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18ft Skiff racing at the Calshot Activities Centre, Solent

by Tom Hill 6 Aug 09:56 BST 31 July - 1 August 2021

This weekend's skiff racing was a case of being comfortable with the rig you've put in and accepting that at some points, it might have felt like the wrong call! The forecasts were saying anything between mid-range 1 rig to mid-range 2 rig all weekend.

The compromise was keeping the No1 rig in the sky for long enough to reaps the gains or stick with the No2 rig knowing you can be agile and probably more likely to stay upright for the duration. A swim can take as much as 3 minutes to get back up right, so worth trying to avoid as much as possible!

The rig deliberation for Saturday ended up with a split fleet. Rutland, Babycham and Union Rose launched on the big rig and The Time Genie and The Green Skiff launched on the little rig. The Race officer put in a mischievously short course for the day with some tight turns needed to get round the bottom mark- Nothing the fleet couldn't handle, but there certainly wasn't going to be any moment to relax around the race course.

Day 1

As the clock ticked through the 5 minutes before the start of Race 1, the breeze filled in with some ominous clouds on the horizon. The first lap saw Rutland extend a lead on the fleet with Babycham following. The scratch crew of The Time Genie succumbed to a bottom mark capsize after the first drop at the bottom mark involved a series of gybes and gybe drops - a stretch too far for the new crew!

As the teams turned for the second lap, the heavens opened and brought with it a squall and even more breeze. In the future, the sailors will spin a yarn with beer in hand and quote the 29knots seem on Bramblemet at the the time. All that can really be confirmed is that it was windy enough for the big rigs to think twice about spinning the wheel! The result was Rutland came grinding to a halt burying the bow to give the following boats a full view of their paint job and bagged top prize as they executed a textbook pitchpole.

The Green Skiff also struggled to get the bearaway in during the big breeze as the helm's harness fell apart in the first upwind beat, which meant a swim when trying to rip her away with only two on the wire. A quick harness change from the media boat meant the team were back in action. Babycham took line honours for that race for stringing the safe manoeuvres together followed by The Time Genie.

Another start for Race 2 with Babycham on a mission to shut half the fleet out meant The Time Genie nearly gave the Race team a close up view of their kite pole fittings! Rutland got away in clean breeze and led the fleet around the first lap, shaking off their first race pitchpole demons. Babycham were never far behind until an unfortunate gybe saw them wrapped around a solid Solent mark.

Meanwhile at the back of the pack, the little rigs were duelling with The Time Genie and The Green Skiff trying to sail in the same bit of breeze leading to some tactical manoeuvres to shake one another off. Rutland pieced their manoeuvres together well and sailed a flawless race in top speed big rig mode to take the win.

There was the usual tustle on the line in Race 3 for space and unfortunately, that led to The Time Genie trailling the rest of the fleet by quite a margin. Union Rose featured much more in this race, but weren't untouchable from the building breeze and had their fair share of swimming. The Time Genie finally found their groove with stand in crew and were the only boat to make it round in the time limit. Most of the fleet retired after near gear failures and keeping an eye on kit to not take risks and keep them racing on Sunday and the boat in one piece for the nationals.

Day 2

Sunday looked to be much lighter conditions and tempted the little rigs up to the big rig league in an effort to keep up with Babycham and Rutland. But then, the Solent breeze bit back!

Another breezy start to Race 5 saw a split fleet up the course. Union Rose and Rutland came in on the port lay line. An immediate tack and bearaway proved too much for both teams and resulted in Rutland capsizing and Union Rose stuck head to wind and Babycham took advantage. Union Rose got going again to battle with Babycham until the end and Rutland just managed to get back upright before The Green Skiff could get through.

Babycham led for most of Race 5, but had teams on their heels until the very end. A tangled kitesheet meant Rutland fouled Union Rose on the final downwind run to the line forcing them both beyond the finish line, but not through it. Both teams needed to head back upwind and rip in a bearaway with turns for Rutland thrown in for good measure. Ironically, it was Rutland that managed to come good, even win the turns, to take second place.

The final standings of the weekend could have gone to either Rutland or Babycham depending who came out on top in Race 6, with Union Rose close by to shake things up. It was Babycham that eventually ended up on top winning the event. However, with only a few weeks to go until the Nationals, its fair to say that form is coming for all teams! And if a forecast comes like it did for this weekend's exciting racing, it is sure to be an excellent showdown for the 2021 National title!

The fleet also did a test 'round the cans' race after the usual 6 races to check if they enjoyed the format. After 50 minutes of upwind, kite runs and two sail reaches, and trying to dodge the rest of the Cowes Week fleets, Rutland just about kept Union Rose away to claim victory in the first trip around the Solent. There will certainly be many more of those races to come in the future!

Overall Results:

PosBoat NameR1R2R3R4R5R6Pts
3The Time Genie221[6]6617
4Union Rose[6]6623118
5The Green Skiff43[6]46623

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