He writes: ‘Fresh southerly winds were forecast all day for a clockwise rounding of the island amongst a fleet of varied boats from a quarter tonner to J/122.
I decided on the no.3 to use on the furler, not having gone solo before I wasn’t keen on doing a tack change, at the 7am start it seemed the wrong sail for a close reach in the gusty wind off the island, losing out on a bit of distance to other boats but a nice reach on flat water.
That changed at Bembridge ledge when wind increased for a tight fetch to Dunnose in 30 knots wind against tide, the tiller pilot couldn’t cope and tacked the boat 3 times while putting a reef in, but in the waves the boat struggled to drive forward. The no.3 then turned out to be right, as the pilot would not allow me to change sail if I wanted. Around Dunnose it got very rough, I kept inshore trying to keep out of the worst waves past Ventnor but the waves still filled up the cockpit several times.
The beam reach down Freshwater Bay was just too tight for the spinnaker in 25kts true, nobody flew kites. Then it was a daunting prospect of rounding the needles on an outgoing spring tide with the swell, I went in quite close, had to gybe in the huge waves, just after hitting 15 knots down a wave which was awesome. Then a struggle in the lee of the cliffs to drive against the tide and slow progress into the Solent. I couldnt quite catch the Contessa ahead but caught up a good few minutes on it.
Firebird fnished in 8 hours, about 20 mins off the pace 6th in class and 18th out of 25. The overall winner being a Hanse 291 sailed well by David Cowell.
Great fun day out, followed by a superb meal in ISC and a slight hangover on Sunday. This event is on my calendar for next year! A better tillerpilot needed for next year!
Will be doing the Island Double too in July, any takers?