(Article in Yachts & Yachting and Falmouth Packet)

The first two races of the year in a series aimed at sailors who enjoy the challenge of longer coastal and offshore races, took place from Falmouth at the weekend in blustery to strong conditions.

The Cornwall Offshore Group Series COGS kicked-off the season with a race from Falmouth to Fowey on Saturday organised by the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club, and a return race on Sunday organised by Port of Fowey Race Organising Committee POFROC, offering sailors a two race weekend to kick-start the season’s campaign. The fifteen yachts split into classes, IRC and Byron, based on different handicap systems.

Difficulties with tides for yachts from St Mawes left four unable to take part, but despite this, fifteen yachts, the same number as last year, lined up at the start of the first race to Fowey, on Saturday which was sponsored by Sharps Brewery. COGS was delighted to welcome several new yachts to the series competing for the first time.

Conditions had been forecast to be light, with winds under 10 knots for Saturday’s race. But the breeze quickly built, leaving boats that had set out with larger light-wind headsails over pressed for the long beat, down to the range marks 10 miles from Dodman Point. From the Dodman it was a case of bearing away and hanging on, for the final blast to Fowey.

A prize-giving took place at the Royal Fowey Yacht Club, and sailors enjoyed a cheap pint from the race sponsors and a warm welcome from the club. Overnight, the strong southerly wind sent a swell into the harbour giving sailors a bouncy night on their moorings.

Some forecasts had predicted the possibility of 24-39 knots for Sunday’s return race, sponsored by St Austell Brewery. But Fowey race officer Chris Ogg’s own forecast during the prize giving on Saturday proved closer to reality, with the fiercer breeze blowing through overnight. But, it was still a challenging start for sailors heading out from the Royal Fowey line, to punch their way out against the swell, through the fickle winds of the river and confused sea.

Once clear, in shallow water the steep swell and strong breeze kept sailors on their toes as they worked their way out to the Cannis cardinal. Byron yachts headed straight on to the Dodman, IRC turned downwind into St Austell bay to a mark near Par Beach before turning back into the strong breeze and peaky swell for the long beat back out to the A range mark.

Adding this mark to the course was a great decision, and made for fantastic testing sailing as yachts worked their way out to sea over the swell. Once round the mark, helms bore away and it was hull speed and edge of control stuff all the way for the long fast blast back to the finish at the RCYC line in Falmouth.

COGS would like to thank both organising clubs and sponsors, and particularly race officers Neil Hopkins and Chris Ogg for generously giving up their time to make these races happen, and travel to finish the boats. The next race in the COGS series is the off-shore night race to Roscoff on May 4.