Ok, after sailing around the world with Clipper, what to do next?? Well, I ended up being in the UK for 7 weeks this summer doing more big boat sailing. First draw was Clipper Events entered a boat in the 2017 Fastnet race. Thought that after the Sydney Hobart it might be fun to add another one of the Rolex 600 mile races so I got into that. In order to do this I had to do a sea survival course and two qualifying races with the crew and then the Fastnet. There were 9 of us on the crew plus a skipper and 1st mate. Some of the crew were past Clipper round the worlders, past Clipper leggers, a charter captain (also Yachtmaster), a Norwegian racer, and a few doing Clipper legs in the 17-18 race.
Our first qualifying race was the Morgan Cup which was a race from Cowes to Guernsey, France.
That was interesting as we were the last start and already our skipper, Andy, had warned us that in our start our rating was not the best. Hmmmm? Then the start and within 5 minutes, all the sleek asymmetrical spinnakers on much lighter boats were gone and we were still hanging out by the starting line. You might know the feeling? We were the only ones with a symmetrical spinnaker and on one of the Clipper 68s with vintage sails. (If you look closely at the spinnaker you will see it was from the Clipper 11-12 RTW race.) So much for a tight reach. Also our boat had successfully gone around the world on 3 of the Clipper races and been a training boat for 12 years. Lots of miles under her and lots of weight.
Our boat with spinnaker on last of the race. After the depressing start, and about 6 hours of racing I came up for watch and wow, we were in a pack of boats…those with slower ratings that we seemed to pass for the rest of the race.
However we did get to feel better later that Sunday when we returned to the Solent and Skipper Andy asked if we wanted to stay out in the wind and practice or go in. We all voted to stay out as the wind had picked up and we were enjoying the ride. So we ended up racing 5 of the Clipper 70s that were doing a practice race and came in 3rd!!! We felt better then. Andy is an amazing racer!
Just for grins I will share a shot of our suite!! Believe it or not it is much smaller than the Clipper 70s we raced in 15-16. These boats however did do several round the world races and I am not sure how they managed. Not sure how anyone survived the RTW on the 68s. Amazing people I guess. No sail locker so we were right there with the wet sails and even on our short journey everything managed to get wet.
The big long black thing is not a giant worm…no it is just one of the sails.
The next Fastnet training was Sea Survival in Southampton one day and then at the clipper office a second.
Next qualifier was the Channel Race from Cowes racing around the Isle of Wight with some other fun marks.
This one was interesting as the winds were pretty exciting the whole race. Also the official race course that was actually decided the morning of the race is what Andy has on his phone. They like to keep one in suspense. We were down to 8 crew as Kathy’s mom was put in Intensive care and she took off prior to race start.
Not sure how Andy was able to plan this one. Yes, we beat all the boats that he said we would be competitive against both in this race and the Morgan Cup.
To check in at start of race each boat had to display their reflector and fire blanket. Richard and 1st mate Judy. This race was wild…lots of wind!!!, rain and anything else that could come our way. This race we came in 16 of 23 and beat the 4 boats that Andy said we should be able to beat plus three more! They all actually dropped out of the race but they were far behind us when they did.
End of the race was a bit hairy as the winds and the rain decided to come play.
Sounds like we just worked hard…well, yes but we still had time to have fun. My crazy crewmates Chris, Richard and Maggie with Bob our overboard man. And Denise working hard and Bob and I just having fun
2017 FASTNET RACE
After doing the qualifying races and training, it was time to prepare for the Fastnet.
1st, eliminate all extra weight on the boat….extra foul weather gear of which there were approximately 20 sets, take off the extra spinnaker pole (when explained how they used to gybe with the two poles I was more than happy to do a dip pole gybe and make sue the other pole was not on the boat…besides it was REALLY heavy), all excess equipment that we would not be using, excess lines, reposition the anchor and if we could think of it something would disappear including Bob. All our personal gear that would not be used was put up in cars.
Here we are eliminating the Velcro patches that no longer stayed velcroed over the staysail hanks.
Andy and Craig (maintenance rigger) tuning rig.
Next is our version of cleaning the bottom with an old line and then a dinghy with a sponge vs. the Volvo boats with a diver scrubbing the bottom every morning.
I bet they have new sails too!
Andy checking the course and the tide schedule and the weather. Weather reports were not so good as they changed every hour. After the Channel race he predicted that we would finish the Fastnet in 4 days, 2 hours plus or minus 30 minutes if the weather was close to normal for early August. However….they were not so good so we played out in the ocean a little bit longer!
Andy proved himself to be a master of planning with weather and tide. Great privilege to sail with him.
Boat officially ready to go with Rolex sticker on bow, Sail numbers on the side and Rolex Flag on the backstay.
Below is the race course and the dark yellow line is our course.
Had to check in at start line with storm sail up.
Of Course some storm sails were bigger than ours!
Below is the biggest multihull I have ever seen. The motor boats following it looked like little ants waiting to be crushed should it flatten out.
And then there are always last minute fixes prior to race start.
Some of the action by the starting line. With 400 boats out there it was a bit exciting. Just glad they had several starts.
My favorite Volvo boat on its way to pass us from behind. Great theme!
Andy wanting to race the Volvo group.
Love it when we are on starboard.
Looking ahead about one hour into the race…..lots of boats in front of us…probably around 375 of the 400. But just wait.
This boat ended up grounded. Story is they had to wait 6 hours for rescue boat due to it was diverted for a bigger emergency.
Passing the Needles.
OK, I just like nature. The racing was getting too intense.
Finally, Fastnet Rock!! Winds were pretty light and shifty here.
Andy getting the time we passed a specific point.
Yes, we have now passed all those boats…very cool but most are in the slower classes. It does make one feel good to be able to look behind!
No he is not texting, he is checking the course and weather. We are close enough to land to do that and one doesn’t have to run up and down to nav station or shout out.
And there is the boat SPARTAN with Gretchen and Clipper friend Javier on it. They were fortunate that Javier noticed they were going the wrong way as he came up to go on watch in the night. The navigator check and they had to turn around and retrace steps. Probably why we had the pleasure of seeing them behind for a bit.
Most of the team once we arrived. Couldn’t round up everyone due to beer line.Maggie, Judy, Andy, Tony, Anders, Me and Chris
And a chance to see favorite clipper buddy Javi (and later met up with Clipper buddy Craig) and Gretchen.
Gretchen and me with my coke! Love those boots!
Going back to Gosport. Awesome skipper Andy and 1st mate Judy with me at the helm
Our final team. Chris, Tony, Richard, Andy, Anders, Denise, Maggie, Judy, Helen and me. Kathy was with her mother in intensive care and Nick home with bruised ribs from the Channel race.
What I learned in History!! Why would there be both an American flag and a British flag at this location in Plymouth??
Turns out the Mayflower loaded up and sailed from here in July 1620 to America. The Pilgrims are on the way.
What else did I learn? Never to think that a big spinnaker would gybe like a J22 chute. You know, just ease a little and let it float around? HaHa! When you release the line from the winch, let go!!!!!
So the Fastnet Saga is done. Next up will be training for 17-18 Clipper Round the World Leg 8 and Day Skipper Practical.
There will always be a beautiful sunset!