Author: Rick

London to Portimao

A short race (equivalent length to 2 Sydney Hobarts) was going to give us a taste of everything. We set off 1st September this first bit being a procession down the Thames to Southend .Tower bridge is opened for us and we parade around for a while. After several hours we anchor at Southend. It is a crowded yacht with 21 on board. There are not enough bunks .I sleep in the sail locker on top of one of the sails. In the morning we find our anchor line wrapped round therudder. Eventually we get it free with12 of us
hauling on the bridle line.
2 sept
It’s a downwind race start in light breezes .We were a bit behind at race start but on high side of line . The code 2 spinnaker is launched , on premise of sailing deeper .
Qingdao ends up well clear with us in the next 5 jockeying for position. The breeze dies and it is like a parking lot. The wind is finally too close for the kite and the windseeker is launched for a short time . Halong Bay seems to get private breeze and sails from 10th into 1st. Finally the Westerly breeze freshens and we are beating toward the English channel.
With too much sail up we have to drop our yankee1. I am on the helm and in trying to luff up to help the crew I accidentally tack the yacht. It is a scary moment as we gybe around back to course as Zhuhai goes past and we go between Date to lead and Bermuda ,We lose 3 places in 30 seconds.
After dark in 15 to 25 knots we are under full main and staysail and make up ground and tack back ahead of Halong Bay .
3 sep
Now begins a relentless couple of days with life at 35 degrees tacking up the English channel.
Support watches become difficult with sometimes 1 or 2 out of 3 people ill.
4 sep
The relentless upwind sailing continues in 15 to 30 knots . UNICEF and Bermuda take a southerly cause and pass the whole fleet. We’re under double reefed main and yankee 2 ,smashing into the steepening English channel chop. If this is what it’s like what will 40 knots be like. At one moment while on the helm the yacht is literally launched of a wave comes crashing down ,everyone on deck is briefly in the air , one of the life raft mounts at the stern breaks. Seumas comments ,I didn’t think we were a plane Rick.

Half the crew are sick , the heads are not functioning ,cooking is nearly impossible.
Eventually we are onto a very long starboard tack for about 12 hours .

Went to bed after we tacked onto but then after an hour we turned left out of the English channel. The heeling and crashing is replaced by rolling and humming of the hull going down the waves,I am lulled to sleep by the new motion of the yacht , what a relief from the previous 2 days. Back on watch at 0400gmt we have a yankee2 and full main and see the light of Zhuhai ahead . We gradually make ground under Ollie and my helming let Seumas know when they are close. He says you’ll need to go above to avoid their lee I said I reckon we can drive under them he says go for it. Finally they gybe away and we cross close behind. Seumas now says do you think you(Sanya watch)can carry a kite,I say yes,we get the code 3 up it is now champagne sailing and feeling great both on deck and below. We now are sitting in 4th and are going for the scoring gate Zhuhai is now 15 miles behind! The first 3 appear to be sticking to the rhumb line.

5-6 September

Came on watch 4pm , we’re going for the scoring gate ,code 3 up ,surfing waves Ollie on helm .Thought we were the only one and suddenly Qingdao pops up crossing to it under white sails on a higher course . It was going to be close .Took the helm at 5pm .We’re hitting speeds of 14 -17 knots down waves ,we were just pipped by them for the 3 points by 1.7 miles but we get the 2 bonus points.
The yacht is surging and surfing overnight , the guys continuing under the code 3 ,woke to the sound of the kite being dropped though the soft shackle on the tack blew . Got up and helped the guys pack the kite down below then on watch 4 am we have gained on Qingdao overnight ,we continue to gain and they gybe away miles astern
The weather continues with 20 to 30 knots and higher .Now under full main and yankee2 and the boat rolling and surfing on the 2 to 4 metres swells , it is like a roller coaster ride and great fun
though cooking in the conditions is interesting .

Wow !!

After our watch the wind and sea state just steadily increased, interesting watching the other watches from below, somehow we made cake for lunch.
By the time we got on watch wind was now over 30 Seumas was at the helm pure poetry in motion .
Took the helm ,had the yacht hit 21.5 knots down a wave,then broached,ie the rudder stalls and the yacht turns violently to windward and you have no control. Recovery is by

dumping the vang and mansheet then straightening the rudder to stop the stall then get back on course then grind everything back on
Then another broach and jseemed after that was able to steer a better course .Handed over to steady Ollie,was steering beautifully then 3 broaches in fairly short succession.Helm to Carl another broach ,now Seumas has wheel and takes a long while to recover it. We are clearly way overpowered with still a full main in 40 knots. We double reef the main.
Seumas steady strong voice from the helm “the boat is going to heel a lot and it is going to be very noisy ‘ 3 of us at the mast Vad,up the side of the mast trying pull down the sail ,me standing on the vang pushing into Vad and pulling down sail as he grabs it anyway some sort of improvisation with hands and a boat hook to get the reefing eye for reef 2 Scott pushing into me and Vad to make sure we don’t fall off the mast and pulling on the handy Billy, the crew in the cockpit coordinating easing the main halyard and depowering the main and all the while Seumas strong voice at the helm shouting instructions and encouragement so we get it done. Now the boat is much better balanced and the 4 helms on our watch are able to better control the boat in the 30 to 45 knot winds and up to 5 metre sea .As she surges down the waves it is a lot of fun
After watch and back in my bunk it is like a roller coaster downstairs . Just before midnight I wake to a crashing and feeling like she’s on her side -a broach .
New watch on deck,the rolling lulls me back to sleep
Up on deck at 4 wind has lightened now peaking at 30 knots and continues to drop ,we shake out both reefs In the main ,it’s amazing how light 20 knots feels .
Boat still feels sluggish ,we prepare the code 2 to be hoisted at watch change. Kite goes up and boat feels great. While prepping the anti wrap net the spinnaker gets wrapped round the inner forestay it is a mess.
Seumas up the mast Jorge up the mast no avail now we’re limping our way into Portugal ,somehow us on support we manage to cook frittata and cake in between trying to unwrap the kite .

Spinnaker wrap

7-8 Sept
Spent a day sailing slowly downwind with spinnaker wrapped round inner forestay , yankee 2 up yachts passing us,daybreak all on deck Will up the mast,Dennis up,Seumas upforestay,all untwisitng it a little,finally a combination of on deck work and Jorge up mast and spinnaker falling to deck and toward water and whole crew pulling it over guard rail before it hits sea
now back on course under white sails and now gaining on yachts ahead ,windseeker up in light airs . The finish become a lottery .Punta who were several miles behind us find an inshore breeze and sail past the whole fleet to win. We finish at 3 in the morning with Unicef,who lead most of the race,back in 6th.First 9 yachts all finish within a few hours after almost 1500 miles of sailing . A bit of everything to whet the appetite for what is to come and a week long stay in the beautiful town of Portimao to recharge.

Gosport to London

Boarded the yacht for delivery on night of 19 August ,then celebrated with 60th birthday with my new friends !

Happy 60th Rick

Slipped lines the following day and once out in the channel there was the mandatory parade of sail and sailing in formation for the helicopter photo shoot. Basically the skippers agree on the sail plan ,we motor with main ,then put up headsail and sail in a diamond arrangement upwind and then peel off downwind one by one.

The rest of the delivery was a fairly chilled affair . Having started upwind in 15 to 20 knots we turned downwind toward Dover in a gradually lightening . We started our 3 watch system ,with the watches named ‘Visit ‘ ‘Sanya ‘ ‘China ‘ which gave us an experience of how things would run in the race. We were able to test all our spinnakers and later all our headsails . There were a few minor incidents such as getting a spinnaker sheet caught under the boat on a gybe. To all of the crew’s relief Seumas kept us sailing around the wind farms outside the Thames entrance whilst most of the fleet arrived earlier and anchored overnight. Along the way bread and cake was baked ,again a test for what is to come.

Finally after rendezvousing with the rest of the fleet we motored down the Thames in formation . Arriving through the loch gates at St Katherine’s Marina to the tune of our team song ,’Adventure of a Lifetime ‘. Race start is nearly here.

Prep Week

People think what I am doing is potentially dangerous. The dangerous time however is when the yacht is approaching or in contact with dry land. On ‘deep clean day I was taking a wet vac full of bilge water up to be emptied. As there was a group folding the old mainsail starboard and aft I walked up to the bow. Next thing I realised the was my right foot had hit air instead of the deck and was falling down the open sail locker hatch. I managed to somehow to grasp the edge of the hatch and break my fall . I sustained an injury to my right side and almost certainly a fractured rib or2,but nothing too serious. It’s a 2m + fall to below : could have sustained a head injury on the ladder or fallen to the boards below and broken my leg . Hatches left open are meant to be roped off.

I didn’t realise I’d paid a whole lot of money to do so much work. The team was just 8 consisting of Luke, Sue ,Liz ,Rachel, Ed , Michelle , Ashfin , Carl plus Jorge and Seamus.My first task was to check over the medical kit ; a task at home I delegate ! Over the next few days we ran new netting round the guard rails ,made new sail ties from old ropes , serviced winches , serviced the jammers. Various other minor tasks and addition inside.
Finally we got our new sails. The headsails needed the hanks numbered ,the spinnakers needed the panels numbered ,strops spliced for the clews , then to be packed ready for deployment. Then all the new lines needed to be whipped and then new halyards and reefing lines run to replace the old ones. Then finally the food . How do you pack 2 tons of food in readiness for an ocean crossing . With expert guidance ,we did. Of course there were a few trips to the Castle for refreshments and BBQ with our new friends and rivals Punta Del Este.

L4 Training.

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!

life at 40 degrees