Police Sport UK Offshore Sailing Championships 2010

The current Offshore Champions, Notts A Team arrived at Port Solent for the event on Sunday, 16th May, 2010. The event was being hosted by Kent Police using the Sunsail fleet out of Port Solent. Twenty teams from fourteen different forces had entered and were allocated their boats for the week.

The following is an account submitted by Pete Walters, the skipper of Notts 'A' Team.

We arrived as a team quite early on Sunday afternoon, as the boats were not ready we went down to the local public house for a some appropriate refreshments. Some of the crew went to Tesco’s for two days supply of food. I always want the team to travel as light as possible so each crew member was restricted to one bag plus sleeping bag however it was clear with the number of bags on board some could not count or we had twelve crew.

The initial load and handover of the boat was very smooth, with everything stowed before I could blink an eye, all the team working together; this looked like a good omen for the week.

I had booked the local curry house for supper with the Isle of Wight crew. Simon Judge the skipper for the Isle of Wight crew had been a core team member of the Notts crew before transferring forces. We hit the curry house and had a very pleasant evening before getting our heads down about midnight.

I was up about 6am and beat the rush for the showers as with this event annually 200 people descending on a shower block causes huge queues. We had a team briefing for safety as well as the aims for the week. I was concerned that with a shortage of regular crew members we might struggle to get a result. I did not want to pressure the crew as we were at the event to enjoy it and not have a devil of a skipper trying to get the result by shouting a lot. The crew, as one, wanted to try and win and if required were happy to go out early and stay out late going through drills to get the boat handling right.

Monday, 2 races scheduled.
8am we had the skippers' briefing. No surprises with two races scheduled finishing at the Hamble, however no wind.
We left Port Solent and were first to the starting area in the middle of the Solent. Due to the lack of wind I reversed the boat and got the spinnaker up after about 30 minutes and 25 gybes we had that cracked..

The race officer moved the fleet to the area around the Bramble Bank as the breeze began to fill. The race got underway about 1200 with us making a clean start arriving at the first mark with three other boats, we rounded 4th and hoisted the spinnaker for the next two legs. I had not been happy with the speed upwind so after a discussion with Alex Piggott the main sheet trimmer and tactician we altered the jib track. The leader of the race was some distance in front with us, still in 4th, but with two other teams, the Met Police and Isle of Wight in second and third respectively. Our navigator Andy Muir told me that for the next beat we needed to go left as the tide was just starting to change and this would give us the more favourable tide. The 3 teams in front went in the opposite direction to ourselves, we were looking alright but I went out to the corner and tacked for the mark, the Navigator then realised he had been looking at the wrong page in the tide book, we had gone out into the foul tide, too late!! We were lucky, the wind shifted in our favour and strengthened as we closed with the other 3 teams it was clear we had caught up with the leader and overtook the Met and Isle of Wight. We crossed the stern of the leader and then tacked after another 10 boat lengths, they had also tacked back but we had hit the lead, a tack on top of them slowed them down so much that we went further ahead and got them into a dual with the Met team. We rounded with a good lead and hoisted the spinnaker for the last leg to the finish. We won with about a 2 minutes lead. A great start for the week.

Race 2.
The Officer of the day did not waste time in setting the course for Race 2 and got us underway. The wind had strengthened to about 20 knots with the tide sweeping us to windward. We did not have the best start as we didn’t get into racing mode soon enough and ended up starting in the 2nd line of starting boats, however the change of sheeting position worked as we certainly had more boat speed than most of the boats and pulled through to then tack onto port with us in 4th position, we had over stood the windward mark as had almost all the fleet not taking the tide sufficiently into account however we rounded the first mark in third with two Met Police boats leading. We had a good spinnaker hoist and pulled into 2nd for the 3 mile leg. I did not want to get into a dual with the leader so I went deep on the run, this took us over more shallow water than the leading boat against the foul tide and we certainly had better downwind speed. We rounded the next mark with a good 10 boat length lead with the lead increasing during the rest of the race, we finished about 3 minutes ahead of the next boat.

As the day had gone so well for us we did not feel the need to stay out going through drills so we raced for the showers. However, Hamble Point Marina and Port Hamble Marina do sound the same, we tried to moor at the wrong marina. Fortunately the berth we were directed to was occupied. The berthing master over the VHF with all to hear, corrected us!! We just won the race to the showers after the diversion.

We had refreshments as the local Pubs during the evening and hit the pit near midnight.

Tuesday. 3 races scheduled.
We had another skippers’ briefing with the Officer of the day Dave Nicholls telling me to slow down. No breeze, we were asked to get out to the race area for about 11am anticipating the breeze would fill in late, like the previous day.
I gave the crew the option to go and have a look around Hamble Village for an hour or so or go out on the water. Again, with no discussion, the team opted for the water and practice; I have to say my preferred option.

We were 2nd to the starting area with other teams appearing who were then starting to reverse their boats and do some spinnaker handling practice. Skippers during the morning briefing had stated that seeing us doing this the previous day and had impressed them.

We dropped the anchor as the Solent was like a mirror. However, within 10 minutes the breeze started to fill from the West so we raised the anchor and got the sails up to hopefully tune the boat for the conditions.

The race officer announced the course, an Olympic style course with legs being about a mile long. We made a good start and very soon we saw that we had at least ˝ a knot more boat speed than the other boats and soon were leading, it was clear that by adjusting the boat as a dinghy with the addition of leech lines we certainly had the advantage, we just pulled away from the fleet winning by about 3 minutes. The 2nd place boat and others following were quite close but we seemed to be in another league.

The 2nd race of the day was a similar style course with the breeze increasing. I made a poor start due to other boats not keeping clear when requested. Bumping 8 ton yachts together is very expensive, so you do not touch to prove a point. We were buried in the pack, when the gaps appeared we tacked across the fleet, after about 3 tacks we were in clear wind and to windward, the boat speed then helped us pull through to the leaders. We rounded the first mark and made a better spinnaker hoist than the other team, again going deep on the run got us clear ahead with us going on to win the race by 3 minutes 40 seconds.

The 3rd race of the day was a passage style race from Cowes to Lymington about 11 miles away. The tide was flowing towards Lymington at a fast rate due to it being spring tides.

I did not push the start line as the fleet were being pulled across the line by the tide but we made quite a good start and after about a mile hit the lead. By sailing the shifts and staying in the fast flowing deep water we pulled ahead and rounded the first mark after 7 miles, we were then against the tide and spinnaker up. This apparently brought the rest of the fleet closer to us as they rounded and were against the tide. I went off on a reach to the shallower water to get out of the tide with a couple of the other boats following. The 2nd mark was back out in the tide so we reached across with the spinnaker, rounded the mark and gybed then reached back to mark 3 in the shallower water. We dropped the spinnaker for the final leg to the finish. As we rounded the last buoy we went for the deep water again and best tide and finished over 7 minutes ahead of the 2nd placed boat.

Later some of the other skippers commented on the course we took to the 2nd mark believing we were going to miss it as we were so far away from it, apparently they cursed when we gybed out, shot across and back again. Most of the fleet stayed out in the foul tide; I believe this is what gave us the increased lead.

5 races completed we were discarding a 1st place. We spent the night in Lymington after a meal out in a local pub, followed by cheese & cake and a nip of whisky aboard the boat. We got to bed near midnight.

Wednesday. 1 race scheduled, ‘Round the Island’.
The lack of forecast wind abandoned any hope of this happening so the OD set a long course in the Solent with plenty of marks for the race to be shortened.

The race started with a down tide, down wind from Lymington at 10am. There was very little breeze but plenty of tide towards Cowes. I was very shy of the line due to the conditions and did not want to be over at the start. One boat was over and had a 10 minute beat to windward to start the race correctly. That team eventually retired.
I aimed for the deep water and best tide with the spinnaker up and again we drew ourselves through the fleet to be clear ahead by Cowes. The wind seemed to be filling well. As we approached Gilkicker Point the wind died and did a 180 degree shift, we dropped the spinnaker and starting beating to the first mark, Gleeds. We rounded with a few minutes lead and aimed for the 2nd mark, Warner outside the Forts and Solent. We rounded and put the spinnaker up for the return to the channel mark, Browndown. We were 20 minutes ahead of the 2nd placed boat.

The wind again died but the tide was changing to take us back up the Solent towards Cowes. However, the GPS said we had stopped. The tide started to increase and we saw a black line on the water approaching us, the wind filled and again did another 180 for a beat to Browndown. We rounded and put the spinnaker up for the 1.27mile leg to racing mark Bob Kemp. As we rounded Bob Kemp for the beat to Racing mark Gales HSB outside Cowes, the 2nd placed boat rounded Browndown 13 minutes behind.

We beat to Gales to find the committee boat on station having shortened the course. We won by 16 minutes after the 7 hour race. We then motor-sailed the 9 miles back to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight for the night. We had showered and were on the way out for a meal when most of the fleet arrived.

Thursday. 3 races scheduled.
Again no wind so the race officer asked us to motor the 11 miles back to a buoy outside Cowes to wait for the breeze. We needed one more good result to win the event as, with 7 races completed, you could have 2 discards.

Again the breeze filled in at about 11am with a small course set near the Bramble bank; we started and led from start to finish. I did give the crew the option to hit Cowes and the pub as we could not now be beaten however they wanted to clean sweep the event so we stayed out for what turned out to be the final race of the event. Another win in the last race by a significant margin was the result and another win for the race to the showers. 8 Races completed; 8 wins.

The Isle of Wight Team came 2nd; a great result for the first time in the event. Other teams recognising Simon Judge, their skipper, thought they were Notts B Team as he had a been a regular Notts A team crew member prior to transferring forces. He was apparently disappointed that at no point during the week had they been close enough to challenge us for first place on the water, I am sure they will be a team to look out for in the future.

This is the 7th consecutive year Notts have won the event with what we believe to be the 9th or 10 occasion we have won the event since taking part.

We again have qualified to represent the British Police at an International event in 2011.

The prize giving was held at the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Cowes with the team being presented with the overall win and Passage Race prizes. The Sailing Section Chair, Sara Thornton the Chief of Thames Valley Police also presented me with an outstanding achievement certificate from the National Police Sport UK Organisation with regard to sailing, this award having been nominated by the Metropolitan Police Sailing Section.

The Team.

Paul Pilsworth - Bow
Steve Payne - Bow
Mark Talbot - Bow / Mast (first time sailing)
Ralph Gibson - Winches
John Austin - Winches
Andy Muir - Navigator
Alex Piggott - Mainsheet / Tactics
Pete Walters - Skipper / Helm


You can now view all the pictures taken by the Notts team during the week.