Race report from light air solo event

World and Olympic sailing champion Peter Newlands took both Class 1 and overall prizes in the second edition of this annual Petit Bateau solo event, held last Saturday 28 April. Newlands sailed aboard Beneteau 40.7 Anticipation, working steadily through the fleet in the light airs race.  Class 2 (35 feet) was won by Simon Curwen in Voador, J105. Peter Olden’s J92 Solan Goose took first in class 3 ( 30 feet)  Simon Forbes Scooby III , Dragonfly 800, was the sole finisher in the Multihull class, as was Fabian Baetz, Pogo 2, Blue Gin  in Classe Mini.

The forecast for this years race was promising with a suggestion of afternoon sea breezes but the day produced light conditions with some frustrating periods on the south of the Island as the sea breeze failed to materialise and served only to stifle the gradient wind.

Things started well at 0900hrs off Egypt Point on the JOG line with all groups clearing the line in a 10 knot north easterly breeze .  With spinnakers set and a medium ebb tide progress to the Needles was rapid. Peter Olden’s J92-S Solan Goose extended a superb start and by the time the fleet reached Yarmouth had a lead on the mini Blue Gin with Fluffy and the second J92-S Dragonfly following closely. A brief hole in the wind caught Rob Craigie’s new J122 Jbellino and the Corby 25 Drakes Drum unawares,  Ostar winner Mary Falk following in QII managed to sail around the hole to close with the two faster yachts and shortly after called starboard on Terry Rowe in  “Drakes” who made a significant ducking manoeuvre only possible under spinnaker due to the light wind.  Overall winner Anticipation lay ninth on the water past Yarmouth already moving well in 9-15Kts of breeze.

Solan Goose passed the Needles at 10:40 having extended an already impressive lead to a full five minutes over Blue Gin with Jerry Freeman’s figaro one Fluffy a further 90 seconds adrift.  Simon Curwen in the J105 Voador took his customary bold course between the wreck of the Varvassi and the Needles lighthouse and despite loosing wind in the lee of the  Shakespeare Cliffs made a significant time saving . Next round on the more conservative line was Jbellino but later boats, perhaps seeing Voador’s gain fell to temptation.  Diablo -J, Festina Lente, Audacious and Catriona  all took the inside route neck and neck.  Nick Martin’s Diablo-J was  forced to the outside line passing  perilously close to the boilers.  Within two hundred metres Catriona lost her wind and was passed on the inside by Audacious and Festina Lente.

The fleet enjoyed a fast fetch across Freshwater bay cheating the tide and some variable patches  for those closest in shore but one mile past St Catherine’s Point the front of the fleet had compressed  with Solan Goose, Anticipation, Voador and Jbellino separated by no more that 200 Metres.  After a short gap a further compressions saw seventeen boats in the lead group.  The wind was still fading fast and the race at this stage was open to any challenger.  Less was to come.

 The late afternoon saw a significant reduction in wind strength and following a forecast of only 5Kts for the Chichester area the Race Officer Charles Allen made the only sensible decision and shortened course to Bembridge Ledge buoy.  Anticipation was first mono home, crossing the line at 17.32.53 ahead of Catriona (1 minute 21secs) and then Voador only 31seconds later. The prize presentation and the race supper took place at the very hospitable Island Sailing Club in Cowes, where overall winner Peter Newlands was presented with a magnificent Spinlock Deck vest, a generous award made  by James Hall, Marketing Director of Spinlock UK.

 Petit Bateau’s next solo offshore event is the PB 2007 which starts in Mylor( Falmouth ) on July 17th and visits Kinsale, Baltimore, Fastnet and  Dingle before returning to Mylor via the Bishop rock, 5 easy stages and 600 miles.

 The full results can be found at www.petitbateau.org.uk