Tuesday, August 30, 2011
David Cooper’s ‘Redwing’ won the recent West Highland Week… we asked him to tell his tale of the event.
Day 1: Craobh to Oban. Cold, wet and blustery, winds gusting well over 20 knots. We had a good start tacked back and forth down to a race mark south of Ardliung Buoy, with ‘Marisca’ slightly ahead of us. Turned north at Ardluing, hoisted the spinnaker and started the long run back to Oban. On the edge of what we could cope with at times, struggling to prevent the boat broaching in the stronger gusts. Eventually decided to drop the spinnaker. Sailed through the worsening conditions for half an hour before re-hoisting spinnaker as the wind decreased. All this time we were the just behind ‘Marisca’ but easily the leading boat in our class on corrected time. Coming into more sheltered waters the wind veered and we swapped the spinnaker for the cruising chute which we held till we crossed the line in the sound of Kerrera.
Day 2: Round the cans in the Sound of Lismore. We had a mediocre start in the first race as the wind both dropped and veered on the line. Made up ground on the first leg under main and furling genoa, raised the spinnaker at the windward mark and made up more ground. Finished third over the line, first on corrected. In the afternoon’s race, we tacked after crossing the line to look for clean air, but other boats in our class got away from us and we finished fourth.
Day 3: Due to adverse tidal conditions, the round Lismore race was been replaced by a course south of Kerrera but the light winds delayed the start. Eventually a short course was set in almost non-existent winds. We drifted for what seemed like an eternity watching with despair as other boats in our class seemed to find zephyrs of wind which we could not. Eventually we worked our way round the small island at the south end of Kerrera which we had to leave to starboard, and there we found that all the boats which were ahead of us had been caught and swept back through he gap by the tide. We crept up the side, got through, wind picked up and we had a lovely beat to the windward mark and run back to the finish line, coming third. Used all sails at different stages of the race, including the cruising chute.
Day 4: The race to Tobermory was cancelled due to lack of wind.
Day 5: We raced for three hours again in light conditions. Round the cans racing in the sound of Mull. The race was abandoned (timed out) when we were about 200 yards short of the finishing line and a country mile ahead of all other boats in our class. Despite not finishing, we were so far ahead of our competitors it demonstrated the effectiveness of the sails in light conditions. We even were overtaking boats twice our size at one stage.
Day 6: The passage race to Oban. Plenty of wind at last, leading the points series at this stage with only one boat (‘Marisca’) which realistically could still beat us overall. Spinnaker up at the top of Calve Island and onto the stern of ‘Marisca’, a much faster boat than ‘Redwing’. However she could not shake us off, and apart from a brief period when we overtook her, we stuck to her like a shadow all the way down past Lismore Light to the finish about a mile out of Oban. Another first, which clinched the series. We found out later we had the fastest corrected time out of the whole 100-boat fleet, and the fastest accumulated time for the week’s passage races.
The passage races, from Craobh to Oban and Oban to Tobermory were our best races, partly because the wind was strongest on these days and Redwing moves best in windy conditions, especially downwind with the beautifully shaped new Hyde spinnaker. With only three on board (Christine Macfarlane-Slack , Twig Olsen, and myself) we were at our limits at times especially on the first race to Oban from Craobh, but going through the tidal gate at Fladda touching 12 knots on a 28ft boat was very exhilarating if not a little scary!
Although the Spinnaker is new, the main and genoa are older (at least three or four seasons of very hard use), but despite their age they have held their shape well and done us proud. We have discussed renewing one or both of these sails for next season, and given the success we have had with Hyde sails and ‘Redwing’ we certainly would not look to anyone else other than Hyde to supply us.