Sunbeams enjoy boisterous conditions in Hayling Bay

Your on-the-water-reporter was on hand on Saturday the 1st of June for the Sunbeam double header of two back-to-back races for the Leith trophy, also incorporating two races towards the Fleury Jug series. On Wednesday, the class captain had promoted the Out of Harbour race as having a 1030 start and a 15 knot forecast with the tide helping take the fleet in each direction, before and after the racing. As it turned out, the forecast had an error of ‘one’ in it, but this unfortunately related to the tens units and a prolonged gust of 25 knots hit the fleet as they gathered for the first start. Two boats decided to return home rather than risk damage to crew or equipment.

The PRO and team, having rushed down the harbour in Betivuka to just west and south of West Pole beacon, managed to set a windward leeward course for the Sunbeams whilst at the same time finishing the Swallows who had started in the Chichester reach, on the starboard side of BV.

The Sunbeams’ first start was recalled after the PRO realised that the course description was ambiguous. The second start was successful with a fairly short beat to a windward inflatable. First around was V12 Argosy followed by V72 Serendipity, V68 Sky and V26 Danny. The fleet ran the gauntlet of the Swallow fleet coming upwind as the Sunbeams ran down to the leeward mark. On this leg, the first four boats changed positions as the V68 and V26 took a more direct line. The wind was gusty and swinging about 20 degrees either side of North North East and the slight West going tide of around half a knot meant the boats were sailing by the lee for some of the leg.

The second and slightly longer beat saw a slight reduction in the wind and little change in places with V68 Sky holding on to their lead despite the best attempts of V26 Danny to overhaul them. V36 Melody suffered spinnaker issues and headed for the Isle of Wight for some time to sort things out before deciding to retire from the race.

The PRO managed a very quick turn round and started the Sunbeam fleet in a gap in the Swallows’ procession round the same course. This time V66, who had sat out the first race due to (now fixed) gear failure managed to squeeze round the windward mark first with V72 and V68 overlapped outside them. These positions were held down to the leeward mark with most boats deciding to gybe as the wind and tide conspired to make the leg just a shade too much by the lee in the choppy waters. Back up to the windward mark via the start line and V26 Danny decided to go further west and picked up a good lift on the way into the windward mark to go round just ahead of V66 Molly. V36 having started the second race, lost the attachment at the top of the jib which as a result dropped down its wire luff and they sensibly retired to make their way home.

The second downwind leg saw a number of spinnaker problems as the wind decided to move to the West causing those who had set off or gybed onto port a few nervous moments. This time it was the turn of V12 Argosy to take a long look at the attractions of the Isle of Wight and a possible visit to Bembridge as they sorted out their spinnaker at the leeward mark. At the finish, V26 Danny crossed comfortably ahead of V66 Molly with V72 Serendipity pipping V68 Sky for third place. The fleet then faced the long beat home in over 20 knots of wind with the remains of the ebb tide taking some of the sting out of the worst of the gusts. Interestingly, it was on the return journey when one of the fleet, having had to make a very quick tack to avoid another boat, was taken aback by its cleated jib (despite best efforts), causing the boat to heel sharply and take in enough water to cover the seats. Bucket and bilge pump saved the day for the slightly shaken crew. Overall, the fleet did very well in conditions that never quite fell to 15 knots and which hovered around the 20 knots and above for a lot of the time. The general view ashore was that it had been a good if hard day’s sailing and that the crews would sleep soundly that night

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