Sailing Report

3 Peaks and Volvo Round Ireland Race Reports

3 Peaks Yacht Race
A smaller yacht than last year, Tactixs a 26 year old X99 as Dee Caffari has the Reflex 38 we won with last year. With 3 sailors and 2 runners the 33 footer was fairly full but now we have a TV Cameraman as well filming for Channel 4 and SC4. Roland is 6 feet 5 inches and whilst a lovely person he does get in the way.
A steady start from Barmouth and we sail up to Bardsey sound fairly well, then beat against the tide sometimes using eddies very close to the shore. We have some serious competition this year from Dee Caffari plus Elin Haf Davies and her professional crew on a fast 40 footer.
We are not the first into Carnarvon but thanks to our runners we are the first out. But we have no wind, so we start rowing only to find the Southampton OTC yacht overtaking us under engine. We check, they are right and can motor to the next buoy marking the edge of the harbour limit; we have started rowing to soon and lost some valuable minutes. Minutes matter, we have just finished the first leg in second place, one second behind another yacht on corrected time.
The wind is light and the tide is against us so we often have to row in the Menai Straits. We reach the Bridges as the tide turns in our favour but we are rowing again and our 2 runners row as well. A long slow night of sailing follows as we desperately look for wind. Eventually and with more rowing we make it into Whitehaven where Alex and Pavel are off up Scafell. They will be at least 6 hours; we go for a Steak followed by a rest.
We are the first out of the lock and have a narrow lead as we start the 3rd and longest leg up to Corpach by Fort William. The forty footers are just behind us but their extra length gives greater hull speed and they slowly pull away North. We round the Mull of Kintyre as the wind dies and we have to row again, the boats in front still have wind and the gap widens.
We struggle on towards then Sound of Luing and past the notorious whirlpool of Correyvechan as the wind returns but now it is from the North and building to a gale. We beat on up the Loch through the narrows with its tidal ‘Gate’, with up to 40 kts across the deck we slowly make progress. At least we don’t have to add any more to the 40 miles we have already rowed, but it is still seriously hard beating into a gale on a 33 foot yacht,
Our runners have rowed and been soaked in cold water on the rail but they are soon on their way up a windy mountain, at least with the appalling weather the paths to the summit should be uncrowded.
Alex and Pavel’s time for the run is beaten a day later by a well-rested pair from Moby J on this leg, but they are still King of the Mountains and we finish 3rd overall on corrected time. We celebrate and sleep; I await Nimrod sailed by Paul Love-Williams. Nimrod, the Go-ape yacht, had engine failure and they have had to do even more rowing, if there is a prize for sheer determination it must surely go to them. Paul arrives and after a few hours sorting things on board we are off to Glasgow airport and our flight to Dublin for the Volvo Round Ireland Race.

Volvo Round Ireland
We are tired but ready, the team assembles on Friday ready for the Saturday afternoon start, Geoff Johns delivered Wild Spirit arriving on the Thursday and we are more or less good to go. The skippers briefing is delightfully Irish and lacks the speeches and multiple mentions of sponsors that other big races do. We are worried by the weather but Vincent from Met Eiran is delightfully honest ‘Sunday night, God only knows what you will get’.
65 entrants from around the World including some of the fastest in the World and we get off to a good start. We know we can’t beat Rambler or Pheado so we are focussed on our old friends and rivals on Desert Star, which has very similar characteristics to Wild Spirit, and is sailed by IOSS a local sea school run by Ronan.
We run quickly round Wicklow Head and set off south to Tuskar Rock as the wind dies and the tide turns against us. We end up tacking close in shore in shallow water with Desert Star just ahead. We tack on through the night and as we run down the South East coast the wind picks up. It is not quite a Gale but the seas are big and we beat on into it for 30 hours, yachts are retiring, but with the Heavy Weather Jib up and 2 reefs in the main we are comfortably powered up and by the time we pass the Fastnet Rock Desert Star is behind us.
The run up the West coast was reasonably fast with great views of the spectacular cliffs and rocks. The seas were big and at times the wind dropped so we needed multiple sail changes and ended up with 2 damaged spinnakers plus Code Zero. We sewed and stuck on patches and managed to pull away from Desert star.
The run along the top of Ireland was fast and it looked like we would get round Rathlin Island on the tide, but just as we arrived the wind died altogether and it was a further 5 hours before we clawed our way south away from Rathlin and its tidal races.
We tacked on south against a SW wind which died near Dublin. Desert Star was 9 miles behind so we looked safe. The wind came back but filled in from the North giving Ronan and his team considerable advantage. We tacked slowly southwards and then when the wind reached us accelerated down towards the finish in the wind shadow of the Mountains.
We crossed the line well ahead of Desert Star but then had to wait for the corrected times to be calculated. We were with them in the Bar when we learnt we had just beaten them. A few drinks followed despite it being only 0800, after that some rest and a few more drinks. We sailed 845 miles to complete the 708 mile course, that is an awful lot of tacking. We beat sailing Logic and a couple of other sea schools but Lynx a Reflex 38 raced by Irish National Sea School pipped us into 2nd place to take the sea school trophy.
The celebrations continued but Brexit was a major factor, with virtually all the sailors present wondering what on earth the British electorate had done.
21 of the 65 entrants didn’t finish a seriously tough but thoroughly enjoyable race. Still the best 600 race in the world by my reckoning and many of the other skippers would agree.
The delivery back was ‘Brexit struck’ as JC had to rush back to work. This left me plus 2 Day Skippers, Ben and Chris, plus Luca, a Competent Crew, to do the trip. A fast run down the Irish Sea in West F5 to 7 saw good progress and as the wind dropped near dawn we motored round Lands End in good weather and then put into Falmouth to meet up with Pam a regular Wild Spirit and Round the World sailor for Dinner.
The next day we sailed up to Brixham with up to F7 from the South and had a pleasant night there with a meal in the ‘Lusty Wench’. With conflicting forecasts of between F5 and F8 it was important to get the tide right at Portland Bill and we arrived just as it turned to the East. The wind was WSW 6 or 7 with gusts into the top 30s and we sped along achieving 14.8 kts on one surf towards Lymington and Home; 407 miles all under whites.

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