There's probably one thing worse than not winning a race - and that's not finishing because you've broken your boat!
I'm afraid with our rig finally looking like this half way over Sandown Bay, that's what happened Saturday to us.......
We had a good start in 15/20 knots of fresh breeze at 09:20. On the line at the gun, clear air, allowing us to sail our preferred course beating down a lumpy Solent. Well up with the 109 pack going through the gap rounding the Needles, and once we launched the Code 0, away we went.
Of maybe 400 boats on our horizon we were one of perhaps ten who were carrying any form of kite in the building 20/25 knot WSW wind. Most were reaching under white sails.
Very shy, steep seas with wind 90/110 degrees on the boat, and tide pushing on our nose, it all suited our flat heavyweight 70 sq M Code 0 perfectly. It allowed us to really move out with lots of yahoos and great surfing. 15.8 knots top speed recorded, but rarely below 10.
If you watch this video you'll see at 5 minutes in, a J109 with a A4 red kite passing this First 40. We were further offshore but level with this 109 and going very slightly slower, but no by much. The video gives you a good impression of conditions. I believe the 109 was Diamond Jem.
Youtube from the winning First 40
(BTW. If you watch the video to 14:58 you can just see a white kite / black main boat on the horizon right on their bow once they passed St Catherines. Think that was us - as no one else had one up!)
Anyway - back to the race along the bottom. Surfing off rolling waves towards St Catherine's we slid past lots of craft, many who had started ahead of us from Cowes, and lots bigger too. Lots of bow wave spray as we bashed through the overfalls off St Catherines, close call situations with several bigger boats who were not happy to let us pass, and dropped the Code 0 once into clear air and slightly flatter water.
Gybes into the shore on white sails, and overtook 2nd place 109 Jazzy Something and then J109 frontrunner Diamond Jem, who had dropped her red kite and was equally under white sails.
For a few minutes we were sailing same course on different gybes with headsails held out wing on wing nodding hellos across a few metres of water, but with gusts coming through more from the west, we smiled over to the other helm and crew, popped the small new bullet proof kite, and away we whooshed once more.
It felt really good (at the time). Fantastic ride.
Passed loads more boats doing just solid solid solid 12 knots over smooth water and we felt chilled leaving the other 109's for dead.
And then the rig fell down.
It was a gust, certainly a strong one, that caused us to loose control and broach. The boat rounded up savagely, the kite filled when we were laid over with another big gust, and bang, off snapped the top third of our mast. Weird really, as the boat then came upright and we found ourselves still sliding downwind at 7 knots with kite and headsail acting as drogues by dragging in the water alongside, and debris on deck all around.
The crew reacted swiftly.
We couldn't run the kite (or any sail for that matter) as the halyards bent out around the torn mast stump and snagged - and there was no way we could get anyone up there to cut them away - but one way or another, It all got tidied away so we could fire up the engine.
Had issued a pan pan so eventually had the lifeboat alongside but they couldn't do much for us. We eventually cut down a lot of the main (sob sob) and turned at Benbridge Ledge going ok under engine. But when we got to Horse Sands Fort it was clear we couldn't go to windward with a portion of main still up, so we continued over the Solent with the wind of our beam, and into a nicely sheltered Gosport Marina.
There we got a berth, found a tall wall we could improvise and reach to cut the halyards, electrical cables, and more of the main, and then drop the broken mast section down to the deck and properly stabilise the remaining stump of mast section.
With boat secured, it was taxis home.
Boats now in the Hamble whilst quotes are being collected. Negotiations with surveyors and insure company underway.....
So what a shame. Went into the event hoping to get first 109, and came home with nothing.