Kinsale – Santander

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.