Sponsored by Spinnaker Yachts
A healthy start list for the PYRA Poole-Beaulieu race was swelled with a string of additional line entries en route out to the Saturday start line at East Hook. No doubt the lightish forecast persuaded the committee boat Esprit to set a simple Start Line Finish Line course, setting off under spinnakers without the usual upwind leg. The pair of class 5 multihulls sped away first followed 5 minutes later by a trio of no-spinnaker class 4 boats and a dozen class 2 boats, many of whom tried tidily to sail line abreast under their swollen kites. The formation held till somewhere off Hengistbury where the NW breeze briefly touched 18 knots before slowly dropping and veering closer to Hurst by which time the fleet was more dispersed. Kites were handed at the Narrows as what we hoped would be a shy reach turned out to be a tightish fetch with the light NNE occasionally backing and tempting the kite only to shift forward again. With half a mile to go a few kites were finally hoisted paying off handsomely to the finish at Seven Stars race mark which we shared with Cowes Week sports boats simultaneously arriving from ahead and fortuitously rounding in the same anti-clockwise pattern.
The fleet was moored up in time for lunch, siestas and/or riverside walks and an early RV, brought forward to 1600 hours on board Esprit. I reckon there must have been 60+ sailors squeezed onto every inch of her 43 foot deck. Neil and Ollie Vardy of Spinnaker Yachts hosted the splendid gathering with industrial quantities of ready mixed jug dispensed G+Ts along with outrageously ostentatious strong pink cocktails.
Matt Hitt just managed to hush the clamour with provisional results, now confirmed with first places for Class 5 Lil’Annie, Class 4 Quadrophenia, Class 2 Pink Panther and Class1 Deity (this despite her over-full holding tank!).
Association Captain Roger regaled the throng with tales of historic Royal Naval derring dos, a rum tot to loved ones and the Queen, God Bless Her, whereupon everybody fell off the boat. It was a very good RV setting, as Roger observed, a formidable benchmark to future sponsors.
Sunday was forecast to be light. It was! No start could be achieved anywhere in the Solent and we wondered how the Fastnet fleet would fare assembling a couple of miles away for their noon start. The PYRA fleet motored off, pausing only briefly while Esprit’s crew went swimming, then out past Hurst watched silently by a bemused crowd obviously wondering why Fastnet boats were allowed to use their engines. The breeze kicked in with at least 5 knots gusting 6 so Esprit set a start line in a strong ebb tide at North Head. Your reporter was caught out with an OCS before a prolonged struggle to crawl back for an all clear. No matter, that lost minute or so paled into insignificance after 2.5 hours close hauled in the 6-9 knot breeze as, only 2 miles from the finish, the wind progressively died away. In close company with 5 others we struggled to get around Bar Bouy as the tide tried to push out towards Old Harry. Even while the mark was upwind, we went into a desperately slow motion skidding manoeuvre with kite up to catch the merest zephyrs clawing against the tide. It took another 30-45 minutes in 0-2 knots to reach the finish by no 4 bouy. Most of those behind wisely gave up.
Despite the maddening dying breeze, this was a lovely weekend. Many thanks to Neil Vardy, Esprit and all her crew for looking after us so well.
Looking forward to a stonking 20 knots on the beam for St Vaast – Good Sailing