Cimbri in a Squib

Overfalls behind usWe're closer in than this looks !Relax after Pulpit RockGlorious conditions on the West ... there's Y !Nearly half way Back to the Bill... yes, I know the decks are filthy !Spinnaker along the east side to the finishFinished !Outbound course

I had been wanting to do the Cimbri race in a Squib for ages ! In previous years the sailing conditions and opportunity had never aligned until last weekend. Celia and I had been around the Bill on passage to the West Country and back again on various yachts quite a few times however not on the same day and not on the same boat.

Celia, Adam and I had originally arranged to sail dinghies on Saturday but I checked the forecast and tides and decided it was worth trying to persuade them to have a go… they agreed immediately. Great ! Now to get some extra kit ready; 2 handheld VHFs, a proper anchor with some chain and lots of dyneema line, throw quoit, spare pins and shackles, the usual buoyancy aids and waterproofs plus lunch.

With Aldebaran loaded we left the mooring at 20 minutes before the 1200 start with no wind and started to paddle past the lifeboat. Umm, time for some assistance… saved by Rumrunner who answered our request for a tow to the harbour entrance – thank you !

The breeze at the Nothe start line was around 10kts southerly. With the southerly start mark Q at least 50m east of its proper position plus the first mark T this meant it would be busy at the biased start. With much bigger boats around us I was slightly concerned, however we lined up on starboard with clear air and decent boat speed. Unfortunately the one boat ahead of us with 10 seconds to go squeezed us onto the start mark… oh well, better one turn than two ! Our penalty turn quickly taken we proceeded to reach to the first mark.

The beat to the Bill was one sided on starboard with the tide taking us south. The sea state grew as we passed Ope Cove with the occasional wave sloshing along the deck into the boat… umm, there was quite a way to go. Never mind, press on and if it all becomes too much we can always turn round and retreat to safety.

The favourable tide was very noticeable in a slow Squib, propelling us at speed to nasty looking overfalls towards the Bill. Fortunately on port tack with the good breeze we were able to lollop over the confused waves with relative ease and without taking on any greenies. As the sea smoothed out we found ourselves near the obelisk and freeing off heading past Pulpit Rock. With “Portland Bill in a Squib” ticked the kite was launched and thoughts turned to mark Y and getting back in the other direction.

The West side was glorious with a reaching spinnaker, smooth sea, warm breeze and a brief visit from a dolphin ... it's time for lunch! At mark Y we dropped the kite and rounded it a mere 2 hours after starting.

Heading back we fetched towards Blacknor Fort to take advantage of the back eddy shown in the tide book. We certainly didn’t notice any sign of one – all the fishing pots we looked at had north going tide. Oh well, let’s hope inshore tide was less than further off. We had to put a couple of small hitches in towards Wallsend and the Coastguard cliffs to get round Pulpit Rock again which we could have avoided by not freeing off so much earlier… grrr!

Back on the East side of Portland the south-going tide meant we went close to the shore. With spinnaker up it was a superb dead-run all the way to Chequered Fort with only a couple of gybes to keep in the shallower water. Layers peeled and more lunch ! I guessed that the wind wouldn’t die too much in Balaclava Bay and the gamble paid off !

Passing Portland eastern entrance the wind went forward for a tight reach to the line off the harbour entrance where we finished after less than 4 and a half hours - much faster than I could have dreamt !

Many thanks to the other competitors for their support before the start and for unwittingly providing Celia, Adam and I reassurance that if it all went pear-shaped we could call for help.

What a fantastic sail !

153 Aldebaran – Celia, Adam and Iain

Submitted on 25th August 2021