Arrived in Gosport UK for the final phase of training for the Clipper Race. On board our yacht Cv29,now branded Visit Sanya China, a few differences are noted between these and the 68s.Firstly much wider at the stern ,built for sailing downwind ,no ‘snake pit’ with the cabin entrance further forward and all winches on the side of a longer cockpit , easier to traverse up forward while connected but narrower bow. Down below most of the bunks are toward the stern and a separated sail locker means no stepping on sails to get in your bunk.
On board were skipper Seumus, ‘AQP’ or mate Jorge ,and the 12 crew ,11 men and one woman. After the usual introductions and safety brief we headed out from Gosport . There first part of the training was practicing manoeuvres with other yachts. Towing another yacht ,being towed , transferring items from one yacht to another. Then we went sailing and anchored off the Isle of Wight for the night.
Next few days we settled into a watch system and just kept sailing . Practicing various sail evolutions ,reefing ,shaking out reefs ,changing headsail ,raising and dropping spinnaker etc. Coming from a dinghy sailing background ,where we like to sail the boat as flat as possible ,is getting used to the constant of these yachts when sailing upwind . Next time you go up an escalator(e.g. at a rail station) ,look at the flat metal next to it. Now imagine that tilted a further 5- 10 degrees toward you . You have to cimb up that to get to the high side of the yacht and downstairs it’s the same and difficult to get around and go to the heads ! In your bunk sleeping ,you have to adjust its angle as when you are sleeping on the low side you are being thrown into the side of the hull and on the high side the yacht tries to throw you out of bed.
On one watch the new foul weather gear was to be severely testedand whilst it wasn’t that cold for England ,it was for me. We were sailing upwind about 2 In the morning under main and staysail and Seumus says ‘I need 3 or 4 of you to go forward and ties down the yankee which is trying to blow over the rail. ‘ There was a bit of panic up at the bow when Ed thought I was tethered to Tammy rather than the jackstay but turned I was doubly secured . Every wave we hit while tying the sail down we were showered with each wave the boat hit. I was pleasantly surprised later to find on the inside I was almost dry. Next morning we sailed towards the lee of the Isle of Wight ,at one point hitting a speed of 17 knots under main and the code 3 spinnaker. Again we anchored and and prepared for the practice race the next day.
After a fleet sail past and practice photo session and a practice start we started the practice race. It was blowing maybe 20-25 knots ,we were under double reefed main ,staysail and yankee 3. We hit the favored end of the line just after the gun , but we’re lee bowed by another yacht I think, Bermuda and couldn’t climb out of there so Seumus wisely tacked away ; his plan was to go to that side of the course anyway . This paid off as after we tacked back we crossed the whole fleet. Now my dinghy sailing experience was saying tack ,but you do lose a bit of ground each time you do. We stood on for a while and when we crossed we were back in 3rd or 4th . After rounding the first there was a short run then followed by a long beat to the Needles . We started our watch system just shy of the needles and sailed on with reduced crew up top. Seumus well timed tack for the mark put us in first 2 boat lengths directly in front . We turned towards France on a beam reach remaining under headsail. Later on the watch we shook out one reef from the main . After coming back on deck in four hours we were full main yankee 1 ; the other watch had worked hard! The breeze was lot lighter and before the wind backed there plenty of stars to steer by and several meteorites. There lights everywhere in the distance ,hard to tell what is vessel and what is a mark . The other watch came up and we soon tacked for the mark off France still sitting in about 3rd or 4th. From memory we set a spinnaker and then went off watch.
We come up on watch ,I think at 4pm. We were still under the code 1 spinnaker . I figure we were in Punta close just abeam of us. Seumus had again picked the right side of the course. We took over from the other watch ,thought they remained on deck as the finish was relatively close .We kept edging away from Punta. I spent the next 2 hours standing on deck trimming my favourite sail . Didn’t realise how much Seumus needed to round up at the finish and nearly collapsed the kite on the mark , but Ed and Will responded well to my order of GRIND. So bonus on our training we won the practice race ,hopefully a sign of things to come. There was a lot of highs and lows amongst a great group if somewhat testosterone charged . A particular personal low which Spokesy made me pay later for at the Castle.
Looking forward for what is to come!