Be wary of gift horses..

When the owner / skipper of ‘jinge’ a projection 762 asked if we would like to step onboard as he couldn’t make the last race of the Haven Combined Clubs series, team Suffolk Sails had a quick check with their respective chiefs, checked crew availibilty, said great! Then we looked at the forecast, was it a bibical end of the world sort of forecast??
“And will there be a mighty wind, Brother Enim?”
“Certainly there will be a mighty wind, if the word of God is anything to go by…”
“And will this wind be so mighty as to lay low the mountains of the earth?”
“No – it will not be quite as mighty as that – that is why we have come up on the mountain, you stupid nit – to be safe from it. Up here on the mountain we shall be safe – safe as houses.”
“And what will happen to the houses?”
“Well, naturally, the houses will be swept away and the tents of the ungodly with them, and they will all be consuméd by the power of the heavens and on earth – and serve them right!”

“30knots is forecast!, do you think they’ll race” the conversation in the sail loft turns from finding / checking we have crew to seeing if there is a upper wind limit (errr no). Okey spokey, then we’ll see you on Saturday for a go on a projection 762.

“Whats a projection 762?” i hear you ask? The Projection 762 has proven offshore potential and a four berth interior. It is competitive in IRC and under SBR. An ideal club racer sportsboat appealling to sailors that want to be able to try out new ideas, without the constraints of strict one-design rules. Well mannered and fast, often beating over the water boats much larger than its modest 25ft, designed by Stephen Thomas. Jinge’s owners Will & Ed have got her sailing well and had excellent results, winning the opening race of the series. the projection likes a bit of breeze, she will pop onto the plane and sail like a dinghy. In the series overall standings going into this last race Jinge sat in 5th on 8 points one point behind the next two boats tied on 7 points, 2nd place boat was on 5 points. If we sail well maybe we could punt Jinge onto the podium? An outside chance but it was tight at the top.

Race 4. start time 1115hrs forecast 21 – 31 knots WSW, HW 1148hrs

Line Beacon hill

Cork Ledge (Port)

Armada (port)

Stonebanks (port)

Foxes (port)

Pennyhole (starboard)

Outer Ridge (Port)

Pye End (starboard)

Beacon Hill Line

The team mustered and introduced themselves 6 onboard (being light in a blow some railmeat is needed, Adam (bowman), Richard (trimmer), Jez (trimmer / pit), Matt (trimmer /pit), Saffron (railmeat – sorry Saffron), Simon (helm). At this point the check list of who owns the boat and is it well maintained came when Adam and Richard rather helpfully commented “there’s no instruments, no depth, speed and no compass” and “there’s probably only enough fuel in the outboard for one way”. No depth?? no Compass?? err have you ever raced a yacht without a compass? Interesting times.

A fairly rapid sail to the entrance at Beacon hill, checking in with the race Officers, the team poked Jinge out into Harwich Bay, “hmm it’s going to be pretty nasty out here, i reckon they will probably send us to pennyhole and keep us in the bay, if the forecast 30knots is right”. As the RO (race officer) read out the first mark of Cork Ledge followed by 6 more marks, a ‘knitting’ contest of racing marks the crew realised this was indeed going to be a long day at the coal face. High water at 1148hrs meant the first few legs would be wind over water; I remember doing a yachtmaster course and the instructor asked the pupils if anyone had been at sea in wind over 35knots? My hand went up, “and what were you doing in that wind?” the instructor asked, “racing” was the simple reply. There aren’t to many sailors that willingly go to see in 30knots of wind and given the choice they would much rather 30knots of wind with tide in the same direction, it makes for a much flatter sea state…

With the countdown underway and the ‘chicken chute’ asymmetric rigged the team lined up for the start, with a minute to go it looked like the fleet were going to be late, the impala led off the line at the gun with Jinge a second or to late. We quickly overtook the impala, a quick look back and we could see the big boats reaching hard. The reach out to cork ledge approx 5nm (?) suited Jinge she picked up a wave a surged into the lead, Jameerah a j120 finally caught upto us at Landguard cardinal but a small broach from them allowed us to escape. Using the growing waves Jinge extended away from the fleet and by the time the realisation of the rather long upwind leg back to Armada had hit home, we had a tidy lead.

Turning the mark and opting to tack early Jinge hit the wall of water that the north sea had become, the biggest issue with small ‘flighty’ boats is going upwind in large waves. Each one knocks the boat back more than the big boats, Simon and Richard were working hard sailing around and over waves, but there was no avoiding one or two large breaking waves. The thought that the RO must be losing their marbles to send us out here kept floating around. After feeling like the wind was heading Jinge tacked back, a chance to see if the big boats had caught them, the extra waterline length and lead in the keels surely meant that the lead would go?

Sure enough Judgement day crossed in front on port, helmed by the legend Des, do we tack back? they know what they are doing? they have the latest B & G kit they must see an advantage? Jinge stood on, heading back out,With no instruments (including no chart) the next issue was going to be knowing where Aramada was, i mean we’ve all sailed around it countless times, but we tended to have a gps to help with course to steer. As lady luck shined on us for the first time we eyeballed the mark, Ok, tack back so we are sailing up the middle. “anyone see judgement day?” “no” came the answer, little did we know that Judgement day had had enough and carried straight on in and to the bar! Are we doing the right thing? We lost the mark again, but with Spirit and Islay and Crikey all closing we saw we needed to tack back otherwise we would overstand. As we tacked back we looked like we had lucked out on the layline, result. That feeling was short lived as Spirit sailed through and tacked on our bow, “we’ll never make it now, lets early tack”. We tacked to clear Spirits dirty air and we rounded the 2nd mark Stonbanks behind Spirit but just in front of Islay.

Stonebanks to Armada . rounding the mark Spirit bore away hard then chicken gybed (that’s tacking instead of gybing). “where are they going? The next mark is Armada, yes?” Simon quizzed the team. “Yes Armada” they cry. “ok, where do we think that is?” “we’ll have to follow Islay” who had got past us as we dithered over which direction we should point. Ok, that plan lasted maybe 5 minutes before we picked up a couple of waves and reached past Islay. Just sail the same angle as Islay and we’ll have to this time Spirit had noticed their navigation error and tacked back onto course. Luckily the old boys eyesight at the back of Jinge is good, confirmed by Richard we located Armada, “we might chicken gybe this one” Simon thinks out loud. “might be sensible” comes the reply as Jinge approaches Armada the crew clarify “are we gybing?” “err, yes, not my boat, we’ll pick a flat bit”. Gybing round tidyily the team set course for somewhere “foxes, what do we think?” asks Simon, ” i think its up higher than we are” Richard suggests. Islay chicken gybes round Armada, which way are they going to point? As soon as Islay sets her course, team Jinge follow suit a little lower than the rhumb line, but matching course until we can get a visual on the next mark (foxes), a one sided beat to foxes, losing a little height from the mark rounding (really we had no instruments!) we let Islay and Spirit through.

Turning foxes third another long beat back to Pennyhole (who is Penny? where is her hole?) these beats where a slog, the fleet was much diminshed as more sensible sailors decided that banging round this course was not fun, and to be fair, the beats weren’t exactly fun, even the helm was getting wet! We were losing out to the bigger boats upwind, we just needed to try to hang on to their coat tails, for when we turned downwind. What we needed was a decent run so we could hoist the kite ( yes, folks. Remember the rule? always put the kite up?). We managed to stay in contact with the three bigger boats as we got to Pennyhole, Spirit turned first and then headed somewhere random (dude, want a new navigator?) Islay and Crikey 5 were having a ding dong. “we want a nice tidy rounding here so we can lay Outer ridge in one (and also so we can hoist the kite)” .

Rounding we set course for Outer Ridge, the wind still howling and the course nearly dead downwind, none of the big boats were flying kites. Spirit looked they were going to a totally different mark. In a “not my boat” conversation we decided that 30knots over the deck was not the time for kites (boo! i hear you say)We just need to keep deep so we don’t have to gybe, surfing every wave team Jinge surged back to the leaders (probably not spirit as they were still heading towards the docks!) as Spirit chicken gybed to head towards Outer ridge it was going to be close, Crikey 5 getting to the mark just after Spirit, both had to chicken gybe to get round, team Jinge had no such concerns, sailing deep the team headed up inside Crikey 5 and in front of Islay; who decided that the quickest way to Pye end was to tack away from it…. A short beat to Pye end, we had Spirit just to leeward of our bow, they point higher so we we free’d off to let them through, Crikey5 were stuck in Spirits bad wind so they tacked off to get better wind. the short beat turned out to be longer than expected, a drag race towards the channel. Team jinge tacked before Spirit, where was Crikey5? behind and a good margin too. Islay no where to be seen, just Spirit in front. We just need to be close, get the layline right and we are a blast reach to the line. “i don’t think we have enough track to get past them” Simon says. “they give us time, so i think we are ok” Matt discusses the merits of the boats IRC ratings.

The reach to the line saw the team relax as the waves abated. Second over the line, we’d have to wait to see if we had done enough to win (maybe?) or help improve Jinge’ overall standings?

After a masterclass of docking with ‘just enough fuel’ and no reverse gear (seriously! Will, Edd) the team packed the boat away; roughly 10 buckets of water from inside. Then guiness, remember sailing its a sport, but first and foremost its about making friends, reliving the huge breaking wave, finding out why Des didn’t finish (not his boat), why we didn’t put the kite up (not my boat), the times you go sailing in a gale (not my boat), Battling round a course with no instruments. One guiness always leads to another, well, we were waiting for results (and to ask Kevin why he tacked at Outer ridge instead of sailing straight to Pye End?). if the bars are empty after a yacht race then to me something is wrong, we don’t just ‘sail’ to ‘sail’ we sail for lots of reasons, freedom, competition, speed, tactics, just trying to make the damn boat go quicker, but if there’s no one in the bar to tell what an epic day out you’ve had then where’s the fun?

Thanks to Edd and Will for letting me take the boat, thanks too to Jez, matt, Adam, Richard and Saffron. If your wondering what a good day to take your partner sailing it isn’t a 30knot wind over water day. I’m really sorry it was such a grim day out for you Saffron, i hope next time it’s sunshine and flat water, days like that are rare!

P.S. we won 7minutes after correction, Jinge moved upto second overall (Edd, Will, do we get a trophy for that one?).