Sonata Race Report – Sat 22nd July

Yet another race which was dominated by global weather patterns. The jet stream; the fast moving band of air circling the world in northern latitudes, has been locked for several weeks in a pattern consisting of five large U-bend shapes, which has been dubbed “wavenumber 5”. South of the U-bends, hot air is trapped in heat domes. As time goes on these heat domes become self reinforcing, leading to higher and higher temperatures within the dome, as has been seen in southern europe, central western USA and China. During summer time, it is very difficult for the jet stream pattern to move, resulting in long periods of consistent weather. Undoubtedly 2023’s hot weather has been influenced by this year’s “el nino” effect but the impact of longer term global warming on “wavenumber 5” is not clear.

More observent sailors will have noticed that the UK and the Medway area in particular are not currently subject to a heat dome. North of the jet stream waves, low pressure areas tend to pile up leading to changeable, breezy conditions and the lower than average temperatures seen recently. In extreme circumstances, sudden rainfall and flash flooding may occur as seen in some parts of the USA and South Korea. Fortunately the UK usually sees relatively benign weather and the relatively “bad weather” on Saturday saw a SW/SSW wind F 4-5 with various amounts of rain throughout the afternoon and temperatures in the mid teens. The tide was flooding for the whole of the race, so although wind over tide resulted in choppy conditions, coming home, upwind, was not as hard as it might have been. Given the forecast of deteriorating conditions, with more rain and wind gusting over 30mph forecast for later, the early start and straightforward course, made the best of the day.

Either because of the start of summer holidays, school vacation or simply self preservation, relatively few boats of any class were out. From the Sonatas: Watersong, Screwloose, Skipper and Red Dwarf launched but possibly because they were only three up, Red Dwarf dropped out, leaving only three boats to compete, not surprisingly all with no 2s set and tentative use of spinnakers. All three boats had a good start and a close race down to 25. Second and third boats closely watching the lead boat, Watersong as the spinnakers were difficult to handle. Skipper closed up to round 25 in the lead but dropped back on the return to 28 allowing Watersong to take the lead followed by Screwloose. Back between the Forts, conditions were difficult for spinnakers and all of the boats ended up taking them down before 23. Just off 25 a harbour seal surfaced (possibly the same one seen earlier in the season) quickly realising that it was more pleasant under water, he swiftly dived. Several foredeck sailors nearly followed him on the way down to 23. On the way down to MYC4 and past the old powerstation jetty all the boats got their spinnakers back up and there followed some really exciting sailing down Long Reach. At one point Skipper registered 7.6 kts on the log.

After rounding MYC4, Watersong started to pull further away while Skipper managed to pull some ground back on Screwloose. Rounding 28 on the way home Skipper just pulled ahead of Screwloose. By that time the flood tide was starting to ease and combined with an unforecast drop in the wind allowed Watersong to romp home first easily. Meanwhile Skipper led Screwloose up to the home straight where as usual inconsistent winds off the south shore, lighter than we had seen all afternoon made the close of the race difficult. Screwloose found a way round Skipper and kept their wind while Skipper found a hole in the wind and as a result fell back 100 metres in the final minutes to finish third and write this report yet again.