There are places in the world where you know you are familiar and have that feeling of coming home, and that was the feeling I had as I sped across the Solent towards Cowes, The Isle of Wight. Here I was heading back to Cowes, about to join a boat for a weeks racing in the annual regatta. It was like old times, walking along the High Street in Cowes, seeing all the old familiar sites.
It was fun seeing all my old haunts as we raced around the Solent! One day we’re down by the River Beaulieu short taking in and out of the shore, trying to out manoeuvre other boats whilst not running aground. I’m an East Coast boy, so 50cm under the keel is when to tack, but that takes nerve and a switched on crew!
We raced down the Portsmouth end of the Solent, definitely not the pretty end although still nice! Raced between the forts protecting the Eastern end, but now re-modelled into hotels, so looking a lot smarter than when last I saw them. Always looking for any changes to the landscape for future reference. New buoys in Portsmouth harbour entrance in anticipation of the new carriers, but not much else has changed. It was, after all, a couple of weeks since Ben Ainslie had successfully defended his home victory in the Louis Vuiton Americas Cup regatta! All I could see of that was the new building in Old Portsmouth housing the team. Did wish I could go and see that, but limited time in UK. Did see Ben out training in the distance, incredible how quick the new boats are, here today and off into the middle of next year, the next moment. Just amazing. No way our poor J122 was in that class!
Speaking of classes, we were in class 1, top end of the racing hierarchy, but sadly our rotating crew, heavy boat, and an unclear communication structure meant our results were not so good. Definitely punching above our weight, but we pulled off a few great starts, and we had some exciting moments. The others knew we were in the fleet, just not consistently always there, and consistency is what makes for a successful regatta.
All in all, it was a wonderful return to my old stamping ground, especially as the weather was so good and the place put on its best face for me, of course!! I quite miss it despite the memories of crashing around in freezing weather, soaked to the skin with students, saying, ‘Isn’t this fun!!’