Clearly the Fastnet is quite different to any of the other racing I have been doing recently. For any runners reading, here is an explanation (this is what I have been told anyway, as I am not exactly an old sea dawg myself)...
The Fastnet is one of the classic ocean yacht races. The start is from Cowes on the Isle of Wight, the route most boats then follow is along the south west coast of England, around the Lizard, throught the gap between Land's End and the Isles of Scilly, then turn and head for the south coast of Ireland, where at the western end is a small rock with a lighthouse on it - predictably called Fastnet Rock. After rounding the rock boats head back towards the Scillies, this time around the south of the islands, then east along the coast to finish in Plymouth. I was taking part in the race on a 40 ft yacht called Wild Spirit, with the eight other crew. Finishing times are anything between sub-48 hours for the fastest multi hull boats to nine days for the smaller boats. We were expecting something between 5 and 8 days (apparently it depends on the wind).
|Wild Spirit 2011 Fastnet Team|
We rounded the rock at just after 9am on Wednesday, 40th of 68 starters in our IRC-4 class. Just after the rock the winds faded, and for a while our online tracker showed us doing some reversing! It is at times like these that the experienced sailors start to do things with the sails and steering wheel that the rest of us (ok, just me) understand about as much as some sort of witchcraft. At these times I do as I am told. My 45 degree tea-making has come on nicely! Anyway, once we got going again we seemed to make our way quite quickly back towards Cornwall, via an incredible evening with sunset, dolphins and even a sperm whale.
Being a northerner, I was not sure where Plymouth was, so was surprised to hear that it is quite far west, meaning that the return leg from the rock would be significantly shorter than the way out. It didn't seem to take long at all, at least until nearly the end. The end of the race was amazing, as we came in to around 5 miles to go, we started to see lots of green (starboard - right) lights, around 30 boats... Quite amazing to be so close together after five days! The wind dropped, we were all now up on deck, willing the wind to hold on enough to keep moving, whispering and moving around on tiptoe where necessary to try to keep some momentum.
|Nautical items in this picture: Spinnaker, Cleats, Coachroof, Sheets, Bruce|
The race was brilliant, and I am very grateful to Paul and the rest of the crew for the opportunity to race, and also for their patience with my inability!
PS: It really was a classic race this year, with both the multihull and monohull records broken by Banque Populaire (1d, 8h, 48m) and Azzam (1d, 19h, 39m) respectively, and the favourite capsizing near the rock (all here).