On Saturday 21st May 2016 the first Gosport Peninsula Charity Pursuit took to the waters of the Solent with the aim of raising lots of money for local charities. Dream or Two Sailing were proud to participate in the first running of the event, organised by the Gosport Marine Scene CIC, on our Class 40 Fortissimo. While a race boat like ours may outwardly seem like an advantage in a race, in reality it meant a large penalty because of the handicap system. The other disadvantage was that we were racing against some serious pro sailors, including Alex Alley in his Class 40 who last year set the world record for sailing from Lands End to John O’Groats. The field consisted of 20 yachts of all shapes and sizes and a handicapping system was in place to make it a fair race. The first boats crossing the starting line at 10am with the others staggering their start times up till 11am when the Class 40’s could begin.
As the start gun sounded Neil Chapman of Boatshed.com, the official Sponsor said “it’s fantastic to see so many smiling faces on the water as the yachts crossed the start line. A wonderful event to raise thousands for local charities and get Gosport out on the water together.”
One of our aims for taking part in the event was to provide greater access to sailing to those who might otherwise not get the chance to. We were therefore thrilled to have a really diverse crew onboard including two youngsters who had never sailed before. Our other crew members included a novice sailor, two Clipper Round the World sailors and one who has sailed many times with our partners at Nomad Sailing. This was the first time that the majority of them had been on Fortissimo before so they had the challenges of learning a new boat, crewing with each other for the first time and then being in the thick of a pursuit. All of our crew had very kindly donated to the Rona Sailing Project, our chosen charity, to be part of the day with Dream or Two donating the time of our skipper and first mate and of course the services of Fortissimo.
After some introductions and a safety brief for the crew we cast off from our berth in Royal Clarence Marina around 10am. Owing to the experience levels of the crew we decided to ensure we remained within the crew’s capabilities and therefore sailed under our staysail and reef 2 on the main. After sailing out of Portsmouth Harbour we headed to the start line off Gilkicker Point and as we reached the line right on our start time. We were then immediately in race mode crossing the start line marked by the Little Brig Trust’s TS Bob Allen. We were then heading South East out of the Solent towards the Nab Tower, chasing Alex Alley and the rest of the field. Our course took us upwind past No-Mans Fort and Bembridge on the Isle of Wight. All the crew took a role in the pursuit, taking time to helm and trim the sails. Upwind we were able to maintain around 8.5 knots and Fortissimo naturally provides a safe and stable platform for this.
Our pursuit was definitely a team effort and everyone in the crew quickly found their role even though this was their first time sailing together. Upon reaching the Nab Tower we’d already made some significant gains on the rest of the fleet and were now in sight of some other boats. After tacking round the tower we set a Spinnaker and the crew enjoyed experiencing what the boat can really do. Downwind we were able to reach 16 knots and were able to accelerate past around half of the fleet on this leg.
After a quick (and it should be noted, textbook) drop of the Spinnaker as a squall came through as we re-entered the Solent, we rounded our final mark at Browndown conservatively by tacking right round rather than risking a racing gybe in 25 knot gusts. It was then a sprint to the finish line in a good battle with two other boats. There were certainly lot of cheers and smiles from the crew as we crossed the finish line off Gilkicker.
We covered the course in just over 2 hours at a speed averaging around 10 knots, not too shabby! After starting the pursuit in 20th position we were able to move up to 12th by the end. The crew all did a fabulous job, especially given their experience as both sailors and a crew and everyone was thrilled to have finished the pursuit in a very respectable position. More importantly it was all done safely and without any raised voices or other incident.
After returning to port some of our crew joined us for a BBQ, prize-giving and entertainment in the Hornet Sailing Club. Here we were able to chat through how we performed and to meet some of the beneficiaries of the event. Our chosen charity was the Rona Sailing Project who provide life changing sailing experiences, primarily for youth groups. We chatted to Brid from Rona and learned lots more about the great work the charity does. The £460 that was raised will make a real difference to the young people who will now get the learn skills from sailing that will benefit them throughout their lives.
The result of the pursuit was a combined score of the position in the pursuit, money raised for charity and how early we entered the event. With a strong showing in all three categories the Fortissimo crew finished in a very respectable 6th position. Something to improve on next year we think. The event has already raised many thousands of pounds for local charities and looks set to become a regular fixture in the sailing calendar. The date of next year’s event has already been set as Saturday 10th June 2017 and we’re hoping to be a part of it again.
If you’ve not sailed before on Fortissimo and are interested in joining us then please get in contact by phone or email.