Well, Saturday morning’s races were certainly challenging for the Race Officers and the competitors! The forecast was for a Northerly Force 4 that would start to drop off around mid-day – enough to hopefully take the seven Redwings around the Solent Forts for the first race for the Nicholson Trophy, and the eight One-Designs to have two races ‘around the cans’. In the event, the Redwings only managed to round one Fort (No Mans Land) or two if you count passing St Helens Fort on the first leg! And the One-Designs only got one race in!

After a short postponement, the seven Redwings got off to a sedate start with Garland as the pin end of the line. Mind you it did not help when the breeze backed and dropped to a Force 3 in the final few seconds of the start sequence.

Start of the Redwing race on Saturday – https://youtu.be/O1cE_9aGni4

Passing to the right of St Helens Fort en-route to Warner, the fleet tacks with Colin Samuelson in Toucan, Joe Robertson in Red Gauntlet II and Mike Toogood in Tara deciding the better breeze was inshore off Seaview, and the remainder, led by James Wilson helming Quail, headed offshore where the tide was stronger. Originally, after Warner the course was to cross the shipping channel, transit via the main passage through the submarine barrier between Horse Sand Fort & Southsea Beach to Spit Sand Fort and then back to the start/finish line leaving No Mans Land & St Helens Forts to port. However with the breeze dropping it was decided to change the course so as simply round No Mans Land and finish. Toucan was first to reach Warner with Red Gauntlet II not far behind; unfortunately Quail failed to pick up the course change so ended up retiring when it was obvious that the gap to the leaders was too great to realistically catch up. By the time that they rounded NMLF, Toucan & Red Gauntlett II had established what looked like an unbeatable lead. But off Seaview the breeze deserted them and progress against the tide was very, very slow. All bar Blue Jay, who despite kedging decided enough was enough and announced they were retiring, were determined to finish and finish they did, albeit at a line at the end of the Seaview Mermaid moorings. Toucan & Red Gauntlet’s lead was whittled away by Lady Laetitia helmed by Billy Clegg, Tara and Quintessence helmed by Robin Ebsworth. Sadly for Joe, his tactic of heading inshore to beat the tide did not pay off and frustratingly he saw the other four boats manage to cross the finish line as the tide turned offshore. After just under three and a half hours, Toucan finished just ahead of Lady Laetitia with Tara and Quintessence close behind.

The tow back to the harbour moorings did not go quite to plan when Sea Breeze found herself prop wrapped on a Redwing mooring and by the time she got clear (Mike Sam had his first swim of the year!) the tide had dropped too far for her to make it back to the pontoon so she had to over night in the Redwing Pool.

The eight One-Designs meanwhile had made slow progress in their first race; optimistically they had been set Derrick as the windward mark but with the breeze dropping and normal jibs, tactics (and a bit of luck) were the key to success.

Start of Sunday’s first (and only) race – https://youtu.be/xrOlajrU4DI

Charles Perry in No 8 and Sarah Marshall in No 7 got it right and established a big lead over the next group of Russ Fowler sailing single handed in No 1, Xander Shaw in No 6, Susie Beart in No 5 and William Bland in No 12. Having rounded one of the yellow speed restriction buoys that made a perfect (and convenient) leeward mark, Charles finished just under three minutes ahead of Sarah. Russ rounded ahead of Xander and William but lost out on the short beat back to the line. No 5 meanwhile decided the offer of a tow was too good to refuse so joined John Suffield (No 4) & JosCoad (No 11) in retiring back to the harbour moorings. With no sign of the breeze improving, it was decided to abandon any thought of a second race.

Not so much sunshine but a slightly stronger NNE F3 breeze on Sunday morning encouraged an additional Redwing (Avocet helmed by Alastair Speare-Cole) to launch. After a bit of unscheduled swimming by the race officer when the inflatable buoy got entangled round the rudder, a slightly port biased line was established off Garland. With Britten as the windward mark and the inflatable as the leeward mark, it was three times round (through the line on each round) for the eight Redwings and twice round for the two One-Designs. The Redwings collected at the port end of the line with Colin Samuelson in Toucan squeezed out and therefore delayed crossing the line. Quail, helmed by James Wilson rounded Britten first with the rest of the fleet close behind. With Toucan working back up the fleet it was not long before they were fighting with Joe Robertson in Red Gauntlet II for second place. Unfortunately for them, Quail failed to go through the line to complete the second round, so although they crossed the finish line in first place, they were not greeted by a hooter. Joe led until the final run but could not hold off Colin so had to be content with second ahead of Avocet. This gave Toucan her second victory of the weekend and therefore the outright winner of the Nicholson Trophy (which as a RNC&RAYC trophy is sadly locked away pending the outcome of the RNC&RAYC going into administration a couple of months ago).

In the One-Design race, No 12 helmed by D Orange tried a port tack start but ended up crossing number No 8 helmed by Alexander Ross and was forced to tack off. No 8 was first round the windward mark and opened out a big lead by the leeward mark. There was a two minute gap between them by the finish after two rounds.

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