Archive for the ‘Racing Events’ Category

Zurich Channel Week

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Ups and Downs… Channel Week is over. It was a fantastic event, although it was somewhat marred by a gear breakage. The first leg, from The Solent to Alderney, had to be abandoned due to lack of breeze. The second leg, from Alderney to Jersey, was shortened, but Dinah did well. First of the three JOD’s, and a good overall placing. Just after a fantastic start the next morning off Jersey one of the mainsail batten cars up the mast exploded violently, spelling an end to sailing for the day. I retired back to Jersey to organise a replacement part, and motored on to St Malo later that day following the fleet. I also missed the day race around St Malo as the parts didn’t arrive until late the next morning. But now Dinah was ready for racing again. A long spinnaker reach from St Malo to Geurnsey had Dinah and Audacious within twenty boatlengths of each other the whole way. Dinah sneaked ahead in the last five minutes to finish as first JOD again. Very pleasing!

Running Up Little Russel, Geurnsey

The last leg from Geurnsey to The Solent was a windy spinnaker run. The picture above was taken about a half an hour after the start. Dinah, on the left, is in second place on the water just behind Audacious. By sunset Dinah was lead JOD again, but during the night as the breeze died down I should have switched to a bigger spinnaker. The other two JODs sneaked through in the darkness. I certainly can’t blame the boat, I should have known to change kites, but I didn’t. One of those lessons that comes with experience I guess.


All in all, it was a fantastic event. The overall results obviously don’t mean much, having missed two legs out of five. Audacious won overall, so to have beaten him in two of the three legs I completed is great. It shows the boat is on pace. I’m not too far off the pace myself. And once I break and fix everything thats going to break then Dinah should be unstoppable! I’m much happier learning about the batten cars being weak now, even at the expense of a good overall result in this event, rather than in the middle of the Atlantic next year. Softly softly catchee monkey…

Santander – Camaret

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Dinah won the start, and she was really quick. I was full of confidence and I enjoyed short tacking down the river that sunny morning. With my feel for the breeze in light conditions, and these sails with their perfect shapes, after 24hrs we were leading the race on the water. We were ahead of the much bigger and more powerful 40ft’ers, and pulling away from even the light displacement boats my own size. I always like light airs.

Start Santander

Some minor electronic issues, all caused by user error, cost me some time and a lot of personal energy in the middle portion of the race. Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley were too busy arguing down below to help put a reef in during the night. I started to recognise when I’m pushing myself too far. Nico Budel’s Open 40 and Katie Miller’s Figaro 2 got through me on the water. In reality they should have been miles ahead of me two days into the race, and I was clearly winning on handicap, but I didn’t like being passed, and I forced myself into a rest pattern before putting on another big push. In the last four hours of the race I caught up by 35 minutes on the Figaro 2, on an amazing high speed surfing spinnaker reach. The highest boatspeed to date (11.4knts) was seen on this leg. Under autohelm, with the sheets locked off, planing down a big roller, while I drank a cup of coffee!

Unfortunately the longer than planned light airs first section of the race meant I had charged my batteries once more than expected. With an airlock in the engine fuel feed, I had to sail on to the marina. For most people the thought of sailing a 35ft boat solo right up into a marina and onto her berth would give them nightmares, but by now I had a feel for the boat, and it seemed quite straightforward and almost normal. Dinah came to rest in her allocated berth and minutes later I was sitting outside a restaurant catching up with some of those that had pulled out of leg two.

Kinsale – Santander

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Flying the new sails off the start line I had to quickly learn the new styles of sail trim necessary to make these sails work right on the boat. But after a little while I got back to target speeds and then started to grin as I realised these sails were much faster than the old ones. Well done Des!

A forecasted gale in Biscay meant getting South as quickly as possible was key to reducing exposure to the worst of conditions. Biscay is not a nice place and, apart from during a race, nobody would dream of deliberately crossing with the forecasts we had.

It was my first time sailing either the boat or the sails in a storm, and I was already almost three days at sea. This was already my longest time solo offshore, and I was still only learning how to sleep. Yoda joined me for a while, and after the boat was knocked flat in the water twice I decided to drop the sails and run under bare poles waiting for the worst to pass over. It was very eerie sitting down below, speaking to shipping to gather what information I could, resting, eating well, while outside an enormous sea was being cut up by the ferocious crosswind. Those seas in Biscay were amazing. Hypnotic almost. You start to feel really small and insignificant in those sort of seas. I was very conscious of the tracker, and how my actions might worry those watching at home. Yoda pointed out that to finish first, first you have to finish.

After a rather eventful re-hoist of the sails, which took far too much time and energy, I was on my way again. I had dissected the events of the day while down below, and worked out some new theories on making the boat work in heavy airs. A second, albeit much shorter gale, almost a day later proved these theories and I was able to continue powering upwind maintaining target speeds and angles. This did a huge amount for confidence, and I was able to build speeds the whole way into Santander.

Santander Marina

Arriving there I was very confused with how few boats were ahead of me. When you’re at sea sometimes you can only imagine where the other boats are. And it turned out that instead of not being able to raise anybody on the VHF for the last two days because I had fallen back so far, it was actually because two out of three boats or skippers had not made it through the conditions on the leg. Most boats ran off to English or French ports. A warm welcome on the dock led to the demise of several bottles of whiskey on ROC, Des Hampton’s wonderful boat.

Santander was a nice break. Not many jobs to do on the boat. Several days getting back to full strength. Lots of food and drink in great company. Amazing really, how sociable solo sailors are! The camaraderie of shared experiences makes for great friendships.

Dinah in Santander

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

Text message received:

“Dinah finished at 03.51.44 gmt.  All good.  Learned lots. Two gales off the continental shelf.  Not many made it.”

Twenty boats started the leg, ten finished.