Two costly mistakes in Shivering Sands Race


There was another race on Saturday. This one was the RTSSR: Round the Shivering Sands Race. The Shivering Sands, a constantly shifting shoal in the Thames, off the north Kent coast, have War of the World-style fortifications on their back. They are Maunsell Forts, now abandoned, but which once were manned by anti-arcraft gunners who shot down Luftwaffe bombers and Doodle-bug flying bombs, in the 1939-45 war.
Joining me aboard Minstrel Boy, my Contessa 32, were Mick Wood and Dave McLean, both, like me, Thurrock Yacht Club members. Mick’s boat is a Carter Dingbat, racing machine, Sexy Beast, which he was leaving on the mooring because the forecast was for strong winds. Dave’s boat is a Colvic bilge keeler, Southern Knight, which he was leaving on the mooring because, prior to the forecast winds, the westerly air was just 10 knots!
The 56 mile race is organised by Gravesend Yacht Club, and for the first time in many years they had opened it to all clubs. We set the spinnaker at the start, but the wind headed us and so we dropped it and switched instead to the genoa – boomed out. Mistake number one as the lead boats , flying kites, put two miles between us and them.
‘Never mind,’ I said,’ once we are round the towers, we’ll be on the wind and then this boat comes into her own.’ Which was true: we made up on them, but when the wind backed to the south-west and increased to 25 knots we rolled up a bit of genoa – mistake number two – instead of changing to the Yankee-cut number two. We also lost four battens out of the main as we reefed. So it goes.