Cruising Reports

October all over?

On our way to winning 3 Peaks yacht race 2018

October all over–traditional saying about hurricane season

Rumours that Wild Spirit and I may go our separate ways are true. From next December to about July 2020 I should be sailing slowly across the Pacific with Aussie Bruce and there seems little point in keeping a yacht in one of the most expensive marinas in the UK if I am not going to use it. This just part of the story, winning the 3 Peaks Yacht Race in 2018 was a pinnacle and from the top there is only one way. Having run Wild Spirit for 15 years I have made a lot of friends and contacts in the sailing world so I am wondering if anyone has any sensible suggestions for a way forward that doesn’t involve never sailing on her again. There seem to be a few options. My company owns WS so I could sell the company so she remains Coded and with a berth in Lymington Yacht Haven (waiting list). I could go for a Yacht fraction scheme but have no real knowledge of how these work plus live 96 miles from Lymington. Finally I could just sell her via a broker and accept their 5% fees through gritted teeth. This last option doesn’t appeal so much as I suspect that her new Carbon sails, Dyform Rig etc will not be reflected in the valuation. I also have a website, about 14 sets of Oilies and many spares which I would have to through in at well under their value. We have run on a ‘Not for Profit’ basis for about 10 years as once, whilst also doing some consulting, I did make a profit and had to pay Tax. Since then, most years we have given at least £1K to charity, but it would be wrong to think you could make a sensible living running her out of Lymington Yacht Haven. Probably looking at October —any sensible suggestions, do please drop me an e-mail at [email protected]


Cheap ways to get afloat

Seen in Hobart Harbour after the Sydney Hobart race.


Sailing Reports

The Cherbourg peninsular is notorious for its strong tides and the RORC race there was a day after spring tide when up to 9 knots of tide can be encountered. Our start was more tense than normal as our normal Bow man was not on board. This meant a crash course in spinnaker work as we motored up to the start line against strong tide.

We crossed the line just after the gun and hoisted a spinnaker to set off east towards Selsey Bill. The line I had chosen reflected the relative inexperience of the foredeck crew rather than the best for tide etc so it was a surprise when we realised we about 6th in the class as we neared the Forts.

In varied winds we ran past Nab tower and then Jibed down to the mark off Selsey before settling down for a run across the channel on winds that were much stronger than had been forecast. Had these winds lasted we would have made excellent time but instead breakfast found us in company with several other competitors off Cap Barfleur and struggling with little wind against an increasing foul tide.

With 60 metres of depth anchoring was not an attractive option and we worked hard to reduce the speed at which we going backwards. The tide eventually turned and we made progress again in very light wind.

Approaching Cherbourg the wind dropped below 2 knots and it was clear that we would struggle to finish before the tide turned. Determined sail trimming and no unnecessary movement of crew kept us going and we just managed to work our position on the eddies of tide to arrive at the Western entrance with a few minutes to spare.

As we rounded the end of the harbour breakwater the tide drew us in and we lost all wind. Along with 3 other yachts we were now drifting backwards towards the finishing line.

We readied the anchor to drop it at the stern and immediately recover but the redistribution of weight alone allowed us to turn and we were able to regain steerage and make a fraction of a knot to cross the line some 26 hours after the start.

This was one of the most exciting finishes we have experienced and we were all tired. There was however more to come.

We set off back to Lymington as it was too late to eat out in Cherbourg. A watch system started and I was fast asleep until 0400 when the engine suddenly stopped. My initial thought was that perhaps we had at last been blessed with wind but it was in fact 25 metres of fishing net round the prop and rudder.

We were in the middle of the channel and at the limit of VHF range. I considered the options and decided against Andrea kind offer to go over the side. There was fog about but we were in a clear patch and between the 2 main flows of shipping.

I spoke with Solent Coast Guard and commenced half hourly Securitee broadcasts while we waited for some wind.

The wind did not come but instead Scarlet Jester a smaller competitor came to us and offered a tow which we accepted. We were now making less than 2 knots north towards the Isle of Wight but there was a possibility of some wind and we had reasonable visibility.

I had not issued a Pan Pan so was surprised when the Coast Guard called us to say the Yarmouth lifeboat was on its way. An hour and a half later . . . → Read More: Sailing Reports


Day Skipper Course

The last Day skipper course was a Sunday to Friday one and we were fortunate to have 4 students on board who could all handle a yacht fairly well. With mixed weather we sailed in winds between 5 and 28 Kts and did some of our night hours sailing round the South of the Island with tide and Wind at up to 10 Kts Speed over Ground.

The RYA require 100 miles minimum and we did 165 including visiting, Cowes, Haslar, Portsmouth, Southampton and Yarmouth. Excellent company made a for really enjoyable course. All 4 students have indicated they want to sail on WS again and 2 have already booked to do so.



As a general rule, on a Yacht off the South Coast, if you can hear the MAYDAY being transmitted then you may be close enough to help.

We had just come through the overfalls off St Albans Head in 20 Kts of SW with the tide when we heard Mayday Polly. We were informally racing against Turning Point a Bavaria 38 which had been berthed alongside us in Yarmouth and were now comfortably a mile a head.

Hearing the MAYDAY I immediately put the crew on close watch with a quarter each and then heard the Coast Guard respond.

The conversation was along these lines.

CG—What is your position?

P-We don’t know

CG-Where have you come from.


CG—Several questions about speed, course etc with the only useful bit of information elicited that Polly had passed 2 light houses.

P—I can see a yacht.

At this stage Turning Point suggested that the Yacht Polly could see was Wild Spirit and I spoke to the CG reporting the crew had been on close watch but we could not see any vessel other than Turning Point.

CG—Polly do you have any flares on board—Polly found One and fired it then reported it had failed. But for a second or 2 there had been a red light which Rob had seen and was sure about. Based on Rob’s observation I then moved the Cursor of the GPS onto Polly’s position and both us and TP turned around and beat back towards it and the now rather white looking Race.

Polly confirmed she could see both of us heading towards her and we spotted her with Binoculars. Shortly after we had turned and confirmed the flare fix visually the Swanage lifeboat came round the Headland and would clearly arrive before us. I spoke to Portland CG and we were released to continue our passage to Cowes.

Apparently Polly was a 7 metre fishing boat with engine failure, she had been purchased the day before—I make no comment about the wisdom of trying to take such a vessel against tide and wind through a renowned tidal race at Springs.


70 Mile Spinnaker Run

Le Havre Race

The bank holiday traffic meant that 2 of the crew decided to go direct to Cowes and we would go up the evening before the race on the tide. Unfortunately 2 other crew plus enough provisions to ensure Waitrose makes a profit this year were delayed on the M3 for a couple of hours. This meant that we did not reach Cowes until around 2330 and by the time we had tied up etc the pubs were closing. We did however recover the 2 crew who had been forced to eat a huge Tandoori washed down by copious quantities while they waited.

This was our first Royal Ocean Racing Club race of the Fastnet campaign and we would be content with finishing safely/ acquiring the qualifying miles. Also in the race was Space Race a first 40.7 crewed mainly by former Wild Spirit team members and we were keen to beat them as well.

After a good start we beat down to the needles then turned on to a spinnaker run which was to last most of the way to le Havre. The wind was better than the light ones forecast and we cracked on with the Asymmetric ‘Flying Pig’ at first, changing to the Radial Spinnaker later.

Some confusion arose at the Finish line and we, plus some other yachts, passed the wrong side of the committee boat, fortunately a few minutes later I realised this and we sailed back on whites rounded it and finished correctly but almost half an hour later. Despite this we just beat Phil and his team on Space Race by 6 minutes and came 81st out of 106.

Our next RORC race is the Eddystone on the Bank holiday weekend.


Scrambled not shaken

Nab Tower Race—Our first race of 2009 and against teams that had been racing throuh the winter. The wind was gusting to 25 knots and a flooding spring tide suggested this would be a cracking race. It was indeed a cracking race; with 10 minutes to the start requests for information from below were met with little response, later I learn’t that this was due to a cupboard door being opened at the same time as a gust of wind. Considering there were 2 crew members available to catch the contents I continue to feel that they should have caught at least 1 of the plates or the dozen eggs but they did not.

We crossed the line about 10 seconds late, whilst others suffered recalls, and we were soon doing 11 kts SOG. With the wind gusting to 30 kts I decided against a spinnaker as we surged down the Eastern Solent. Just over half of our class went for spinnakers so we saw some impressive broaches and a few wraps. About half way down the leg we noticed a batten coming loose on the main and we had to drop the sail, refix it and hoist again—this cost us afew minutes but was well executed by the crew.

We rounded Nab and began tacking back against gusts of up to 37 apparent and pulled back a few places. I joined the crew on the rail and a few minutes later suddenly found my feet in the water as the Helm was deceived by a gust and wave into heaving to. Calling out kind words of consolation I rejoined him in the cockpit and we tacked back onto course. (Do not try this trick on a less stable boat without prior consent of all the crew).

Once we had passed the Forts we we beat down the final leg in style except for 2 short tacks to round a mark before crossing the line at 11 kts SOG to come 18th out of 25 in class.

Sunday saw us out in the Solent and the only yacht with a spinnaker up, with just 2 kts of true wind we flew the spinnaker on the lightweight sheet and then practised with the flying pig which responded well in light winds and even better as the breeze freshened to 15 kts.

. . . → Read More: Scrambled not shaken


Race Training and New Rigging

Wild Spirit is now back in the water after her annual lift out.

Ocean Rigging have replaced all the standing rigging and incorporated modifications to the backstay adjustment to help give a few degrees higher pointing when beating into the wind. This step was taken after detailed consultations with a Naval Architect, the Sailmaker and the Riggers. The cost was significant and in combination with the new sails it really does work.

I have just returned from the annual RYA Yachtmaster Instructors Conference. A well attended and fairly interesting event, the inevitable ‘How’s business?’ question was frequently asked. As far as I can tell new yacht sales have stopped but other parts of the sailing game continue fairly well. Lymington Yacht Charter who look after Wild Spirit for me were certainly receiving bookings when I was sat in their office last week.

One of the things about conferences is that there are trade stands with special offers and with up to 50% off I ended up buying new navigation instruements, charts, teaching aids etc–in fact I spent more than the cost of the conference, lets hope they really were bargains.

Marinas; however seem to be having a tougher time with special offers, particularly if you sign up for several years. It looks like Cowes week and the little Britain will be hit hard by sponsors withdrawing. If you or your company are interested in either of these I will give you a very reasonable quote. You may get a cheaper deal elsewhere, but we will still be in business on the day.

If you are a keen sailor with some experience and qualifications, but suddenly no job, you could consider working on a tall ship via the Sail Training Association. You don’t get paid much but it is good experience and looks well on a CV.

Our IRC Certificate for 2009 has changed to reflect the new sails and has gone down which is to our benefit. I queried this with Peter Sanders who made the new sails and on further research found that the previous measurements we had been supplied with were wrong so we have been racing at a disadvantage for the last 3 years. This probably would not have made much difference for our Royal Ocean Racing Club results, although we may just have made the top 10, but for our RIR result of 124th it would have made a significant difference.

The material used for these sails is similar to Mike Perham’s round the world attempt—see Practical Boat Owner Feb 2009 p70


10 knots and a Red Deer

The first part of a Day Skipper and Competent Crew course was distinguished by good weather and we anchored overnight in Worbarrow Bay. We rowed ashore and walked up to Tyneham the village evacuated as part of the preparations for the D-Day landings. After having taken in the marvellous surroundings and seen the houses, church and school we returned through the woods towards the Bay only to come upon a Red Deer Stag who continued to graze oblivious of us stood 10 yards away.

You can only visit when the range isn’t firing and part of the course is to ascertain when this is without getting shot, fortunately the would be Day Skippers passed this bit OK.

Our other stops included Studland and Cowes in a programme which had to be modified due to less wind than forecast.

The first weekend in September was a windy one and we swapped from the Royal Ocean Racing Club race to Cherbourg to the Junior Offshore Group one to Poole. This involved merely beating out of the Solent into a gale as opposed to crossing the whole channel against one. There were numerous retirements and we were happy to finish 12th out of the 25 who had entered. The return race from Poole to Cowes was 27 miles and we had the Spinnaker up almost all the way in 20kts of wind. We came 8th out of the 25 entered in the class covering the 27 miles in 2 hrs and 46 minutes and one second—just under 10 kts speed over ground which included some exciting surfing, one minor spinnaker wrap and a couple of minor broaches.