Here's the report from our Principal, John Gillard, on the fantastic efforts of the team representing Oarsome Chance at the Cowes Week, 50th Anniversary Squib Regatta in August:
Cowes Week photo gallery: https://oarsomechance.org/cowes-week-august-2018
Our Cowes week started well before Saturday 4th August with the planning and preparation, acquiring the boat and fundraising. Our mission was to enter an under 25's team into the Squib nationals on their 50th anniversary at Cowes week as is our one design of choice and we were expecting a 100 boat fleet, making this a once in a lifetime opportunity.
As with acquiring any boat of this age and certainly one that has been raced reasonably hard, there was a certain amount of work to do to get her race ready. Everyone took turns on the work, which included removing a large wasps nest that had made base in our forward ballast tank. After some work on the rig, deck gear and sails sorted, antifoul and polish, she was as ready as she ever would be for the event.
Crew consisted of Kacey-Ellen Thornton, Joe Swindale, Luke Symonds and James Williams and by first race of Saturday morning they were ready for the challenge. Day one was light airs and hot but they got away on time and managed to get the squib around the course and around the other 1000 yachts unscathed, to finish placed very respectfully in the 70's.
Days two and three were more of the same with lots of postponements in all fleets, mainly due to light airs and strong tides, but the crew again managed to get around the course in good spirits and post finishes.
Cowes is a war of attrition and with such close racing there was some gear failure throughout the fleet, including our own, but through perseverance she was back on the start line for squally day four, going from light to windy and back again and with huge windshifts took some time to get the fleet going off a committee boat start line near hill head. Kacey Ellen was aboard, as this was ladies day and started strongly on a tricky course only to see the breeze die completely with them only 300 metres from the finish line, eventually forcing their first retirement of the week. Day five continued with good winds and after a few running repairs the team were back on the start line and beat up the eastern Solent in a wet and wild ride followed and keenly watched by our founder and Chairman Paul O'Grady from a distance in OC support rib, who got equally wet and loved the action of the 100 Squib fleet starting on the Royal Yacht squadron line.
The breeze held but softened for the fleet with a committee boat start line again off hill head on day six and with the line between 300-400 metres long it was a complete lottery as to the favoured end and with a tricky beat made for a crowded and action packed windward mark where gains and losses were made equally and our squib 677 Dragonfly made it through and had their own personal battles with other squibs and racers from around the UK.
Day seven was forecast for big winds coming in from early afternoon and the squib fleets start was brought forwards half an hour early to try and get a race in early sheltered in the lee of Osbourne bay on the island.
We arrived on board extra early to get a few jobs done and heavy weather prep to be told we were postponed until 1430. The wind came through early bringing more even than the 40 knot gusts predicted and the fleets that went out all limped or flew back in, all racing was cancelled and the winner of the squib nationals decided and going to a thoroughly deserved Steve Warren Smith and Stu Rix on number 13 Aquabat.
Day eight was then our last race to decide Cowes week and the team were treated to a downwind on the squadron line with boats inshore opting for spinnakers while boats offshore fetched with white/mace sails only and made gains heading east. After a shortened course the team crossed the line in their best finish of the week 44th and with smiles all round they hoisted the spinnaker for one last time and sailed for Gosport and home.
In conclusion, the Oarsome Chance team gained a wealth of experience and fun throughout the 8 days and showed stamina and resilience. They finished a very respectable 88th and are already planning the next series of races. A huge thanks to all involved in helping make this happen including all the Cowes week team, aql for our fab new spinnaker, funders who supported our entry (including the Joan Braithwaite Trust, the Whirlwind Charitable Trust and the Bentley Young Person's Trust), all at the National Squib Owners Association and Oarsome Chance for this amazing opportunity.