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Wanderer class at Langstone Harbour Race Weekend

by Tim Robertson 12 May 2014 08:19 BST 3-5 May 2014

Sorry this is all about W1038's weekend, but I didn't get my head out the boat enough to see what others were doing!

Six Wanderers set off for Tudor SC on Langstone harbour last weekend to compete for the second year in the Langstone Harbour Race Weekend regatta, as event #4 on the class association's Travellers Trophy 2014 itinerary.

Run by the three clubs on the Harbour (Tudor, Locks and Langstone) the event attracts 60+ boats over three days and the entry fee includes food and social at each of the clubs over the three nights making it a very economical sailing weekend. 6 Wanderers set off to race, but unfortunately one lost a trailer wheel on the M27 and hitched an AA ride home on Saturday morning, leaving 5 to fight it out on the water.

Arriving at Tudor on the Friday night we got the rigs up and covers on before joining the other crews in the club house for the briefing and a good curry and beer.

Saturday dawned with a light breeze that promised to build through the day. A leisurely rig for all as we were tidally restricted to two races in the early afternoon was followed by a launch at around 12:30 for a 13:30 start. In the briefing we were all warned about dredgers that enter the harbour on the flood tide and we duly spotted the hulk looming in to the harbour entrance about 15 minutes before our start time. Finding ourselves on the other side of the channel to the committee boat we tried to cross to the cover of the moorings, wondering who the dredger was rudely hooting at until the harbour master zipped over in his rib and firmly suggested we tack back and get out the way... Flood tide and large boat meant we hadn't noticed how fast he was moving relative to us. Sheepish looks all round and we made sure we stayed well clear for the rest of the weekend.

Race #1 saw Wanderers starting with the rest of the Medium handicap fleet (Vagos, Solos, Wayfarers, 2000s, Lasers, Radials, RS Vision) in light air. With tide sweeping strongly into the harbour, threatening to push everyone down below the start line, and the committee boat to port with many, many boats crowding the starboard pin end it was all too easy to arrive too high (frightened of getting swept downtide) and get lifted off the line by those in the fleet who got it right, having to tack and gybe to duck behind the fleet, under the pin and cross... while some chose to just batter their way to the pin amongst much "Up!" shouting. It may have served us well to go for space further down the long line, but this would have put us on the channel side in a strong tide with the fleet between us and the shelter of the shallows where we really wanted to be. Once over the line we immediately tacked to onto port on our own and sailed off the course to the shoal area on the right to try and stay out the channel and avoid the worst of the tide. Most of the fleet were still bickering on starboard after the start, sailing into the main channel so this helped make up for the terrible efforts on the line a bit. Light air helped us again as a light crew and after 3 sausage laps, where we could keep the boat fully powered up and dead flat, the race officer shortened course and we finished 1st Wanderer, equivalent to 5th overall out of 30 odd boats in the medium fleet on corrected time.

Race #2 back to back was set as a classic Olympic triangle and sausage course as there was now deep enough water in the centre of the harbour for us to venture out of the channel. The wind built a little as the sea breeze helped bolster the gentle southerly wind. As the beat was now set over to the left of the channel we headed even further left after the start, which we again misjudged and had to repeatedly dip under the hovering fleet before the gun, getting bogged down in poor breeze under those who got it right, we even had trouble climbing against the tide to clear the committee boat at the port end. Again we went large on our tide avoidance, holding out longer than everyone until we had even gone further than the lay line for the windward mark without tacking, knowing the tide would push us back and that the further we went the less contrary current we'd be fighting. This served us well as we arrived at the first mark about 3rd on the water.

The reaches were disappointing as asymmetric boats murdered us on the first tight leg when we couldn't get a decent set with the apparent wind forward of abeam, a deficit which we couldn't haul back on the broader second reach of the triangle, though we symmetric boats then sailed a more direct downwind route on the sausages, staying in the strong tide in the channel to claw some of the losses back while the asymmetrics went off on their angles. Speed differentials at the leeward mark caused a number of instances with Wanderers generally sailing in to the mark on port and faster handicap boats planing in from the left side of the course on starboard holding overlaps that some of our fleet failed to recognise as the angles were so open. As it was I generally found myself coming in somewhat more leisurely than the fast fleet boats on port and made sure to leave room and call early to pacify the screaming crews of asymmetric boats that I was giving them room. We noticed the seaweed trailing on the buoys swapped direction on the run down to the leeward mark before starting lap 3 so then swapped our tactics to stay in the channel on the beat to ride the ebb tide up to the windward mark. After 4 laps we came in 1st Wanderer and equivalent to 13th overall on corrected time in the medium handicap fleet with Wanderer colleagues nipping closer at our heels as we started to struggle to stay flat in the stronger air. We then ran back over the shallows to the club to put the boats to bed and enjoy a sociable BBQ at Locks SC near the entrance to Langstone harbour. Spot prizes were given for winners in each fleet over the day while we laughed at photos of leeward mark rounding shenanigans and then we retired to our overnight accommodations for a hot bath and snooze.

Sunday was breezier and racing started an hour later due to the tide so we had plenty of time to munch a hearty breakfast and think about how we could better cope with the heavier winds. We dropped the mast back one hole on the adjusters and set everything up as tight as we dared on the beats to de-power. This worked really well for us as a relatively lightweight crew, with feathering the main in gusts but keeping the genoa drawing meaning we could hold the boat flat and fast with a neutral helm rather than fighting it on its ear all the way up each beat. It was also easier on our thigh and stomach muscles!

Race #3 was our best start, but only just. Sailing triangles and sausages again in the centre of the harbour with the flood still sluicing in pushing us back from the line we decided to leave the heavily contested pin end well alone and look for space at the committee boat to the port end where we could immediately get out of the channel and try to cheat the tide in the shoals to the east. In space towards the middle of the line, nice and high with 30 seconds to go we were able to power up early and just squeeze over the bow of the committee boat into slack water to the left. It paid again to stay out the stream, hold out way past the layline to keep out the worst of the current and get swept back to it once we tacked back into the current. A good beat with helpful lifts for us on our risky strategy way out to the left saw us second after the first beat on the water and set off once again on the difficult triangles and helpful sausages. By lap 4 we had managed to hold off most of the medium fleet to secure a class win and equivalent to second overall on corrected time in the Medium fleet.

Race #4 was sailed on a trapezoidal course, a new one for us, with a very high first reach mark and low 2nd reach mark that precluded any spinnaker work by symmetric boats other than on the downwind run. It was fun to sail a different course however, and knocking off the outhaul, cunningham and kicker & playing around with crew position / trim helped us maximise our speed in near planing conditions across the reaches where we often caught small waves and surfed a little. Once again the tide changed halfway through the race, flipping our strategy on the beat and helping us make up for our deficiencies on the reaches. After four laps we recorded a Wanderer fleet win and equivalent to 5th overall in the medium fleet. The Sunday night entertainment was Spaghetti Bolognaise and a quiz at Langstone YC, the home of the actual Portsmouth Yardstick - which they have nailed to the wall of the clubhouse for all to see... Much merriment and beer later the Wanderer team secured an honourable 2nd in the quiz mainly thanks to our children's knowledge of flags of the world, spot prizes for the day's winners were given out before retiring to more medicinal hot baths and bed.

Race #5 of the regatta is a passage race around the various marks of the harbour on the Bank Holiday Monday, but with a tidally restricted start time of 3:00 p.m. and the wind ripping the flags straight out from the poles the Wanderer fleet unanimously declined to participate in proceedings any further so a leisurely day was spent packing up and driving home. Sat in yet another hot bath at home mid-afternoon it was gratifying to look at my watch and think of the remaining fleet still battling their way up the first beat! With two discards over the 5 race series we were delighted to secure an equivalent score of 4th overall for a Wanderer judged on corrected times in the Medium fleet (Beaten by a Solo, a Wayfarer and an RS Vision) and a class win within the Wanderer fleet.

I can strongly recommend Langstone Harbour Race Weekend as a welcoming dinghy regatta for those looking for well organised mixed fleet racing in a different sheltered tidal venue. Tudor SC are great hosts and the shared social is a real highlight of the weekend. More details, full results and professional photos of the event are available on the Langstone Harbour Race Weekend website.

Next Sunday 18th May sees Wanderers heading for Marlow SC on the Thames near Henley to try some Wanderer Class narrow river racing, before our first Wandererfest event at Cobnor over the last weekend in June. More details available at www.wanderer.org.uk

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmCrewClubR1R2R3R4Points
1st1038Tim RobertsonNiamh RobertsonSutton Bingham SC‑11113
2nd318David DaviesAndy Peter 232‑47
3rd992Michael Hamilton Hurst Castle SC(RET)2428
4th1541Philip MeadowcroftJill MeadowcroftSalcombe YC/Henley SC3‑4339
5th1363Marcus HandRebecca HandTudor SC4(DNC)DNCDNC18
6thW635David GuyJonathan PollockShearwater SC(DNC)DNCDNCDNC21

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