When Andy Oliver asked me in the bar at Linden House one Tuesday evening whether I was interested in taking part in the Hamble River Sailing Club winter series, what he didn’t tell me (bless him) was that this would involve getting up at 5.30am every Sunday for two months.
Having said that, it was fantastic. By the time we reached Port Hamble on
those Sunday mornings in October and November the place was buzzing with yachties
in their waterproofs stoking up on bacon and eggs before the races. The mood
was infectious. After convening in the Square Rigger, we would scramble on
board our chartered thirty two foot long X332 boat, "Xtreme", throw
off the mooring ropes and head out into the Solent for some practice before
the race. Andy, as skipper, would brief us on our jobs and get us focused
for the very physically demanding and competitive series of big boat racing.
starts were a phenomenal test of nerve and totally thrilling. Our various
helmsmen, Armando D’Amico, Chris Eade, Andy and Martin Dixon steered us through
a mass of converging boats sailing boom to boom towards, generally, one tiny
portion of the start line by the committee boat. Even once we’d survived that
bit, the rest was certainly nothing like plain sailing!
The series was made up of eight races round half a dozen buoys in the centre
of the Solent. The first classes began racing at 10.00am and we had usually
all finished by 1 or 2pm. We had masses of spinnaker practice on the downwind
legs, and plenty of grinding on the upwind stretches. We finished all except
one race and came 13th overall in the IRC 3 division, out of 26 registered
competitors. Our best position was a very creditable 10th - not bad for a
cruising boat and new team, few of whom had much previous experience of "round
the cans" racing.
The crew comprised thirteen London Corinthian Sailing Club members who took
it in turns to sail. When we ran out of club volunteers we roped in a few
friends, and were very grateful to them for lending us their expertise. One
of them, Gary, was particularly useful the day Andrea Thompson slipped on
the wet coach roof and skidded at lightning speed off the top and straight
over the side of the boat under the lower guard rail. Andrea hung on, shouting
for help, with her feet in the Solent. While the rest of us just stared in
shock, Gary hauled her back on board and we all continued sailing!
Xtreme crew members included Steve Cashman and Andrea Thompson on the foredeck
(when she wasn’t in the sea), Peter Horton as our very competent navigator
(except when the next buoy was East or West Knoll, which he described as "one
of those small green ones that I can never find"), and me in the pit
(as that was about as close as I could get to the Kit Kats), often with Armando,
Stephen Wallace and Phillip Lee.
Martin Dixon helmed expertly several times and Shaun Curran, Chris Eade, Mary Dawson, Stewart White and Dawn Saunders, who sailed from time to time, were also a great asset. A couple of weekends before the start of the series we undertook some much needed training on the boat, under the experienced eye of Peter Hopps. That stood us in good stead for the series, as there’s nothing like knowing what you should be doing with all those ropes.
the first few weeks the winds were desperately light. In one race we even
anchored and had lunch! A few weeks later, at the start of the autumn storms,
the wind speeds were up to 45 knots and it was a white knuckle ride round
the course, with two reefs in the mainsail, the number 3 genoa and definitely
no spinnaker. As the weather varied enormously from week to week and hour
to hour, we used every sail combination. We liked to keep the foredeck busy.
it weren’t too terrible a pun, I’m sure all of us who sailed on Xtreme are
extremely grateful to Andy for organising the club’s participation in the
series. Armando shared the considerable task of chartering the boat and sorting
out the finances with him, and we are also very grateful to him too. I learnt
a huge amount, had a great time and always wore my bruises with pride.
Andy advises me there’s more to come in 2001, as he is organising a Fastnet
campaign for interested LCSC members on either a chartered race prepared Sigma
38 or something a little more exotic like a J120, Prima 38 or Beneteau First
40.7. I hope to join him and if you’re interested please contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org.