Category: Sailing

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.

Clipper Training level 2&3

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Thought it was about time I put pen to paper . Ventured to Sydney again for level 2 training in early June. Met a whole new group of people with only Juscinta from Wellington from our level 1 , and 13 others , 2 more round the worlders ,Phil and Jackie , none from my yacht ‘ Visit Santa’s all from Australia and NZ ,Stuckey as skipper ,Will first mate and another teacher Trev who went RTW in 17-18 . Part of this was a 2 day sea survival course which was part classroom part practical . Afternoon of day 1 was in the pool , jumping in wearing life jackets , survival swimming ,denying life rafts ,getting them from the pool deck and from the water ,righting capsized ones and cramming 12 people at once into a very confined space . The main thing you learn is you never want to have to get in one. Due to the long weekend ,Sunday was on the yacht at dock doing the mandatory clipper safety briefing and race crew assessment . Second day of the course was mainly is the classroom with an exam at the end . To conclude we got to have some fun letting off flares from a small jetty in Rushcutters Bay.
Following day we slipped lines and headed out of Sydney harbour but not before a man overboard drill with Sophie going in the water to rescue Ruth the dummy. . Wind was a light to moderate NE so we set a course to windward up the coast toward Pittwater . It was soon apparent that the Humpback whales were migrating up the coast in large numbers and we were treated an ongoing display.
In between whale watching we practiced tacking manoeuvres and reefing and unreefing the main. As the breeze was dying out we headed into an anchorage Refuge Cove for the night rather than drift around.
Following day ,after another MOB drill, we tacked up the coast into a steadily increasing noreaster. We were to sail all night and have our first experience of a watch system ,split into an ‘odds and evens ‘ watch ,3 hours on. We took the first watch from 1800 to 2100. With the increasing breeze we put a reef in the main and continued up the coast . On retiring to bed at 9pm the water rushing past my leeward(port) bunk lulled into a blissful sleep, for 45 minutes. I awoke to the boat going through a tack and now on port tack we were straight into the waves and the noise and motion made it difficult to sleep. When I came up on deck at midnight I expected to see 3 metre seas but they were no biggger than previously. On our second off watch sleeping was much easier with us having changed to a more off wind course.
Next day we gybed down the coast in a Southerly direction and then set a spinnaker for the first time. First experience for me of an asymmetrical kite. We all had a go at trimming the kite and helming with the kite up. After a letter box drop of the kite ,having sailed south of Sydney we worked our way back up wind . On the way a loud noise from signalled the shackle on Yankee halyard failing ! We returned to Rushcutters Bay to complete our trip.
Level 3 I was doing as were 6 more from the previous week and we had 5 incoming for a crew of 12. I’ve now met 31 crew and none are on my yacht ! After slipping lines and raising sails another MOB drill was to occur so I volunteered to be the rescue swimmer . The procedure is to be connected to the mast via a headsail halyard and take another halyard with you connected to a rescue hook. After being lowered over the rail it is just like being out on the trapeze on a dinghy except it’s a 70 foot yacht. The first pass we missed MOB with the boat drifting away ,2nd with the casualty to leeward we were nice and close . Basically you’re lowered in the water ,make contact the casualty attach the hook to lifting strops on their life jacket or put the rescues strip around them if unconscious. Then the crew winch you both back on board . It was pretty cool doing this in a warm flat Sydney harbour but having to do the real thing would be quite different .
Our level 3 was pretty much repeat . More whales ,more manoeuvres, unfortunately less spinnaker work than we were expecting ,more emphasis on sail trim ,making the boat go faster ,a little odds and evens watch competition on on VMG to windward . And more beer and rum at the CYCA. Every time I sail it just whets my appetite for more . Just as well.

Clipper Training

Clipper level 1

March 1 arrived for Clipper level 1 training at Sydney. Met skipper Stuckey and 1st mate Lindsay, one other circumnavigator Angie currently living in Taupo NZ, 10 leggers from all over , nsw ,qld , Wellington Seattle , just 3 aussie born I think ,bunk allocated, familiarization ,allocation of duties ,brief safety brief ,dinner prepared by skipper and 1st mate , beer at Cruising Yacht Club of Australia . (Didn’t realize what a recurring theme that would be )

March 2 , breakfast at 8 ,all day alongside , allocated foulies, lifejacket tether , deconstruct life jacket and blow up , safety briefing above then below deck , lots of safety stuff and getting to know the boat and rig etc , we send Stuckey up mast to check rig , dinner ,just a couple of beers at cyca. We’re all itching to get sailing .

March 3 breakfast, then Brian ,an air traffic controller , and I are the day’s ‘engineers’ on the roser ,check engine generator , bilges , deck check ,then the fill the water tanks .
Get ready to sail ,yankee number 3 brought up on deck and readied . The sails are heavy . Boom tent disassembled. Last test we have to get on boat via a ‘spring line’ ,ie stepping on a rope -part of the agility test . We motor out of Marina into a busy Sydney harbour . Hoisted main in behind shark island ,hoisted yankee lots of tacking in a busy Harbour .
Was 1st trainee to take the helm just before open water , and steered us out through Sydney heads . Staysail was raised and we all took turns on the helm as the breeze gradually built up to 25 knots. Kept tacking up the coast . A reef was put in the main whick took a long time as couldn’t get a spare winch for the topping lift .
Went round Barrenjoey head into the Hawkesbury where we circled around in flatter water while the day’s ‘mummies’ prepared dinner. Then we went out for night sail . The noreaster was still blowing at 25 knots with 1- 2m swells and clear skies with the stars easily visible. After clearing Barenjoey heads I got to take the helm , fine reaching towards the Southern Cross. Every so often we hit a bigger wave and spray douses the crew further forward but rarely the helm. After a period of time we tack and find a course toward Barrenjoey lighthouse. We’re on a reach back now towards Orion’s belt. My first time helming a boat at night was one the trip highlights for me. Brian takes over the helm a bit before Barrenjoey head. We finally pick up a mooring well after midnight and are tucked in at Refuge Bay. We start an ‘anchor watch’ overnight.

Rig climb Glen tailing ,Juscinta and John grinding .

March 4 we’re all day on mooring. Showed new engineers the ropes , have a swim . Most of uus do a ‘rig climb’ .It’s not really climb .You have a climbing harness to which are attached 2 halyards both with a bowline and a snap shackle. Then a couple of people on the coffee grinders winch you up the mast. Got to the top of the mast and the height(27.3metres) makes the big vessel look small and there are great views . I might finally be getting over my fear of heights. They have to know we can paddle a dinghy so we have dinghy time trials round the yacht . We do man overboard practice to get use to the mechanics and teamwork required for such an event. We rigged the storm jib and trysail so we get familiar with them. Anchor watch at 2.30 am tomorrow for me .

Stuckey on Helm ,Glen on main ,Dot swapping preventer ,Angie and I chilling

March 6 ,we get underway after breakfast and all have a go at steering with the emergency tiller. Sails go up and we throw Ruthy(our MOB dummy) in the water do a man overboard drill. We make few errors ,such as dropping the sails before Stuckey has heaved to . But we learn a lot from the errors . We tack out past Barenjoey head with our timing improving as we go. The seas on the exit a rather steep I presume due to some wind against tide. We set a reef in the main an activity that has to co-ordinate multiple crew- 4 at the mast,a busy pit crew ,one on the mainsheet. We ease sheets and sail downwind toward Sydney,again in 20-25 knots. We set up a preventer and do multiple gybes all the way. Once through the heads there is lot of traffic to avoid ,viz ferries ,49ers ,18 foot skiffs, before we get to the marina. Beer at CYCA.

March 7 ,no wind ,assessment et al on the dock. Beer and meal at CYCA.

March 8 deep clean of yacht. The 98 nautical miles we sailed has just whetted my appetite. An enjoyable week with a great and varied bunch of people. k