Holms Race report

It was a tough day on the water for the 47 crews that made it to the start line for the 2016 edition of the 35 mile Bristol Channel classic ‘PCC Holms Race’, sponsored once again by Britannia Windows and Boatshed Bristol.
With each yacht able to choose its own start time, the intention is to reach the downtide mark at low water. The first boats to start crossed the line soon after 10:00 and everyone enjoyed a fast beam reach past Clevedon in glorious sunshine with a steady Northerly force 3 and six knots of outgoing tide, followed by a broad reach past the Monkstone lighthouse off Cardiff, until just before noon when the wind switched off. The line of spinnakers stretching 6 miles from NW Elbow to Flat Holm were left hanging limp as the fleet drifted down tide hoping not to be swept the wrong side of the next mark.
After an hour of frustration and slatting sails a light breeze filled in from the NW, enabling most of the fleet to round Flat Holm island to port and head South towards Steep Holm island. There’s no slack water on a 43′ spring tide so the sudden switch in tidal flow created a very confused sea state and left a large part of the fleet out of place. With insufficient wind to power through the chop progress was slow and accompanied by much banging and crashing! By now most boats were running later than planned so as the incoming tide built, many were swept between or towards the islands and forced to retire.
Those that made it around Steep Holm found the light airs, by now from the SE, were fading once more. After another prolonged period of slatting sails a steady breeze finally filled in again from the North for a straightforward beat back to Portishead. The conditions had taken their toll with just 16 finishers compared with 41 the year before. As always Portishead Quays Marina did a great job on the locks, in addition to offering visiting yachts half price berthing, and the Portishead Cruising Club volunteers laid out a fantastic spread of post race refreshments.
We then moved onto prize giving, sponsored this year by Hyde Sails. It was a good year for the local boats, taking 7 of the top 10 versus 4 the year before, with the First 21.7 ‘UII’ taking 2nd place and the Jeanneau Sunrise 34 ‘Budge’ securing third. There were also respectable results for the J92S ‘Hullabaloo’ a PCC newcomer in 8th and the Tripp 40 ‘Rockhopper’ finishing 6th in her maiden race. First place went to Steve Cooper and the team on Wave Rider the Elan 333 from Cardiff Bay Yacht Club. Congratulations to them and everyone that made it round the course. In addition to a great day on the water we also raised £220 for MacMillan Cancer Support. Here’s hoping for more wind next year!