It was an evening of conspiratorial circumstances, when gusts, shifts, zephyrs and tides, took the four boats that crossed the start line on the first evening series, and shuffled them like a pack of cards.
The forecast was for light winds, north-west. On the pier, light seemed an understatement. Course shortened to A: marks to port, three miles around M4, M2 and back to the start.
The first downwind leg saw the fleet spread out as it approached the mark with Whispers having stolen a march. And rounding on to the reach, I began to think decision to shorten was not the right one. The wind was getting up. The fleet would be home in 40 minutes.
The commodore and I were watching the race from the comfort of his car, sheltering from the falling snow. Ne’er cast a clout…
Then the wind seemed moderate and one by one the fleet disappeared from view: Whispers, Mojito, Kenamara and Ommadawn, in that order I think. Not long, we thought, before the train rounds M2 and hoves into view beyond the old wooden pier. Perhaps some rearrangement while out of sight. But it was probably the best part of an hour before any of the boats reappeared. Ommadawn first. Followed by Mojito. No sign yet of Kenamara nor Whispers. Occasional bursts of speed but otherwise beating slowly against the tide. Ommadawn seemed to travel in mid channel. Whispers closer to the shore. Kenamara took the middle road. All were chasing breaths of wind as mapped onto the surface of the water. But as Ommadawn, Kenamara and Whispers beat – a complete misnomer in the circumstances – to the finish line, after having been clearly separated on the previous legs, they were now converging on the finish line. So close was the convergence that we were preparing for close quarter sailing and rehearsing key phrases from When Boats Meet. “Now Jack is on port too but the leeward boat…”
It was 2 hours since the start; the fleet had been pulled apart in the search for weather then put back together for a photofinish. Ommadawn was following a far flung track but finding wind, tacked and reached smartly back to the line. Leaving the start mark to port and upwind, she squeezed by Kenamara, rounded the start mark and crossed the finish line from the course side, as required. Kenamara was right behind but had to put in another tack. Whispers, approaching the line from the course side, was inching over a glassy sea. Four minutes separated the finishers.
And so it finished but with handicaps enacting one more shuffle - final result 1. Kenamara; 2. Ommadawn; 3. Whispers
The lack of wind meant the final manoeuvrings were in slo-mo, like giants lumbering across the line; had we filmed them and speeded up the play back, we would have seen an exciting spectacle. So, if you’re at a loose end on the evening of the next series – 11th May – come down to the end of the pier, crack open a bottle, and enjoy the entertainment.
John McDougall, Sailing Secretary