Trip on Shropshire Lady II starting 2014-06-27 in BSAJuly14

Helford – L’Aber Wrac’h Race – report by skipper Alan Howells

We entered the race taking advantage of the fact that the entry fee was either £40 or 40 Euros – Jeff had plenty of Euros. Our start time was 14.15. They use a French rating book to calculate start times and the Bavaria 350 was listed in that book so there was no scope for negotiation. It did not seem to be too bad. The earliest starter was 10:45 in a 26’ yacht which he was sailing single handed.

We crossed the lineMap a few seconds after our start time with the wind in the river mainly Westerly and very gusty – the gusts generally accompanied by very heavy rain. The actual wind outside was more like SW – WSW F5-6 so we were close reaching which we continued to do all of the way across. In the squalls, which continued well into the night, the wind increased to F6-7 and it was necessary to round up a bit and to pretty much completely depower the main. This curiously did not result in loss of speed and never lasted for very long so there was no point in reefing. Note that this applies to racing – and we would certainly have shortened sail if cruising.

Compared to previous years we appeared to be doing very well as we were not being overhauled by the later faster yachts as is usually the case and we were catching up two in front. The best weather forecast that we were able to obtain was SW 3-4 occ 5 veering in the early hours to Westerly and decreasing slightly. It was blowing considerably harder than the forecast and we appeared on target for our fastest crossing.

The wind held until about three hours out when it decreased eventually to almost nothing and backed slightly. Our position at that time meant that we experienced the full Eastgoing tide but as we closed the coast the corresponding Westgoing tide, which we were relying on to bring us back to the finish, would not run as long. If we had not made it back to the finish by the time the tide turned again it would probably have been all over, but the wind freshened a little and the lift from the tide increased its strength just sufficient for us to make the finish at 11:41 as the inshore eddy was starting to form. The finish appeared to be very exiting racing in another yacht to a near photo finish but on checking it was not in the race but just having fun.

We were in fact the last to finishMap at 13th but there were 23 entrants with the majority of the others retiring – most if not all beaten by the tide when the wind died. The winner was the 26’ single hander who made the finish still with some wind at 04:52. Apparently he became so tired that he began to hallucinate on the way across! As an interesting aside, the owner of the winning yacht is apparently known for sailing on a shoestring and comparisons were made with another yacht which had spent £60,000 on its rig alone over the last year only to succeed in improving its position by one place from last year. The dramatic effect of the dying wind is shown by the time of the second placed yacht – almost four hours later at 08:44.

Communications are poor in Helford though some of the locals have access to their own broadband and it became apparent, as in previous years, that some were in possession of far better forecasts than us when they started. I was invited by Carol, who acts as race officer at the finish, to make comments about the race and its organisation as feedback and have suggested that the best up to date forecast be made available in the club house prior to the race to level the playing field.

Helford River  50.0972,-5.1332
l’Aber Wrac’h  48.5977,-4.5641