Up or Down a gear?


Yesterday was not a day I am going to cut out and keep in my scrap book of memories.

It should have been a really nice day.  Following six days of demanding racing with a new crew on every day, I peeled off on Thursday night leaving Ash to bag our Cowes Week 2nd in Class on Friday  while I had a wonderfully chilled out sail across Poole Bay bringing our Fastnet entry Flair IV up to the Solent.

Thank goodness we had the forethought to prepare the boat so thoroughly a couple of weekends ago, tools, spares, food, water, clothing all neatly boxed and bagged down below it really appeared there was not much to do on Saturday to prepare for the race start Sunday.  Cowes Week is tiring at the best of times but this year seemed especially challenging with lighter and variable winds the focus and concentration required to keep the boat moving was immense and at the end of the day my brain just wanted to relax, not start thinking about a 600 mile race to Ireland and back.

The plan for yesterday seemed so simple: go through the safety checklist, buy fresh food, top up with diesel and water then prepare the race navigation. The sun was shining, there was a gentle buzz of activity around Cowes Yacht Haven as Cowes week boats left and those flying the white and green Rolex flag arrived to take their places but the Gremlins were seriously ripping it up on board Flair IV and my mood descended from quietly confident, through slightly stressed to complete despair by 1700.

The boat was fine, all physical sailing things were in good order however yesterday my aged lap top which I brought with my earnings from Cowes Week in 2009 decided to finally let go.  In truth it was about time; this lap top has had a more exciting life than most, it came round Britain and Ireland on the Shed and even did my qualification for the mini transat. Perhaps a Fastnet was just one offshore race too much for an aged machine.

The palaver that followed I am not sure I will ever be able to look back on and laugh, phone calls, emails, downloading programmes, finding they won’t talk to other programmes on your new computer, trying to recreate all of the familiar settings and short cuts into the night when you are stressed and tired will never be considered as fun.

Perhaps it wasn’t the wisest of decisions to compete in Cowes week and then go straight on to a double handed Fastnet race.  Cowes week is an entirely different pace of racing it is intense but short, you have time to turn off between races, opportunity to put things right the next day. Offshore racing is always on and we are looking at days of sailing to cover this 600 mile course. Yesterday I was struggling to find the right gear to move onto a very different sort of racing.

Thanks to Nick White at Expedition in New Zealand who was helping me on a Sunday (thank goodness for the time difference). I am all set up and ready to go.

The skippers briefing last night was rammed full of expectant sailors clamouring to hear an encouraging word about the weather; the talk on the dock is of super yachts stashing more water and food and sailors being removed from crew lists as this race is looking long.

Light and Variable winds force three or less’ was the well-used phrase in our weather briefing last night and the grib file I have downloaded this morning is saying nothing different for the next couple of days.

This race is going to be a long one, but finally Ash and I are ready and we are up for it. And for those that are wondering, despite the fact we will be sailing the same size boat as in Cowes week but with 10 crew less on board, there is no gear change required. We will still be pushing as hard as we can, but lifting our gaze to the horizon instead of the next mile of water.

Follow our progress on Flair IV here


Follow our progress on Flair IV here


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