Monday, 14 May 2012

Monty Zoomer

Are the men of Kent bonkers or what? At the mouth of the River Medway lies the 2nd world war wreck of the Richard Montgomery an American munitions ship. The wreck is so dangerous that the authorities decided the only option was to leave it where it was and keep their fingers crossed. The Isle of Sheppy and Southend have lived on borrowed time ever since!

Mick at the Helm



But the men (and women too) of Kent are made of stern stuff; so Hooness Yacht Club organise an annual yacht race/game of chicken - a race that if you want a chance of winning - means sailing as close to the wreck as possible before scarpering back up the Medway for a well-earned beer at the club to calm those nerves.

Approaching Queenborough Spit


AS joined the fun this year and wonders of wonders was second over the start line at 1000 with 2 hours of the ebb left to run. Once again however Charles in his Nic 32 'Aurai' stole a march and within a few minutes was leading the fleet down the river towards the USS Richard Montgomery.

The breeze freshens...


It was a gorgeous day - the first summer day of the year (not counting the March heat wave) and layers of oilskins and winter clothes were gradually shed as things warmed up. Mick, who joined me as crew, navigator and race tactician, was soon regretting donning his thermals. The wind was NW varying force 2-4.

Aurai stayed ahead (possibly behind ANO Hooness boat) and extended her lead over the rest of the fleet. However, she got caught out by a wind shift rounding South Kent and had to put in an extra tack and so we gained on her for a while. She stayed in front though and then extended her lead (swapping places with the other boat that was possibly in our fleet), she passed Garrison Point and headed for the wreck.

As AS got to the first wreck mark the wind died to almost nothing for a while - thankfully the last remnants of the ebb took us safely past and in so doing saved the Isle of Sheppy from what could have been a very big bang indeed.

Once past the wreck the wind picked up and we sailed back up the river on a slightly freer tack than the one we had come down on. We started gaining on Aurai again at this point and for 10 minutes or so thought we might catch her. It was not to be however - the combination of wind shifts and the bends of the river brought a return to more close hauled work and Aurai once again lifted up her skirts and was off.

...and Chica closes for the kill


Worse was to come. We had left Will Pretty (who managed to combine racing with Race Officer) in the Trimaran CHICA, trailing in our wake on the way down the river, but inexplicably Chica started to overhaul us on the way back. From Darnet Ness onwards, Arctic Smoke and Chica were engaged in a close quarters duel through the moorings. The occasional wind shift required us both to harden up for brief periods and during these, Chica's relentless progress was briefly halted. Soon however, we were prow to prow. In a last desperate bid to hold her off, we dodged through the moorings into the channel in an attempt to get more tide under the boat. Then we aimed directly for Buoy 30 and the finish line, hoping to force Chica to round our stern. No doubt a veteran of numerous such duels, Will held his nerve and smiling pleasantly also held his course directly for the buoy! With yards to go there was no longer any doubt that Chica had her nose in front, so - not wishing to sink our race officer - we gave way, and Chica got the nod in 4:20:54 against AS's 4:21:00.

Must be one of the closest finishes on the Medway!