“Just getting to the race course deserved points!”
For those that haven’t been Porthpean SC is nestled on its own secluded beach just outside St Austell with an enviable raised position offering spectators chance to look out over the impending carnage whilst enjoying the legendary hospitality and pasties...
Saturday dawned with some of the fleet already on site after a day touring the local sights on friday and enjoying a civilised meal in Castletown. The forecast which had put off many of the teams was pretty much spot on with local doom monger Puff Paddy welcoming everyone and already pointing out that rigging boats was probably pointless as the mounting SE Swell was going to make getting off the beach tricky to say the least.
Hidden away in the rigging field on a gorgeous sunny day the fleet ignored him and got about rigging and generally chilling out with a good deal of boat bimbling and pasty eating. As 12 o'clock approached and the impending 2pm start time there wasn’t a lot of action so B14 Helm Kathy Sherratt, crewless for the weekend, decided to take things into her own hands, rigged up her Europe and headed out for a bit of exhibition sailing for those watching from the bar. (We are currently seeing a crew shortage in the B14 fleet. So if you are a keen crew please head to the B14 Sailors Facebook page to learn more and join the fleet!)
With the gauntlet laid down Mark Watts and Chris Bishop (Team Griptec/English Braids) headed down on to the beach spurring the fleet into action… Well at least the donning of wetsuits and the moving of boats down to the beach for a different view and more surf discussion.
With the wind at 20+ knots and building and a growing 2m steep seastate it took a big team to send out the brave race office into the surf.. A few heart stopping moments and they made it out back.
At this point the radio comms were very much that a B14 would never get out through the surf and the racecourse wasn’t a lot better.. Cold due to his poor choice of summer hikers Mark Watts headed to don more layers.. Only to return to the beach to see his boat being rigged.. Crew Chris Bishop had decided enough was enough and volunteered the newly repaired Griptec/English Braids to head out to see how bad it really was.
It was a nervous launch as a big set came through but eventually they made it out safely. A brief jaunt upwind and then the realisation that it was impossible to find the committee boat and rescue rib in the mounting seaway. With the fleet still on the beach Griptec/Englisn braids turned for home, popped the kite and headed for the beach to try and survive the return trip through the surf and call it a day.. But the fleet had other ideas suddenly heading out to meet them. Perhaps in hindsight popping the kite didn’t exactly send the right message to the fleet! Time for a race then!
5 teams made it out. We should have awarded points just for this. Tony Blackmore and Naomi Pound decided it was foolish and returned to the beach only to plant it in the surf and have the fleet watching nervously as they recovered without damage. Saved no doubt by Tony’s rather tall stature!
The race team managed to get a course down (Kudos!!) and the race got underway. Griptec/English Braids led off the line and made the first cross to lead the fleet chased by Gul/Seavolution (Mark Barnes/Charlotte Jones) and Demelza (Peter Knight/Jane Reeves). Chuck Norris (Patrick Seyler /Steve Coello) admirably brought up the rear.
The first run and Griptec/English Braids popped the kite for an insane first downhill into some serious waves. Looking back to see the rest of the fleet without kite they took the prudent move to calm down a bit.. Put the kite away and avoid the inevitable pitch pole that was lurking behind one of the next waves!
The race then became something of a high heart rate, tight stomach, nervous 4 lapper with the beats being furious as the boats launched off waves and the runs being a case of picking your wave to surf and avoiding the ones that clearly had a fast track to the davy jones Locker.
Griptec/English Braids slowly pulled away from Gul/Seavolution with Demelza a solid 3rd from a heroic performance by Chuck Norris. The fleet finished in that order and with the wind now 25+ knots and the seastate continuing to build it was time to find the beach.
Griptec/English Braids headed in under full sail even throwing the kite up for one last charge at the waves, brown wetsuits and very clear naughty words from the crew when the gybe was called summed up condition, Bish is usually pretty compliant as a crew but clearly the insanity of the helm got a bit much for him on this occasion!
Now normally the report would end here but the return to the beach was as much an event in itself..
Timing the turn back upwind in the surf and picking your wave was key so it was nervous blast towards the beach, pick your wave and bail into the waiting arms of the rest of the fleet, many who had got changed purely to launch and recover the boats. 1 boat in safe..
Next waiting patiently were Gul/Seabolution. Again a nicely executed blast towards the beach, spin and dismount.. Char looked sick as dog… Seasick in a B14 sums up the seastate! 2 boats safe.
Next was Demelza. Adopting the alternative mainsail down approach they showed their local relationship with the sea by picking a beautiful clean wave to surf at bonkers speed in a calm and serene manner. Many of the helpers in the water had moments of panic if they would be able to stop them but great team effort and boat 3 in safe.
Last and the main event were locals Chuck Norris. These guys do this all the time we muttered. Full sail heading at the beach.. A bit wobbly but in control only they headed for the other side of the beach…. Cue mad running/semi swimming by helpers to try to intercept them. Then as we all anticipated a masterful turn back up to windward Paddy simply stepped out the back and left a bewildered crew sat in the cockpit heading full chat at the beach.. Somehow the boat semi gybed, was caught by the long arms of two helpers and arrived in one piece. 9.8/10 for dismount Paddy, 0/10 for crew safety!
With the racing over for the day the attention turned to the bar and the legendary hospitality and the infamous never ending and probably rotten bottle of Tintagel Sherry!. A huge curry and a lot of beer and friendly banter, a session from DJ Bish and plenty of dancing saw the fleet party into the early hours with tales of sea beasts and near death experience.
Sunday dawned.. Pouring with rain.. Massive swell and 30 knots.. With the poor forecast the sad call was made to abandon racing. In the end a memorable 1 race shoot out.
A few notes of thanks.
The race team at Porthpean are legends. Launching small ribs into that sea, laying a course with a good line and still smiling on return to shore. Heroes!
The hospitality. We turned up with a depleted fleet and we were welcomed openly. The family atmosphere at Porthpean and quality race management is what brings us back year on year. This is how sailing clubs should be. Oh and did i mention the entry fee? ZERO!
Thanks must also go to the fleet for helping launch and recovery and to our TT Series sponsors Gul for the continued support to the fleet.
Onwards to the next TT event at Starcross YC.. Less waves for sure!
Farewell Cornwall.. See you again next year..
1st GBR797 “Team Griptec/English Braids” - Mark Watts & Chris Bishop - Weston SC
2nd GBR 795 “Gul.Seavolution” - Mark Barnes & Charlotte Jones - Whitstable SC
3rd GBR 785 “Demelza” - Peter Knight & Jane Reeves - Restronguet SC
4th GBR 723 “Chuck Norris” - Patrick Seyler & Steve Coello