|The Fastnet Race - that doesn't look too bad!|
Setting the scene
Emma is a cruising boat, twenty glorious tonnes of gleaming aluminium with all the creature comforts - air-conditioning, microwave, freezer - that one would expect on well-appointed cruising yacht. She was loaded up with a tonne of spares, lots of warm clothes, cockpit cushions, cosy bedding and a galley filled to the gunwales with tasty food. VERY few race boats would choose to compete this heavy.
Emma's sail wardrobe consists of a main, a furling headsail, a furling staysail, an asymmetrical spinnaker and the mandatory storm sails. This is quite a lean selection, and a slight disadvantage, compared to other competitors who race with far more sail options. For the non-racing sailors, furling sails do not allow trimming the sail to an optimum shape - they are designed for ease and convenience. The relatively sparse selection of sails would cause most racing aficionados to shake their head in dismay.
The upside of being a cruising yacht is that Emma can be sailed with a small crew, just six. And the six, as gorgeous and experienced as we all were, had sailed only the qualifying race together. We had limited experience aboard Emma and we could count on one finger how many times the spinnaker had been hoisted!
The likelihood of Emma winning was very remote but she would keep us safe. We resolved to have fun and be kind to each other - our goal was to finish before the parties did!
We wove out of Yarmouth and headed towards the identity gates. It was windy, around 25kn and raining. Visibility was limited and there were boats everywhere, many sporting the bright orange of their storm sails. We hoisted ours, received the nod from the officials at the gate and headed away to prepare for the start.
We had three reefs in the main and the stay sail, as we tacked to run for the start our staysail slid down the stay – the halyard had broken.
Under the race rules, anchoring is allowed. So the sensible decision was made to anchor up, make repairs to the halyard and let this system blow through. Nearly 90 yachts retired overnight and the Coastguard reported 28 incidents, including one boat that sank.
It took us days! The first boats were finished before we rounded Portland but we kept on. Finally, we were out of The Channel and off the Scilly Islands working our way past the Traffic Separation Schemes that were exclusion zones under the race rules.
|We did enjoy some glorious sailing!|
|The calm gave us time to shower and wash our hair - a luxury unheard of on most racing boats!|
Pubs! Do we really need to finish? We could just start the engine and be at the pub in an hour with a nice cold beer and this yacht racing silliness behind us. We could just do that!
We were not deterred by the strong winds, the adverse currents or the gear failures. It was the calms and the bobbing going backwards that almost did us in! After what seemed like hours of chasing the slightest puffs of wind, Emma started to move. One knot increased to two, then three and before we knew it, we were once again skimming towards The Fastnet Rock.
We had some sporty weather heading across the Irish Sea. But Emma loved it and kept us safe and dry. In rainy, windy and foggy conditions, we closed in on Ireland and The Fastnet Rock.
|The off watch stayed snug and warm and just look at those smiles!|
|We're nearly there!!|
...finally, The Fastnet Rock!
|The Fastnet Rock - can you see it??|
A downhill run back to Cherbourg
|Thanks Marie, that's exactly what we all needed!|
Despite the valiant efforts of Clothilde and Rebecca repairing the spinnaker, we were unable to fly it for the rest of the race. The wind picked up and died off and picked up and the miles slowly, slowly ticked down. It was frustratingly! The nights were beautiful with a sky filled with stars. And a sight most venust that I had never before seen - dolphins with a bioluminescence trail.
|Repairs to the spinnaker took five hours - and ALL the repair tape onboard!|
The Alderney Race or Raz Blanchard
|Still smiling after almost seven days of racing|
|Who needs to make the party - we had our own!|
|The race finishers' sign|
|Our prime position - usually reserved for the race winners!|
|Team photo by Rolex|