Once again the X-Yachts Solent Cup was run by the Royal Southern Yacht Club and our CRO was Peter Bateson.
Saturday morning was looking decidedly dull and breezy, confirmed by the weather briefing which warned us of strong gusts with winds up to 30Kn or even more. So all prepared in our oilies we set off for the start line around the Royal Southern buoy for our first race. It was obviously windy; consistently blowing at over 25Kn from the SW and most people put in a reef and used a No.3 headsail.
The Open Sports A Class set off first with West Knoll as the first windward mark, followed by a long run down the central Solent followed by a couple of beats and runs towards the Island shore finishing around South Ryde Middle.
Open Sports B Class followed 10 minutes later and about 5 minutes after the start the 1st reefing line on “La Nef IV” (X-332, John Noë) decided to break, giving little option but to take in the second reef which in fact served admirably for the rest of the day.
As far as we could tell, no boat in either class flew a spinnaker in the somewhat wild conditions. There were some gains to be had by playing the tides and in Class A Andrew Arthur’s Xp38 “Vixter” was first over the line and first on corrected time followed somewhat later by Richer Cross’s “Xnara” (X-43) and David Carratt’s “Blue Vortex” (X-46). In Class B Peter Jones’ X-119 “In X Celsis” gained line honours but was pipped on corrected time by Peter Hodgkinson’s “Xcitable” (X-362) with the new works Xp-33, “Bon Example” gaining a 3rd place.
Race 2, which kept the two racing classes nearer the Island side of the Solent to try an avoid some of the stronger winds, presented a challenge as to whether to take a long first beat on the Bramble Bank or go inshore and risk the the variable winds close to the land. This time Open Sports B Class was let free first and after rounding Norris we had a run back along the Island shore before reaching across to East Bramble before another beat run and beat back to the finish. This time in Open Sports B Class “Xcitable” had the bullet and first on corrected time followed by “Unruly” (X-37, Charles Bull) and “La Nef IV”, beating “Bon Example” on the water. Open Sport A Class raced the same course as B and once again “Vixter” lead the fleet home, followed by “Xnara” and “Blue Vortex”
Race 3 used substantially the same course as Race 2 and with winds now close to 30Kn boat handling was critical to ensure no gear damage. Open Sports B Class again set off first and once again “In X Celsis” achieved line honours but was again pipped into 1st place on corrected time by Xcitable with “Bon Example” achieving 3rd place. In Open Sports A Class, it was “Xnara” that gained 1st place this time, followed by “Vixter” and “Blue Vortex”
I think it was true to say that everyone was glad when racing had finished for the day and the thought of free drinks on the pier encouraged us to make haste back to the club house after 3 exciting races.
After a most entertaining Gala dinner the night before, Sunday proved to be a totally different kettle of fish. Clear skies and 10Kn breeze greeted us on the race course for the first race of the day. This time there were no reefed sails and plenty of optimism for 2 good races to end the event. The start area was close Hamble Yacht Services. Once again Peter Bateson chose to set off Open Sports B Class first with a beat to our old friend West Knoll with a run back to Fastnet Insurance, a beat to East Knoll , a rounding of HYS before a very short beat to the finish boat. In the light airs, “Bon Example” showed everyone a clean pair of heels this time, followed by “Xcitable” with “La Nef IV” not far behind. Unfortunately for “La Nef IV”, “Bon Example” and “Excitable” both managed to round HYS and get to the finish before a dying breeze caused La Nef IV to stall at HYS, taking her a further 30 minutes to cross the finish line. During this time both “Unruly” and Clive Drury-White’s X-302 “Quickstep” had managed to hang on to the breeze that was a little further north to squeak past “La Nef IV” and beat her across the line. In Open Sports A Class, the finish order was slightly different from the day before with “Vixter” taking line honours with Xnara 2nd and Bob Rendell’s Xc-45 “Samatom” a very deserved 3rd
After a pause to allow the wind to re-establish, the second and final race of the day, used the same course but both open classes set off together. “La Nef IV” was determined to make amends after the infuriating loss of at least 2 places in the previous race. She set off again in hot pusuit of “Bon Example” and “Xcitable” and worked her way to windward over Bramble Bank out of the tide. Again in the light airs, “Bon Example” won by a mile, but this time “La Nef IV” was only just over a minute on corrected time behind “Xcitable”. In Open Sport A Class once again it was “Vixter” first home with “Blue Vortex” 2nd and “Xnara” 3rd.
As the sea breeze increased, we all had a fast reach in 18Kn wind back to the Royal Southern where a hot snack was awaiting us all before the prize giving.
In Open Sport A Class Andrew Arthur in “Vixter” was the clear winner with just 6 points which also gave him the overall win and the X-Yachts Solent Cup. Richer Cross in “Xnara” was second with 10 points, whilst David Carratt in “Blue Vortex” was third with 16 points. In Open Sport B Class, Peter Hodgkinson in “Xcitable” was the winner with 7 points. In second place was the Works Xp-33 “Bon Exmaple” with 14 points and equal on 20 points Peter Jones in “In X Celsis” gained third place over John Noë in “La Nef IV” by virtue of his 2 x second places over 2 x third place for “La Nef IV”.
Overall, the general consensus was that the event had been most enjoyable. Even racing unusually in virtual gale force conditions during the first day showed that X-Yacht boats are as much up to the task as light air sailing. Roll on next year!
John Noë – “La Nef IV”