Myth of Malham Race Report

The second ROC race of the year was the Myth of Malham, traditionally the toughest race of the season bar the Fastnet, and one that is beginning to assume a mythical reputation amongst PYC racers due to the amount of times some people (this year’s skipper included) who have failed to complete previous editions!  The crew taking on the challenge this year comprised Chris Maughan, Tony Riley, Brad Eaton, Jon Lees, Warren Ackerley and Caroline Bolam.

The race is from Cowes and around Eddystone Lighthouse with the course mirroring the first 130 miles of the Rolex Fastnet Race, as far as the famous lighthouse, 13 miles southwest of Plymouth, and then back to the Solent.  The usual south westerly prevailing wind invariably means a tough beat down, but with an easier passage back.  This year our unusual weather resulted in the following pre-race prediction from RORC.

“Looking at the forecast it should be a fast, broad reach out of the Solent and down to the Eddystone Lighthouse, with up to 20 knots from the north east, the faster boats should be hitting high speeds. High pressure is forecast for the second day of the race, which should provide light winds and a tactical conundrum for the fleet, which will have to decide whether to play the tidal gates or sail offshore in search of better breeze.”

And so it proved to be!  After an on-schedule 0730 departure from Haslar and bacon sandwiches en-route we arrived just in time for an 0930 race check in before wandering off to size up the weather, tide and the opposition.  It was a 1040 start for IRC 0, 1 and 2 (which included RelaX) and we made a safe, but cautious start from the middle of the line and towards the back of the pack.  The asymmetric was immediately launched and we set off on the promised broad reach through the Western Solent, down the Needles Channel before a slight right turn just before the fairway buoy.

We were generally  maintaining our position in the fleet but beginning to suffer in comparison to those other boats who were now able to fly their symmetric spinakers (RelaX is not yet rigged to fly hers).  We were trying to reach past Portland on the one tide, but recognising that we would just fail began to hang further offshore.  By 1400 we were beyond Anvil Point, but with the wind speed increasing and changing in direction it was time to drop the asymmetric and revert to a conventional fore sail.  Unfortunately we only had the Heavy Weather Jib, the much larger genoa having been torn during an earlier cruise.  Despite this we continued to make good progress and as the afternoon moved into the evening and then the early hours the wind dropped considerably and became fluky in direction.  We struggled across Lyme Bay, encountered fog in the early hours, but by 0830 Sunday we were around Eddystone and on the homeward leg.

We now had to fight an adverse tide which coupled with the light wind meant we struggled to get past Start Point.  Once clear we headed offshore to try and catch some stronger wind, continuing until we were forced to tack by the Casquets exclusion zone.  Sunday was generally spent maintaining slow progress in the right direction, but the wind continued to be fluky in speed and direction (SE4 to NE1).  Through the early hours of Monday morning we were tacking through the patchy fog towards Christchurch Bay and by 0830 were 5 NM from the finish at North Head (RORC shortened the course to account for the light winds) with a finish predicted at somewhere between 0930-1030.  At this point the sea turned glassy smooth and the wind disappeared.

The skipper then messed up in forgetting the metal pronged thing in the bow locker (where it belongs during racing).  A prompt drop when the wind died would have maintained our position in Christchurch Bay, but, as it transpired would ultimately have had no impact on the outcome.  We drifted on the tide but were determined to hang on for a finish.  Concious that the boat was booked out immediately on our return I called the next skipper to discuss our predicament, what we wanted to do and to warn him that we might be a few hours late getting back to Haslar.

There then followed a few racing firsts as we ‘hung around’ waiting for any breeze:

*         A full lunchtime spread laid out on the cockpit table (basically eating any food that was left!)

*         Sunbathing

*         An afternoon snooze by (most of) the crew

By 1615, with still no sign of any sea breeze, supported by a raft of downloaded weather forecasts, and very conscious of the promise made to the next skipper to be in Haslar no later than 2000, we took the reluctant decision to retire, put the sails away and motored home.  We duly secured alongside at 2000.

So there we were, be-calmed 5 miles from the line and yet again the skipper failed to finish the mythical Myth (the score now at 0-3) although this is the closest yet!

Chris Maughan, Racing Officer

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