To be able to race The Fastnet Race, there are certain criteria that must be met:
- The boat must meet Category 2 Ocean Racing standards.
- The skipper and at least two crew members must have Section 6 or Safety and Survival at Sea training
- Two crew members must carry current First Aid Certification
- Each crew member must have raced 300nm offshore within the last twelve months in an RORC approved race
Clothilde, Marie and Sylvia had completed their Section 6 training. Rebecca is a doctor and I re-certified my First Aid. We had a list of jobs to do on Emma to meet Category 2 and we all needed our qualifying miles.
Due to work commitments and other restrictions, we decided to race the La Trinité to Cowes Race, a distance of 310nm, that would give us our qualifying miles in one race. The only hiccup, the race has a time limit and if we failed to meet that, our Fastnet dreams would be dashed. No pressure!
We caught the train to La Trinité-sur-Mer and met Emma. Mark and Rebecca had delivered her down and she was waiting there for us. We were first to arrive and started working through the To Do list to ensure everything Emma met the Category 2 requirments. Mark and Sean joined us for the race but were not included in the watch system so they could sit back and enjoy a cruise up the French Coast and across The English Channel!
|Installing wooden plugs next to stopcocks was one of the myriad of jobs required|
The weather was grey and overcast and we made an early tactical error which had us bucking the tide and falling well behind the main fleet. The wind died out and we struggled up the coast towards the tidal gate of Le Raz de Sein. This is considered to be the passage between the Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel. It can be dangerous to navigate with tides up to six knots and it cannot be traversed on a foul tide.
We missed the tidal gate and lay becalmed for what seemed like hours. To fill in the time, there was plenty of dancing and singing - Sean helpfully providing a soundtrack to our groovy moves!
|'Emma, Emma, here we go again!'|
Finally, finally, the tide changed and 'We Were Riding It, Dude' (to misquote Finding Nemo..). The wind picked up and we entered The English Channel in a squall and screaming along hitting 10kns at times. We dodged ships in the channel and negotiated around the Traffic Separation Scheme that was an exclusion zone for the race.
|Crossing the channel in a Force 6|
We gradually came to the realisation that we had to meet the tidal gate coming into Cowes or we would not finish within the required time period and our Fastnet Adventure would be over. We calculated and recalculated the timing, put the boat in the best position possible to catch favourable current and crossed our fingers. We tacked along the northern channel in Christchurch Bay, north of The Shingles and into The Needles Channel which took us into the Solent and up to Cowes on a fair tide!
It was dark and very calm as the current pulled us along and across the finish line with a full twelve hours to spare before the cutoff. We have our miles and we are now fully qualified to start The Fastnet Race.
|The crew - minus Rebecca!|