Given that the remains of Storm Lorenzo were evident both before and after this race, it was always going to be a choice of too much wind or none at all: so the ASTO race committee, mindful of the young sailors in the fleet, let the tide do the work when the Small Ships race started on Saturday 5 October.
Three different classes, allowing big, wooden classics like Maybe – 90 years old this year – and Jolie Brise, to race against smaller, GRP yachts made for three starts at 10 minute intervals but not a lot of actual sailing. And as a fleet of 24, with the exception of Jolie Brise who went more North Solent, they stayed pretty well grouped together.
And despite the glassy waters of the Solent and sails hanging as if to dry, the sailors themselves remained cheerful, Mexican waving and singing for the committee on the RYS platform, for other boats as they drifted past, and even for the Media boat (a 72 foot, 1942 vintage, Motor Gunboat).
And slowly, oh so very slowly, a whisper of a hint of a breeze started to gently fill the wrinkled sails in the fleet. And crews went from idle to active and Skippers and Mates played the age old game of trying to decide what sail combinations would work best.
Still together by the time they got down to NE Ryde Middle boy, the furthest race mark before the fleet headed back to Cowes, even more seamanship was needed to clear the mark without fouling it or any of the other competitors. Good seamanship, but perhaps not appreciated so much by the lone fisherman anchored close to the mark and privy to the close quarter manoeuvring on his patch.
And there was some racing to be had, Jolie Brise quietly overhauled by new entrants the Ballard School from New Milton in their Contessa 33 High Spirit to be first over the line, followed by Greig City Academy (from Tottenham) in Scaramouche. And one by the one the fleet made it back, some looking like they might cross the line stern first and Rona Sailing Project ketches Rona II and Donald Searle doing so within mere seconds of each other.
Overall winner was Jolie Brise who also won class B, with wins for Rona II in class C1 and Bright Star from the Morning Star Trust in class C2. High Spirit won class D; the Richard Langhorn trophy, for the ‘Spirit of the Race’, was won by City of London.
By Max Mudie for ASTO