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.
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
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
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
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!
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!
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.
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
||21st (sailed 4 races only)
Full results at www.hamblewinterseries.com
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: