I have been a member of the Gaffers for a few years now. 2014 was their 50th Anniversary, which they celebrated in a number of ways, including a round-Britain sailing relay. The grand finale was a gathering at Cowes Yacht Haven of about 230 gaff and traditionally rigged boats of varying sizes, for four days of events and racing.
I left Poole at lunch time on Tues Aug 13th with the aim of sailing to Christchurch and with a gentle SW breeze on my quarter and full sail. As I progressed, the wind kept rising and I was soon surfing down 2 metre waves, with too much sail up and starting to broach a bit. Being on my own it seemed more dangerous to try and reef than keep going so I furled the foresails and pressed on, passing Christchurch and reaching Hurst and Keyhaven in under 4 hrs. It was only when I turned head to wind in the lee of Hurst spit that I quite realised how blowy it was. When I picked up a mooring , my wind speed indicator showed 24kts over the deck inside the harbour!
Being ahead of myself now, on Wed 14 Aug I sailed in a F5 (reefed this time!) to Newtown Creek and moored up for a chilly, grey and sometimes drizzly afternoon and night. But it is a lovely place.
On Thursday Aug 15th, I set sail at 07.30 in a SW F4-5 again. I ran close inshore to Cowes under goose winged head sails and no main. Margherita goes well like that and I was at Cowes by 11.15. The rally organisation was superb and all boats were assisted into their allocated berths by teams of volunteers in RIBS. To my delight, I was berthed well inside the marina, next to Tom and Catherine Taylor and their Shilling Marjory (who I had met earlier in the season at Newtown Creek). During the afternoon the sun shone and the marina became more and more active. The OGA completely filled it, as well as part of Shepherd's Wharf. It was a splendid sight and one that I am unlikely to see again in the UK.
The Solent Branch of the OGA, the rally organisers, had laid on a fantastic programme of events with food music slide shows, awards ceremonies and lots of drinking - all in a fantastic atmosphere of happiness and good spirits. It was very moving at times and hilarious at others.
There were quite a few Dutch participants and they had invited each of the OGA groups they met during the round-Britain relay challenge to make a "Clog Yacht" ,using a kit of parts provided, and to bring it to Cowes for a race.......which they did!
The rally finished on Sunday, with a wash up meeting and presentations to all of the round Britain crews, and boats began to depart. I decided it was too blowy for a beat to the west and elected to stay until Monday. I left Cowes at 10.00 on Mon Aug 19 and, with a reef in the main, had a wettish beat to Keyhaven, arriving there at 13.00. As the tide was still under me, I kept going and reached Christchurch at around 4pm, where I stayed for the night. On Tues 20 Aug I sailed back to Poole and my mooring.
By far the best and longest cruise yet with Margherita, with 7 days afloat and 7 nights on board.