Medway Sonatas race report Saturday 8/6/24

We were welcomed at the club by grey overcast skies and a moderate NW breeze so, following deliberations over bacon sandwiches and other MYC delicacies, course 49 was chosen.

In due course we had 6 boats milling about near the start line. There had been some minor drama earlier in the starters hut when the electronic start box appeared to be dead, and the cannon was being readied, but with a timely intervention the switch at the wall socket was flicked and the box lit up.

Course 49 took us first to 31 downwind with Robbie helming us on Screwloose in place of Captain Kirk who was on RHIB duty. We took the north shore, while all the others took the south shore seemingly at a rate of knots, initially causing us some nervous discussion. But, all was well as the others crossed the tide and the four lead boats, Screwloose, Watersong, Bluetack and Skipper, rounded 31 almost as one, with Thistle and Cry Havoc not far behind.

At this point we all headed down to 28, or rather, almost all, as we had lost Watersong, never to be seen again by us for the rest of the race. We had the lead at this point from Bluetack and Skipper and held it as the race progressed in various back and forth loops towards 22 and MYA1 until we lost it due to a daring opposite side tack by Bluetack. Captain Robbie and the crew had settled in well, we had good boat speed, but we could hear his teeth grinding now.

Around the forts there was some light entertainment as, once again, Skipper got in amongst the Wayfarers. We could hear banging and shouting from 20 boatlengths away, but we were assured later in the bar that there had been no contact.

Heading back upriver, Bluetack maintained her lead over Screwloose and Skipper, each about 10 boatlengths apart. The gaps ebbed and flowed, giving Screwloose and Skipper a sniff of the boat ahead every now and then.

Earlier on, Captain Robbie had given us all a pep talk about the merits of good crew communication and so on. Not sure why he thought we needed this, but it seemed to work initially with crisp commands, lighning responses, crisp tacks/pop spinny launches etc. Later in the race we all seemed to revert to a more familiar osmotic vanacular with no loss of performance, happily.

As the race progressed, reaching just past Gillingham marina Skipper headed out into mid river into the adverse tide, got better wind and outflanked Screwloose who was trying to stay in the shallows on the southern shore. Skipper then headed back down ahead of us and south of the Trotts into heartbreak reach, following Bluetack.

By this time we were all fuming on Screwloose. It was decided to forego the usual cake ration until later. A quick search of the horizon downriver confirmed that our third place was secure, so we set about doing the opposite to the two lead boats and headed out from the flats into the middle of the tide close hauled with all digits crossed.

Fortune was with us as we were getting the better wind. Skipper stayed in the Trots initially then came out to cover us, then went back in again to follow Bluetack while we held on. As the two lead boats had less and less wind, our wind held on with some nice lifts and we passed Skipper at twice her speed securing second place, finishing about 10 boatlengths behind Bluetack again. Phew!

Cake was in due course enjoyed on the mooring while we waited for the trot boat.

Thistle finished 4th followed by a late finishing Watersong. With increasing tide and by then minimal wind, Cry Havoc had to retire at the entrance to heartbreak reach.

Apologies to Watersong, Cry Havoc and Thistle as we didn’t see a lot of you so couldn’t report in more detail.

In the bar later, we heard from Watersong that they had followed the 2023 course 49 correctly, heading off towards 15 before realising their error, then correcting themselves. Bad luck….it happens to us all (more recently than we would like to admit).

As a bonus, from this race we have good candidates for the following two prestigious year end Sonata Fleet prizes for 2024:

The Wayfarer Trophy
(2023 Holder Screwloose)
(2022 Holder Skipper)

The Trophy for Getting The Course Most Wrong (2023 holder Skipper)

Regards & see you all next week

Steve Ratcliffe,