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Hamble Winter Series 2002

CLUB SUCCESS IN X332 HAMBLE WINTER SERIES 2002

Another record broken. Over 60 club members raced during the 2002 Hamble Winter Series on four club-crewed X332s, in a particularly windy and wet series.

Thanks to a very effective effort by Mike Ridley, a massive 40 people sailed during the course of the series on Xpletive and Mardy Gras, skippered in turn by Andy Oliver, Scott Leith, Tony Burn, Rod Eames or Mike himself. The other club-crewed boats were Exabyte (also chartered) skippered by myself, and Xpression, owned and skippered by Simon Anderson.

This is not the first time club members do the Winter Series. Several members have raced over the years in many classes from Sigma 38 to Sigma 33 to Hunter 707s, and this was the case this time round as well with other members sailing in other classes too. Yet this year's success certainly shows what the Club can offer to intermediate level sailors wanting to learn or improve round-the cans racing.

It is a huge progress compared to the past years. Just step back to the HWS 2000, when the Club made its first appearance in the X332 class (at the time included in IRC 3) with two boats participating, Xpression (brand new out of the box) and Xtreme, skippered by Andy Oliver and organised by Andy and myself (want to know more? Just look at the article "Xtreme Winter" by Kirsten Birkett of December 2000 on the LCSC website!). Following that, Simon Anderson did every single Spring and Winter Series since. I chartered Exabyte for the Spring Series 2001 and Spring Series 2002.

How did we do? As always, a combination of adventure, adrenaline and serious but safe racing, in what has become an increasingly competitive environment. See for yourself.

RACE 1 - 13 OCTOBER
Well it was rather windy. This was particularly unfair as we were all coming from the sun and calm of the Offshore Rally week-end!

Wind was only 15 kn before start. It stayed at only 15-20 knots for first three legs (so far so good!) then rapidly got to 20-25 knots, then continued up to 35knots…and more. On Exabyte, lack of reefing holes in the main meant very difficult to de-power enough without letting flog, but we moved the jib cars back. Meanwhile on Xpletive, Peter (Hopps) and Mike were taking the much more civilized route of reefing the main (lucky them). By then, conditions were becoming near survival, with not much boat to boat racing. Listening on the radio, most competitors were radioing their retirement. As wind was well into F7 or gale 8, waves continued building (wind against tide) so we had to be quick in reacting on helm when going downwind to avoid broaching when wave hit from behind, with one crew constantly ready to release kicker. Speed clocked over 15 knots.

By the last but one leg clear it was clear that the main was doing nothing - even worse, had lost two battens by this stage…. the crew was democratically debating taking it down when a tear in leach appeared - dropped asap. Last beat was completed under jib only (still pointing reasonably well!!) to complete last of the finishers but 6th ranked, a good score for the series ahead. Exabyte ran back to Hamble under No3 with 11+ knots recorded down the waves !!

On Xpletive, a real baptism of fire. No one - including Mike - knew what sort of team one could field from the club and how competitive it could be. Well, after few spectacular broaches and a number of unexpected soaking of the crew, Mike and Peter decided to call it the day and head back (a decision that Mike regretted a bit later, but how can you play with the safety of the crew?); clearly hearing 13 retirements on the radio was not exactly reassuring. Same on Xpression that, as Ben Luddington rightly put it, "retired due to the crew pointing out that home was a long way away if we continued to the finish!"

RACE 2 - 20 OCTOBER
Hoping for a better weather? No way. Another day of heavy air with a cold Easterly 20-25kn in the early stages of the race, then up to 30 kn and more.

After a start at Air Canada we all round Marsh and head on a broad reach into the main channel. With a wind still in the 20-22 knots the whole group, including us on Exabyte, hoists the kite for this reach. Ahead of us all looks still manageable, until we get to the middle of the channel, open to the Easterly gusts. We see some broaches ahead of us…should we keep the kite?…we bear away a touch, put people ready (ready to dump kicker, main and spinnaker sheet..) What we have not seen is that behind of us kites are beginning to blow up and tear (Peanut's at the hoist). Ahead of us some drop theirs, some not. Gust coming, ready guys! Ok, under control, so far so good….oooops…..we are broaching,…ok, recovering…let's fill the kite and start again.... RIIIIIP! The kite is gone in two big pieces! Drop quickly! Let's get the pieces on board at least. With the repair bill looming in the back of my mind, the race continues. Wind has gone up now. Beat, run (no kite of course), beat, run, beat, finish. It was about time.

Meanwhile on Xpletive the unflappable Chris Winnington Ingram oversees a consistent but not less dramatic race punctuated by a number of incidents. The most… "interesting" is a huge a riding turn around the winch of the jib sheet when on port tack and heading for a clutch of boats on starboard! No time to do anything, Captain Chris orders to CUT the starboard jib sheet at the clew in order to tack … bleeding on the deck lead to discover Seif had caught his finger - nothing serious, though you can imagine he'll be showing his scars in the bar! Other adventures include the mainsheet twisting round itself on rounding two marks, leading to rapid rounding up to wind, weaving in the in the downwind legs to avoid the other classes beating and also avoiding gybing.

Xpression retired again, due this time to a medical emergency. As Ben reports "nothing to do with me I didn't sit on her fingers, honest!"

RACE 3 - OCTOBER 27th - CANCELLED
The wind finally won and all racing was cancelled.

RACE 4 - 3rd NOVEMBER
This time wind is west, a reasonable 18-22 knots but squally gusts of 26-28 during the race and a big squall at 35 knots at the very end.

Andy and Xpletive record a top speed on the GPS of 14 knots in the last run, coming in 15th out of 16 beating their first boat of the season on the water. Xcellent! Niraj manages to squeeze 4 people and sailing kit into his Porsche 911. Exabyte does a reasonable race, except going for the wrong mark a the very beginning (nav error!), costing us to round the windward mark at the back of the fleet and doing a catch up race to finish 10th.

CHARITY PURSUIT RACE, 10 NOVEMBER
Pursuit Race: theoretically a relaxing 'fun' race but still competition. 65 boats racing, 45 of which in the handcap class and 20 or so Sportsboats. As I go to the start line I am a bit nervous of this idea of 65 boats of all shapes and sizes racing together: we see Chernikeef (Peter Harrison's Farr 52), Fair Do's (a beautiful orange-sailed Kerr 11.3), Yeoman of Hamble (David Aisher's one-off 44 ft on which I had done the Cowes-Dinard St Malo race), Derek Saunders's "Predator of whight ", as well as Prima 38s, J105s etc, but also a bunch of Hunter 707s, Cork 1720s, Laser SB3s. What a crowd!

The wind was still strong around Force 5-6 (actually this is my guess, as no wind instruments on Exabyte were working on that day!). Funny to watch the Sportsboats so fast downwind with their asymmetric kites and the bigger guys catching up later in the race. Luckily, not too many Sigma 38s (some of them are loose cannons, you know). A dramatic scene was to watch (and hear!) the Farr 52 Chernikeef scraping Spanker, having under-estimated the strong Easterly tide at the rounding!

We finish 19th after a final scramble with Aztec a J-105, first of the X332s, just a minute ahead of …Xpletive (sailed by the owner) and the other X332s including Mardy Gras with Mike. A great and very enjoyable race for the two LCSC boats

RACE 5 - 17 NOVEMBER
Light and fickle wind, Northwest. It's getting cold. This was a very long and never-ending race (4hours) with a strong tidal gate at the end which made seemingly impossible to cross the finish line!

We finish 12th. Scott and Andy battle it out till the end but both beat a boat! Indeed it is 18th, 19th and 20th for Xpletive, Mardy Gras and and Xpression, with the latter delighted to have finished their first race in the series.

This race had a dramatic beginning for Xpletive, with frantic phone calls on the mobile to Rod and Andy on Mardy Gras as Xpletive realised at the last moment that no one had the rules and regs, knew how to navigate or indeed could set the radio on channel 72. However, Martin Dinan did eventually manage to get the handheld VHF working, Francesca took down the course and learnt very quickly with the help of Juraj Priecel how to do the bearings to the marks and work the tides with skipper Scott Leith's help. His experience of the tides meant Xpletive pipped Mardy Gras at the finishing line. The following week Fran made sure they were better equipped!

RACE 6 - 24th November
Again, light, shifty and fluky Southerly winds at 7-10 knots except during a squall. For Exabyte the race starts with two incidents, with the same boat (X-to-Sea), within minutes, one at the start (we were in the wrong, we put yellow flag up) and the other shortly after (we were right, but what a mess). After many ups and down we finish 16th just behind an enthusiastic Xpression in 15th, with Xpletive and Mardy Gras respectively 18th and 19th.

After the race X-to-Sea and Exabyte decide to drop the respective protest and diligently inform the Race Committee via the VHF. Guess what, a third boat, Xcentric, immediately decides to protest both of us twice, claiming to have witnessed both incidents! We find out later that Xcentric is just 3 points behind us in the series score, and a few points ahead of X-to-Sea….ha! Anyway the story has a happy and instructive ending. One clear benefit is that a protest forces you to refresh the rules. Next Sunday, the hearing goes well: after 45' of playing with model boats on the table of the protest committee they decide to dismiss both Xcentric's protests! Little impact on the final results as this will be our discard anyway, but great moral satisfaction.

RACE 7 - 1st DECEMBER
It's getting darker and darker in the morning, believe me. This 5.30am wake-up is getting harder. It always rains as we drive to Hamble. Why are we doing this? Anyway, we have westerly winds (steady 270) of 18-22 knots with gusts up to 24-26, occasionally 28kn. Another No3/No2 race, we are becoming good at this.

This race provides a good show of broaches all the way. On Xpletive, the combined effort of Niraj and Mike Wood during a gybe lead to a great broach and Mike in the drink! Yvonne starts rejoicing (finally gone!) but too early, Mike is still hanging in there in some way. Andy prefers to bring all the crew back after all, while Francesca misses a good story for the newsletter (.."successful rescue of man over board…" that wouldn't have been too bad).

This is a historic day for Mardy Gras (18th), beating Xpletive (19th) with great satisfaction and with a little help from skipper/trainer John Horn. Xpression, in 16th, is solidly ahead of both after a cool race, daring keeping the kite even when others don't (hey, Trevor is back!). On Exabyte we have an uneventful race, apart for dropping the sea anchor in a beat (yes, we kept the spinnaker bag on deck in the beat and surely enough the kite went out of the bag and under the keel!). After this, finishing in 12th and 12" behind Xena is a bit frustrating.

RACE 8 - 8th DECEMBER
The forecast anticipates a cold North Easterly bringing temperature of minus 3-5 degree Celsius wind-chill. Again, are we crazy or what? Lightish wind forecast brings us to leave the No3 on the pontoon, convinced this will be a No1 headsail race. No way! We almost regret that choice during the pre-start, as we hoist the No2 and we see boats around with the No3!

Well, leaving a headsail on the pontoon is one thing, but Andy decides to surpass himself by leaving a crew member ashore! Yes, that's right, Brian O' Ferral has asked for Mardy Gras's keys to go and fetch his oilies. This operation takes longer that Xpected and, as it is getting late, Xpletive slips moorings with everyone initially convinced that the missing crew is either down below or some place else (?), then completely forgetting the matter! Only after the race a collective ….."ooooops" is heard coming from Xpletive!

But, back to the race, there is fierce competition within the Corinthian boats. Only 3 points split Xpression (17th overall at 82 points) and Xpletive (20th at 85). Will the enthusiasm of Xpletive prevail? Or will the loss of Brian give a blow to all hopes?

A strong Easterly tide at start means three boats OCS, including unfortunately Xpression (but they don't know and race till the end). Andy on Xpletive (no Mardy Gras this time) rounds the first windward mark together with us. Nice to sail in company of another Corinthian boat! Our tactician finally wakes up and with a good second beat we pull ahead to 10th, with Xpletive finishing a solid 13th. Xpression was ahead on the water, but the OCS and Andy's good performance means Xpletive has now jumped a few places to in the series.

In the end the four LCSC crewed boats conclude the Hamble Winter Series as follows:

Exabyte 9th
Xpletive 18th
Xpression 19th
Mardy Gras 21st (sailed 4 races only)

Full results at www.hamblewinterseries.com

EPILOGUE
We can finally sleep on Sunday, at least for a while! Apart from this, what else comes to mind?

First and foremost, it is an amazing but reassuring achievement that some 60 people raced over 9 Sundays with no one being hurt (the same cannot be said for sails, battens, spinnakers, but that's life!).

Second, the massive participation is a signal to the Club. It wasn't clear what the reception would be to taking part in the winter series, with the time commitment, cost and change in the weather, but it was a pleasant surprise to see the keen interest which meant Mike had to turn people away for the first few weekends and eventually had enough people to put on a second boat.

Third, can the Club be happy with the results? They have to be put in context but the answer is definitely yes. For Xpletive and Mardy Gras, the objective of giving a great many club members the experience of inshore racing and a very enjoyable and exciting time was definitely achieved, as confirmed by members responded to the feedback questionnaire rating "learning" as their No 1 reason for participating.

For Exabyte, a 9th place puts it solidly in the first half of the fleet and first of the chartered boats. In spite of all the good intentions we did not succeed in putting in place all the learning from previous campaigns: once again, the crew was not entirely consistent throughout the series and we were never able to have the whole crew together for training on a Saturday. While we worked hard on optimising trimming, settings (halyards, genny car positions) and crew manoeuvres this only came together at the end. As Leeanne and Donald put it after the last trace "now we are just about ready to start the Winter Series!" The limits of our performance clearly indicate the way forward if the Club wants to be more competitive next year.

Xpression's results were affected by two retirements at the beginning and one OCS at the end, but they were fast on the water confirming the momentum of their excellent Offshore Rally race.

* * *

Where do we go from here? It is important to build on this success and cater to the members' different needs, giving the more experienced the chance to continue to improve as part of a competitive boat, while continuing to nurture the beginners to bring them to the next levels. As Mike points out, although people had not always done a lot of round-the-cans racing anything lost in skills and experience was made up for in attitude and enthusiasm. This enthusiasm we don't want to lose.

To get results, crew and skipper consistency will be a must, and it is reassuring to see the increasing number of club members who can take responsibility for a crew in a racing situation. On the other hand, enthusiastic beginners need to be brought forward too. My personal suggestion is perhaps to work at two levels:

  • Continue and strengthen the club racing in a friendly environment (Spring Cup, Autumn Cup); these intense and fun week-ends must be the platform to build racing skills. Perhaps the Offshore Rally format could be re-thought as well.

  • Participate in the more competitive national events (Spring and Winter Series, Round the Island Race, Nationals) with consistent crews throughout, always preceded by a number of training days, adding perhaps a "learning boat" with a trainer.

For now, let's take a well-deserved break. A big thank you to all the crews on Xpletive, Mardy Gras, Xpression and Exabyte for working so well, getting up early and sailing the distance. To Mike Ridley for his leading role in the organisation. To the offshore committee in particular Chris Eade, Sally Brown and Andy Oliver, to the skippers Chris Winnington Ingram, Andy Oliver, Scott Leith and Rod Eames with Tony Burn, to the trainers Peter Hopps and John Horn.

Thank you the Exabyte core crew: David Edwards, Tom Beezer, Simon Palmer, Leeanne Robb, Chris Hart, Stuart Woods, Donald Edgar, Andrea Bertolotti, and to all additional crew who sailed with us!

Finally, thank you Mike, Francesca, Liz, Mike Wood, Ben Luddington for their literary skills and contributions to this write-up, and to the official photographer Martin Dinan.

Armando D'Amico

 

 

The end of another Winter Series and very well done to all those who took part.

The series result for the club crewed boats out of 25 X332's over 8 races were:

Exabyte 9th
Xpletive 18th
Xpression 19th
Mardy Gras 21st (sailed 4 races only)

Full results at www.hamblewinterseries.com

I look forward to seeing many of you on 12th for Beer Curry and a few stories...

Mike Ridley

Copyright © London Corinthian Sailing Club, 3 Jan 2003