All Change in the Menai
The morning after the night
before everything can look so different. It was
soon after dawn when the runners from the lead
2 boats returned and climbed back aboard, ready
to race up the Menai Strait. However, this is
a treacherous stretch of water, swept by fierce
tides and full of dangerous rocks and obstructions.
With the tide dropping and running against, and
the Reflex 38's having big keels, it was a time
for cautious competitiveness.
Team Reflex were away first,
and no other team in the race has their experience
of these tricky waters. But they were not to get
far. Skipper Geoff West wanted to get into position
beyond the national watersports centre at Plas
Menai and moor up to wait for the tide to turn,
but his crew were all labouring away at the oars
(they have 4 on board), trying to make headway.
So he risked a direct line .... and ran hard aground
close to the shore.
Behind him the same fate befell
'Leopard Clipper', who could not make progress
against the tide and only a few hundred yards
from the pier they had just left, they too were
Team Reflex tried everything
to move the yacht, even wrapping a rope around
a nearby navigation marker (ironically the one
they should have passed outside of) and attempting
to winch themselves clear, but they were stuck
fast, and stuck for a very long time. Leopard
Clipper were in the same position.
It would be close to high
tide before they could refloat, a wait of more
than 9 hours, during which time other boats would
sail by and build up a strong lead. In the space
of half an hour the race was thrown wide open
'Simply Red' was the next
to leave, moving slowly against the tide, but
with much more water below her. Serenely and very
slowly she passed the 2 grounded yachts, now lying
at a marked tilt, their keels and rudders exposed.
They were followed by Charter Continuum and there
could be no more graphic warning to Skipper Ian
Hudson to be careful, than the sight of other
2 Reflex 38's. But their misfortune was his gain
and he could now push for the lead.
In the first hour out from
Caernarfon Simply Red were enjoying being in the
lead, a position we never dreamed of being in,
but ever so gradually Charter Continuum won the
slow motion battle , and moved ahead passing beneath
the first of the 2 bridges. By now the team were
using their huge oars and gaining a marked advantage
over Simply Red who only had a couple of small
Going into the dangerous area
known as The Swellies, between the 2 bridges,
it also gave them the momentum they needed to
maintain steerage, as they passed through just
after slack water. They area has many submerged
rocks and normally passage is only recommended
at close to high tide. Steering a perfect course
Charter Continuum avoided all potential hazards,
only slowing and spinning in the swirling tides
once. However, they quickly regained control and
swept under the bridge.
Simply Red did not do so well.
Without oars and with less speed they were at
the mercy of the rising tide and steered a course
onto the submerged, Priceís Rock. The strong
tide did push them clear, but they had no control
and continued backwards for a while, before spinning,
drifting sideways and ending up hard aground again.
This time they were there for half an hour, losing
time on the leaders and concerned at what the
outcome might be. After many ineffectual efforts
to free themselves the tide inevitably did the
job and they were underway again.
Behind them the rest of the
fleet were moving up, and past the 2 overnight
leaders, whose problems will not be over once
they refloat. If they fail to get up the Strait
and through The Swellies when the tide lifts them
off, and before it turns, they will not be able
to make it through. Then they will have another
6 hour wait, and a huge deficit to make up, especially
chasing the other Reflex 38, Charter Continuum.