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Solent Forts Race 2016

by Richard Golden 19 Jun 2016 06:19 PDT 12 June 2016

Now in its fifth year, the Solent Forts Race is a long-distance multihull event set in the Eastern Solent, run by Hayling Ferry Sailing Club. This year's event was sponsored by Harken and Wildwind.

The race format comprises a number of legs radiating out from a gate (like a star), allowing the course configuration and length to be adjusted according to the conditions prevailing on the day, and for this year's event 5 marks were used resulting in a straight-line course length of more than 40 nautical miles. The race gets its name from the Napoleonic Channel Forts that comprise two of the marks of the course.

Crews recovering from the party on Saturday night were met with heavy rain on Sunday morning which threatened to delay the start of the race due to poor visibility, but the front soon passed through leaving a steady force 4-5 providing ideal cat sailing conditions. The fleet of 12 boats started just before 11:00 from the start/finish line at Langstone Harbour entrance, on the first leg upwind to No Man's Land Fort.

First boat back was Grant Piggot and Sam Barker on the Nacra Carbon 20 FCS closely followed by William Sunnocks and Mark Self on the M20 Vampire 'White Bear', both an amazing sight up on their foils with Spinnakers flying on the approach to the turning mark at Lanstone Harbour entrance. Simon Northrop and Fraz Farren on Nacra Infusion GBR1581 arrived shortly after, and were to stay at the front of the chasing pack for the rest of the event.

White Bear took advantage of the event's unique 'Time Out' option to stop for a few minutes to replace a rope before starting leg 2; however it was not their day and White Bear retired soon afterwards with a torn mainsail.

The second leg out to Bembridge Ledge (just off the eastern corner of the Isle of Wight) saw two more retirements before the fleet headed back upwind to Spit Sand Fort, off Portsmouth Harbour entrance.

By the end of leg 3 Grant and Sam on the foiling Nacra Carbon 20 had a lead of more than 17 minutes over the nearest F18, but the eight boats in the chasing pack (F18s and Inter 20s) were separated by less than 11 minutes lead-to-last boat after more than 3 hours of racing.

Leg 4 (West Winner Cardinal) was the shortest leg of the race at a mere 5 nautical miles round-trip. By this time the tide had risen sufficiently to give the boats enough water over the sandbar to avoid damage to foils.

The final leg out to West Pole off Chichester Harbour entrance was downwind with an upwind return to the finish line. The Race Officer's threat to add the Nab Tower into the course at the end of the race did not materialise.

Overall Results: (top three)

1st Simon Northrop & Fraz Farren, Nacra Infusion F18 GBR1581
2nd Tim Neal & Bob Fry, Nacra Infusion F18 GBR1577
3rd Simon Flack & Neil Green, Nacra Infusion F18 GBR1825

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