Archive for July, 2010

Rounding Wicklow Head

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

David Branigan from Oceansport sent us this great shot of Dinah rounding Wicklow Head on June 20th, just after the start of the Round Ireland Race 2010.

The Round Ireland Race 2010

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

With the boat already in Wicklow sporting her new bowsprit, faired and polished hull and stocked with provisions; our weather and tidal routing sorted, and bags packed, there was nothing left to do in preparation for the Round Ireland Race 2010. On Friday afternoon I had the pleasure of relaxing with a beer watching other crews scurry around completing last minute tasks. It’s always good to be more prepared than your competition! On Friday night I picked up Hannah from the airport, and we drove straight to Wicklow for a brief look over the changes that had been made to the boat, so as to put Hannah’s mind at ease. We then joined the other crews at the official crew party, and a classic Wicklow Sailing Club night ensued. Saturday we went to fetch the fresh fruit etc, and threw a dockside Dinah drinks party to say thanks to those who had helped get Dinah to the startline, and to get to know some of our competitors better. It was a great success, and we definitely won the hospitality prize!

Sunday morning dawned sunny with light airs. The pin end of the line consisted of one of the Irish Naval Vessels at anchor, so positioning on the line was very important. Dinah won the weather end of the line, and started as weathermost boat, albeit with only inches to spare between ourselves, the next boat to leeward, and the Naval Vessel to weather. One of the tightest starts I’ve ever had, but thankfully we ended up nicely to weather of the bigger boats that were sure to sail through us in the first few minutes of the race.

We headed off towards Tuskar, and quickly discovered that we were lacking horsepower in the light airs upwind. Not good! Rounding Tuskar we were alongside boats from the class below, and we were really struggling. Along the south coast we pushed hard to gain from every windshift, but even with some really clever tactical calls we were still only holding our distance on the boats ahead of us, instead of catching back what we had lost on day one. We lost another few miles around Galley Head due to a strange unexpected tidal race just under the headland itself, and rounded Fastnet on Tuesday morning a little disheartened.

Finally, after two days of light airs upwind sailing we had an opportunity to bear off, crack sheets, and let Dinah do what she does best. We peeled from asymmetric to symmetric kite at Sceilig Rock, and headed due North, dead downwind in the building breeze. Dinah relished the opportunity to run downwind in big waves, and we headed offshore from Sceilig Mor comforted by the fact that we were now catching everybody ahead. As the day and night went on the breeze continued to build, and through the night we were running very fast in 25knts+ and big Atlantic seas. They were fantastic conditions, and it was a run we’ll both remember for some time. We called the gybe perfectly, despite gybing over more than 120nm from the next corner. As we came in along the layline for Tory Island we realised that we had jumped forward a whole pack in the fleet, and we were now alongside the Reflex 38’s on the water. Much better!

Along the north coast we had breeze of varying strengths, getting progressively tighter in angles right through to Rathlin. At Tor Rocks just off Malin Head we peeled to the asymmetric kite again for the tight reach past Rathlin. The tidal gate just started to close as we passed, and we knew no other boats would get past Rathlin for several hours after us. We had held the bigger boats on the water and we were swapping places with Lula Belle, Tsunami, and Cheetah Cub for the whole day. As the evening closed in the breeze shut down off Strangford Lough, and we worked really hard to pull away through the night and catch up with the lead pack. A small mistake by Alchimiste allowed us to overtake, and soon we were right back in this race.

In the morning we were one of the first boats to get the new southerly breeze, and the only option was a long beat along the eastern shore all the way to the finish line at Wicklow. Despite being at the front of the fleet, we were careful to keep focus on racing the clock, rather than just the boats around us. We had to be an hour ahead of our main competitors, and two hours ahead of the next guy. A big ask in steady upwind conditions, but we tried our hardest all day. At the finish it soon became clear that we didn’t have quite enough time on our competitors to beat them on handicap. We finished just inside five and a half days, minutes before midnight on the Friday night. We would have to settle for 3rd in class 2, 4th in the double handed class, and 12th overall. This was a little behind our original aims, but when we did a full debrief we understood that we simply had too much work to do after spending the first two days underpowered. In fact our pace from Fastnet to the finish had been one of the fastest on the water. For this race it just was not to be, but we felt a bit better knowing that we had in fact sailed really well, and would not have done anything differently.

It was a pleasure racing with Hannah. Our layline calls were bang on, both upwind and downwind. Our weather interpretations and navigational tactics were as good as they get. Crew work together was exemplary, usually carrying out hoists, drops and peels significantly faster and better than the fully crewed boats around us. This was a real eye opener to many boats, and confirmed my belief that racing with another successful solo sailor was the best way to go about this race. Added to all that we laughed a lot. I can’t remember another offshore race where there was so much laughing and smiling, with never a cross word. Together we make a formidable team, and I look forward to racing together again in the future.