Allen Endurance Series – Solent Forts Race

The Solent Forts Race is an annual long-distance event for catamarans and other high-performance boats, run by Hayling Ferry Sailing Club from their base at the entrance to Langstone Harbour. It is set in the Eastern Solent and comprises a series of legs to various marks (such as the Napoleonic channel forts that give the race its name), with boats returning to Langstone Harbour entrance to complete each leg by rounding a turning mark.

Part of the Allen Endurance Series since this began in 2018, the Solent Forts Race was the opening round of that series for 2023. This year’s race was held on 4th June and was the eleventh edition of the event.

The race started at 10:30 from Langstone Harbour entrance under blue skies and a Force 4 breeze. The 18-boat entry was split into two fleets – Orange and Blue, and the first mark of the course for both fleets was the Nab Tower (a lighthouse approximately 7.5 nautical miles from the race start line).

F18 catamaran sailing in the allen endruance series

The first boat to round the Nab Tower was the Nacra Carbon 20 of Piggott/Piggott, closely followed by Dutch/Banner on another Nacra Carbon 20. By the time the first boat reached the turning mark at Langstone Harbour entrance 1 hour 12 minutes after the race start, the 2 Nacra Carbon 20s had pulled well ahead of the rest. The Nab Tower leg saw the first retirement with the third Nacra Carbon 20 in the fleet dropping out with rudder problems, and two other boats also deciding to call it a day after completing one leg.

At the end of the first leg, the positions on corrected time had the Nacra Carbon 20 at the front of the Orange fleet and the Unicorn of Dan Jarman leading the Blue fleet.

The second mark for both fleets was Spit Sand Fort (at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour), a downwind/upwind leg much shorter than the first leg to the Nab Tower. At the end of leg 2 the positions of the lead boats in both fleets remained the same.

Catamarans round the solent fort as part of the allen endurance series.

The third leg saw the Orange fleet going to Bembridge Ledge East Cardinal (off the east coast of the Isle of Wight) with the Blue Fleet sailing to West Pole (at the entrance to Chichester Harbour). With the time now past 14:00 the Race Officer decided to shorten the Blue Fleet course after the West Pole leg and the first Blue Fleet boat to cross the finish line at Langstone Harbour entrance after 4 hrs 41 mins was the Unicorn of Dan Jarman, also the Blue Fleet winner on corrected time. Dan sailed a total distance of 42 miles with a maximum speed of 15.1 knots.

In the Orange Fleet the lead boat – the Nacra Carbon 20 of Piggott/Piggott – had extended its lead over the next boat in the fleet to a full 26 minutes when it arrived back at the turning mark to start the fourth and final leg to West Pole. However, this lead also meant that it was sailing in different conditions to the boats behind it and was actually 5th fastest on corrected time for leg three. Would this trend continue or could Piggott/Piggott hold on for the win? Leg 3 also saw three more Orange Fleet retirements leaving 9 boats still in the race for the Orange Fleet trophy.

The first Orange Fleet boat to cross the finish line at Langstone Harbour entrance was (not surprisingly) the Nacra Carbon 20 of Grant Piggott and Adam Piggott with an elapsed time of 4hrs 46mins, also winning the Orange Fleet trophy on corrected time. The last boat to complete the full course finished at 16:38, with an elapsed time of 6hrs 8mins. Their total distance sailed was 52 miles with a maximum speed of 18.2 knots.