Copyright 2017 - Woods Designs, Foss Quay, Millbrook, Torpoint, Cornwall, PL10 1EN, UK
  • home built Flica 37

  • plywood Romany 34

  • lightweight 14ft Zeta mainhull

  • Strike 15 trimaran at speed

  • 28ft Skoota in British Columbia

  • 10ft 2 sheet ply Duo dinghy

  • 24ft Strider sailing fast

  • 36ft Mirage open deck catamaran

The PASAB 1992 on board Sagitta by Richard Woods, Multihull International

THE 130-mile PASAB, or Penzance Around the Scillies and Back Race, has been run for the last fifteen years by the very friendly Penzance Sailing Club. We hadn’t done the race for eight years which is a great shame as it is an interesting race with friendly competitors in an excellent sailing area.

The race traditionally starts on a Friday evening with a night sail to the Scillies. As usual the monohulls started first and in the light following wind it was clear that not everyone was out to win for several boats did not set spinnakers. The first mark was five miles downwind and Jake the Peg (nee Quest, the 53ft tri that Mike Birch sailed to third place in the Transat en Double) rounded first, closely followed by our Sagitta and Ace (nee Tom Bombedil, the UK’s top half tonner). Other monos in contention were a First 32s5 and a Jouet 950.

The wind was 15kn apparent at the start of the 50 mile beat to the Scillies and the first three monos began to pull away until, as dusk fell, the wind dropped and the multis clawed back lost ground. This was very encouraging as we have written before about the problems of sailing multihulls fast to windward in light winds. We slowly beat out to the Wolf Rock, occasionally confused by the lights, for at times twenty ships were in sight, all changing course as they rounded Lands End, and it was hard to keep track of the other yachts.

Around midnight the wind picked up and freed and it began to rain. Never mind, we could now point the Scillies and were sailing at 8kn. At dawn we could see Jake finishing about four miles ahead, incredibly, just behind us Ace appeared, we had obviously overtaken her in a rainsquall and had never seen her lights.

One beauty of multihulls is their shoal draft and we were able to get in close to the shore and so avoid the worst of the congestion in St. Mary’s. Some aluminium French boats were even closer in, one actually aground on some rocks! The trimaran Zamaran finished three hours after us, but the last monohull not until 1500, not surprisingly Saturday is a rest day! On corrected time Sagitta won, followed by Ace, Jake was fifth and Zamaran eighth.

On Sunday the course was ‘around the islands and all out-lying rocks’. We had been to the Scillies twice before, both times in calm conditions and thick fog, so we were glad that this time the forecast was for good visibility, but we were less happy to hear about a SW 5/6. The weather at the Scillies is hard to predict as lows can go up either the Irish Sea or the English Channel. This time the forecasters were wrong, the wind was light and visibility poor.

Jake and Sagitta soon overtook all the monos except Ace as we beat out to the Bishop Rock in a very lumpy sea (often the sails would go aback in the troughs only to fill with a bang on the crests). After rounding the Bishop we should have had a good spinnaker run, but the wind was still light and the swell meant that the kite kept collapsing - one of the times when a pole would help. At the north end of the islands the promised wind arrived and Sagitta quickly closed the gap on Ace and rounded the top of the island almost level with no boats in sight behind.

On the beat back the wind was rarely below 24kn and once reached 31. In flat water both Jake and Sagitta carried full sail, Ace was forced to change to Solent jib and then reefed. Jake was ideally suited to the conditions, long and heavy and despite original very tired sails, finished fifteen minutes ahead of us with Ace fourteen minutes later. Thus on a five mile beat the 30ft Sagitta had taken ten minutes from what is/was the fastest 30ft monohull in the UK. Clearly windage does not make as much difference as some armchair theorists think. (Sagitta is 6m x 2m, Ace 3m x 1m.) Never mind the monohull doubters who still think that multihulls don’t go to windward.

On corrected time Sagitta and Ace were again first and second, Jake third and Zamaran fifth. Most of the first two legs had been on the wind, yet multihulls still won.

The third leg back to Penzance was to be perfect multihull weather, a NW 5, sun and a good swell. But disaster struck Jake at the start, the longest boat in the fleet and drawing 8ft, they discovered the committee boat was anchored in 7ft of water! The resulting bang badly damaged the board and case so the crew sailed cautiously with no spinnaker and as a result rounded the Wolf Rock neck and neck with Sagitta, the monohulls almost out of sight astern.

Close to the cliffs off Lands End the wind increased and although we were doing a steady 14kn, Jake finished ten minutes ahead. Their leak was rather worse than they expected for, at the finish, there was eighteen inches of water in the boat. Despite this obvious handicap Jake finished just inside the course record of 41/2 hours for the 45-mile race.

On Sagitta we did not want to lose the wind, so only stopped in Penzance long enough to hand in our declaration, then we were off back to Plymouth under spinnaker alone. We were halfway to the Lizard before the first monohull finished.

Not surprisingly, Sagitta and Jake came first and second on handicap, Zaraman was again fifth, Ace was well down at thirteenth. On Sagitta a successful race was followed by a glorious sail back to Plymouth, 98 miles in twelve hours, nearly all under autopilot and spinnaker.

And so to the prize giving. Some years ago MOCRA organised a regatta with thousands of pounds of sponsors’ money and MOCRA became known as ‘Multiple Opportunities for Cash Remuneration for All’. We had won every leg, were first multihull and overall winners, but we still did not expect to win eleven prizes. It seemed that everyone won something, so we re-named the PASAB - ‘Plenty of Attractive Silverware for All Boats"

In an earlier report I have moaned about the lack of cruising multihulls entering races. The PASAB is the ideal race for those new to racing. Spinnakers are not necessary and three quarters of the fleet are only along for the cruise in company. However, Penzance is a long way for most sailors and it seems a pity to miss seeing the Scillies having got there. Therefore, if there is sufficient demand, we will organise a feeder race from Plymouth to Penzance next year and would then suggest that the results of this race count instead of the last leg of PASAB, so that cruisers can spend longer in the Scillies. Anyone interested?