to the finish line off West Lepe in the Solent. Swish was next, having made a big gain going through the North Channel and also sailed conservatively from Hurst Narrows to finish third. Phesheya-Racing pushed hard down the Solent with fractional kite, trying to close on Swish, but finished fourth with 11th Hour Racing claiming fifth.
A training weekend for the 40s off Gosport is proposed for 27-29 October. Most of the boats will be there and they may be joined by two brand new boats recently christened at the Southampton Boat Show: Mike Gascoyne’s new Akilaria RC3 Caterham Composites and Ned Collier Wakefield and Sam Goodchild’s very impressive looking new Ker-designed Forty(1)Design, Concise.
Many thanks to the Solo Offshore Racing Club and race officers for organising this excellent first race for the 40s in the Solent.