This final blog is long overdue and since arriving back in Plymouth it has been difficult to snatch any time to gather my thoughts and put them on paper.
I won’t make you read to the end to find out the result. I am finding it difficult to keep quiet about it.
We won! We won!
The Shed sailed across the finish line yesterday afternoon, 1st in Class and so the winner of IRC overall.
This is a fantastic result and Phil and I are over the moon. It has been a lot of effort, but we have been rewarded wit the prize we wanted.
The final two days of racing have been excruciating.
The high pressure that has been affecting the South coast coupled with the strong tides that run around headlands has made sailing conditions fickle and frustrating. With every puff of wind we have been sailing the boat as hard as possible, and when the wind dies, we have been drifting or anchoring, stomach in knots, boats from behind approaching.
The good times have been sailing The Shed well. Our beat up to the Bill was the best the Shed could have been sailed. We concentrated hard, watching the numbers come up on the displays, speed, VMC, wind strength wind angle. Altering course, changing between sails; there was a huge pleasure in knowing the boat was performing, in paying so much attention to detail and acknowledging that a decrease in speed of just 0.1 knots was not acceptable and must be addressed.
The flip side was the agony of losing the wind; I looked at our track off the back of the Isle of Wight; a big circle and another one off the Bill.
Sitting, waiting, wondering if the others have wind, are they catching us, have they overtaken us. Trying not to believe it has all been lost, trying to stay focussed and positive – something I did not manage all the time – I am afraid my Mum got the worst of it when she rang me at 3am and I happened to be in mobile range.
The chapter came to a close off start point, with the pack 6 miles behind, the wind again died. This time we anchored in 64m of water, and waited, binoculars on the horizon straining to see our competitors. Only 25 miles to go and it all to lose.
The wind filled in we had to lift the anchor and go, after a lot of straining we agreed we would cut the anchor free as we could not afford to spend an hour battling to retrieve it. With that, the line became slack and I pulled like a wild woman and up the anchor popped.
We spent a glorious hour trying to pace Izara, the Figaro, on the home stretch, daring to believe we had done it, spirits high, enjoying the breeze, counting down the miles. Then the wind died.
It is hard to describe this feeling. Phil summed it up with,’You are having a laugh?’
We sat and wallowed and waiting, I have to admit that even for this rufty tufty sailor the tears were prickling my eyes behind the sunglasses, I felt so powerless.
I looked behind and on the horizon was what appeared from my perspective to be a wall of advancing sails. Just the silhouettes, black and menacing, in my head they were the pack Taika, Jangada, Fastrack, Comedy of Errors, baying for our blood, teeth bared and we were sitting ducks.
The mental determination to remain positive and believe it would work out was immense.
And it did.
The wind filled in, we started sailing, I counted up the speed, cheering when we hit 2 knots, 3 knots and positive whoop at the 4 knot mark. All the way to the Plymouth breakwater.
From out to seaward a boat appeared sailing along the breeze line. I know it was Taika, they were going fast and had spotted wind we had not. At the breakwater they over took us, we fell into another hole and the oars came out.
Speaking to Chris and Kim afterwards, they said they had never rowed so hard as to stay ahead of us, and we were the same, getting The Shed up to a whopping 2 knots under oar power.
A final hoist of the spinnaker and Taika rocketed off, The Shed following to the finish.
Taika took line honours for class 3, finishing some 5 minutes ahead of the Shed which crossed the finish line, spinnaker up and winners on handicap of Class 3 and overall winners of IRC.
The blur afterwards has lasted to today, champagne, kisses, hugs, hand shaking and back slapping. We have been on the balcony of the Royal Western cheering in as many finishers as we can, giving each the reception they deserve after such a race.
We are proud and happy; we feel we got the result we deserved if hard work and determination are a measuring factor. What a race.
Bring on the next one.