Wednesday was really the set up day, after four hours in the car we launched at Woolverstone and had a very pleasant sail down the river Orwell to Shotley, this is approximately 6nm. There were plenty of other raiders also launching and it was great to see such a mix of boats on the water. The wind was around a Force 2-3 and the water flat so we used full sail and enjoyed the sun. Having always sailed Bermudian rigged keel-boats this was a very different way to sail and we got used to the boat, how she handles in gusts and on various points of sail . Once through the lock and in Shotley marina we had little spare time as the car needed to be collected so we can pitch our tent and join the rest of the raiders for a welcome dinner in the Shipwreck pub.
|View from Shipwreck bar|
|Relaxed skipper leaving Woolverstone|
After breakfast on Thursday we had a briefing for the day’s activities and a little time to sort the boats before locking out of the marina, fortunately the lock would take 8 or more raid boats at a time so there wasn’t too much delay in getting out on to the river. We sailed with a reef as the wind was forecast to be low teens but gusting up more later in the day, in retrospect this was the correct decision as we were on a steep learning curve. We spent the morning beating to windward up the Stour to Manningtree, it’s about 9 miles as the crow flies and while we made good progress I was struggling at times to get Sneaky going to windward, it was very gusty and I was constantly trying to point too high. It was about half way up the river I realised that I needed to bear-away and ease the sail in gusts rather than feather up to windward (as I do in my sailing cruiser). We very nearly capsized on a few occasions and managed to half fill the boat with water once. When we arrived lunch was enjoyed on the beach with the raiders that made it, some didn’t.
|Sneaky on the beach at Manningtree|
|Sneaky at rest waiting for the next day|
It was a race back from Maningtree to the Ganges Buoy near Shotley in the afternoon and the breeze was picking up to the late teens and gusting more I would guess. We had a very fast and exhilarating sail with the wind either on the beam or the starboard quarter and sailed the course (around 9nm) in 63minutes – it felt very fast and we were very pleased to be first to the finishing mark although were 12th on handicap. Dinner was in Harwich so we all rafted up inside the harbourmasters pontoon and had a wander around an old lightship before finding Harwich and Dovercourt SC for fish and chips. For the short sail home we put the second reef in and was pleasantly surprised at the speed of Sneaky as we overtook boats under engine on their way back to Shotley. In total I estimate we sailed around 20nm but I imagine in terms of water under the boat it was a lot more with all the tacking in the morning.
|Raid boats rafted at Harwich|
|Raid boats rafted at Harwich|
The forecast for Friday was more wind so the plan to leave the harbour and head for the Walton Backwaters was abandoned in favour of an easy sail to Suffolk Yacht Harbour for lunch and then a race in the afternoon. We had a good practice sail in the morning with one reef in and seemed to have Sneaky going better to windward with more downhaul on and I was sailing slightly more off the wind than the previous day. The wind picked up a little over lunch and I thought we could stay with one reef but once out on the water we were struggling to control the boat and keep ourselves upright but also enjoyed the acceleration and speed that Sneaky would provide when powered up. We picked up a mooring buoy and put the second reef in for self-preservation but this did mean we missed the start of the race by about 8 minutes so were well behind. We started chasing the back markers but ended up just enjoying the sail and improving our skills in the strong winds that some estimated as F4-5. With the wind over tide and it being a spring-tide the water became quite rough where the two rivers meet and we did our best to stay in the shallower water that seemed smoother although the sharp bow would cut through the waves and I got better quickly at “cork-screwing” over the waves which seemed faster and more comfortable. Safely back in the lock it seemed that everyone was having a fun but hard day on the water. Dinner was in the Shipwreck again and we all tucked into a really good curry. Total miles sailed on Friday would be around 18miles.
|View from Harwich up the Stour at low tide|
Saturday was the last day of the raid and a course was set to race us up the Orwell with a leg back on ourselves for some variety before finishing south of the huge road bridge. This time we would be ready for the race and while we sailed out with a reef this was shaken out by the start so we could race under full sail. We had a pretty good start with a Force 2-3 south-westerly and some stronger gusts and found ourselves third on the water with larger (and I thought faster) boats behind us. Annie and I worked hard to put into practice all we had learnt about sailing Sneaky the previous days and managed to keep a gap between us and the pack of boats behind but were unable to catch Kite and Molly but they were both much larger and faster boats. Lunch was at the Orwell YC and Annie sailed us a quite a way back down the river to Woolverstone where Sneaky was put back on the trailer and towed back to the camp site. Total miles sailed for Saturday would be around 14nm. The evening dinner and prize giving was at Pin Mill, a club that must have one of the best views in the area and we watch the tide retreat and the sun go down while enjoying the company of the raiders.
|Start of the Saturday race|
|Just after the start about to overtake the boat to leeward.|
All in all it was a fantastic few days of sailing in an area I have never visited before but one I would like to explore again another time. Sneaky was everything I could have wished for on the water and more, east to handle, rewarding to sail and quick as hell when you get her going. I came off the water each day with a smile of my face and looking forward to taking her out again the next morning. Many people were impressed with the GIS design, one chap in particular was very impressed and as an ex-racing yacht designer he knows a thing or two I guess. There were rumours that next year there may be a raid in the south-west and if we can Sneaky will be there to enjoy it.
|Team Sneaky shirts at Pin Mill|
|Team Sneaky at Orwell SC|
Next up for Sneaky Shark will be a few days camping and sailing around Chichester harbour with the Dinghy Cruising Association. But first I need to fix the top aft corner of the daggerboard that I have split from putting it in the car carelessly – really annoyed with myself for not being more careful but some epoxy in the crack and glass over will patch it up. In terms of mods I really need to fit some hiking/toe straps, a single one in the middle will be more than enough I think, also there is some play between the rudder and it’s housing so I will glue some thin rubber to the top of the rudder blade to pack this out.