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Highcliffe Sailing Club Bournemouth Pier Race

by Sarah Desjonqueres 4 Jun 2017 22:01 BST 4 June 2017

Once a year Highcliffe SC leave the protected waters of the harbour, sail out down The Run, up around Hengistbury Head and out to sea in order to race to Bournemouth Pier and back. This year, delighted to have Christchurch SC on board as well, 14 boats, of many shapes and sizes met up at the harbour entrance and headed off on their adventure.

This year's line up included a wide range of abilities, some old school 'seen it all before' types, some newbies heading out into the waves for the first time. And why not? The sun was shining, the forecast a pleasant F2-3 north westerly, perfect for a good hearty reach back to base.

With 4 safety boats for 14 boats, all angles were covered and all boats were steaming along nicely, heading out to sea and around the corner to Bournemouth.

Force 2-3?! Was this some kind of meteorologist joke? Just round the headland, it was clearly not F2-3. An expanse of white chop and dark hollows said come and play if you dare and unbeknown to the sailors, the club anemometer was now picking up winds of 22- 27 knots. From the roving reporters perspective, the options were turn back now, alone and miss out or take a deep breath and follow the crowd. With neither option enormously appealing, the roving reporter finally found herself arriving at the pier, after 2 hours of a fairly close hauled reach spent pounding through giant waves, desperately trying to spill wind, whilst avoiding being taken out by a massive wall of water, all the time trying to get the feeling back in both her backside and her fingers. By now, one boat was already been tow, 2 of the younger sailors were beginning to not like the look of the broad reach home, side-on to the imposing, breaking swell and the roving reporter was having serious second thoughts. On the flip side, some of the more experienced sailors we absolutely loving every second, chomping at the bit to scream back to Mudeford in one long surfing blast, totally unfazed by the either the wind or the waves.

So, the Race Team dropped the marks, went into sequence and the race got away cleanly. Team Gibson (RS Feva) and HSC Commodore Rogers (Vago) raised their spinnakers and shot off like rockets, hot on the heels of Midgely (Dart), Atkins (Finn) and Arnell (OK). The Committee Boat (now containing the roving reporter...) went at full throttle to try and catch up with the lead boats who very quickly became just a blurred image of spray in the distance. By now the anemometer was clocking gusts of 28 knots (that's F7 - I looked it up!) and the carnage began. The committee boat, desperate to get to the finish line over 3 miles away before the lead missiles got there, tried to get ahead, but radio messages were coming in thick and fast of turtled Splashes and unrightable Radials. Torn between the finish line and keeping an eye on an upside down RS Aero and an upside down RS600 both miles apart from each other, the committee boat chose the only sensible option and waited for both boats to be up and flying again before belting down to the finish. It was too late however, there is no stopping a Finn and a Dart in their perfect sailing conditions and the committee boat arrived 2 minutes too late to accurately record their finish.

Further back down the fleet, the 3 safety boats had their hands full. One sailor, now exhausted, shaken and cold with his abandoned Radial under tow in the huge waves, was sitting shivering in a RIB. Another sailor, Anderson, to whom the roving reporter can only apologise unreservedly to, was now also under tow, still clutching the tiller extension which had snapped off whilst he was in full tilt, in a gust, down a wave which saw him thrown clear of the boat which then disappeared into the distance before realising it was unmanned and fell over. Further up the race the Christchurch rescue team were dealing with a couple of turtled Splashes, with daggerboards slipping down inside the boats with each wave. So far out was Miller (Splash) that her team thought she was on her way back with some duty free items. With too many boats to tow back, it was then a great relief that some chaps, who had been watching the mayhem ensue from the warmth of the Beachhouse cafe on Mudeford Spit, decided to launch their RIB and join in the big tow.

Impressively, despite several swims, Platt (RS Aero), Wells (RS600) and Rogers (Vago) all managed to cross the line and get themselves a finish, which in the end saw 10 out of the 14 entrants getting a hooter and a time. According to Arnell, the 2 hour schlepp up to the pier was well worth the 30 minute flyer back, describing the reach as 'awesome' which i am sure his fellow sailors Acton and Atkins will undoubtedly agree with. Hopefully, none of the younger sailors were too put off by the experience and that they will at least take something positive away with them. Thank you to the rescue teams from both Highcliffe and Christchurch, who worked very hard to keep everyone safe, it was a little challenging to say the leas, but as they say, all's well that ends well.

So, same time, same place, next year then everyone?

Overall Results:

PosBoat TypeSail NoHelmClubPts
1stOK21Chris ArnellCSC1
2ndFINN581Alex AtkinsCSC2
3rdRS FEVA XL430Alex/Jane GibsonHSC3
4thLASER RADIAL208853Jack ActonCSC4
5thLASER RADIAL178768Keith MitchellCSC5
6thDART 151412Steve MidgleyHSC6
7thLASER RADIAL179672Richard HuntCSC7
8thRS AERO 9490Graham PlattHSC8
9thRS 600861Lorrian WellsHSC9
10thLASER VAGO XD205Dominic RogersHSC10
11thLASER RADIAL162803Doug CroucherHSCDNF
11thLASER RADIAL200840Paul AndersonHSCDNF

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