The forecast predicted this was going to be a tough one, but it seemed to get worse by the day as the weekend approached. Thursday morning and the decision had to be made – should we enter the race? In some ways I think the late entry prepared and geared us up for the race. We knew what we were letting ourselves in for from the start and still chose to take part…! It was either that or perhaps neither of us wanted to be the one to chicken out!
With forecasts of 40+knots and big seas the decision was made to postpone the start by 3 hours to allow the worst of it to blow through. Our ‘prologue’ to the race, across the Solent for the original start provided a great insight into what we would be up against and gave us a bit more time to prepare ourselves. Double-checking that everything was well secured and anything important was in a dry bag, as well as attempting to waterproof my now leaking oilies.
4 o’clock came quickly and saw just 15 of the original 38 entrants on the start line. We set off battling into the ferocious waves with wind against tide, trying to maintain boat speed and keep driving through the waves, not easy in a light boat with no bodies to put on the rail.
The beat out the Solent was full on with waves regularly crashing over the deck. Once through Hurst, where we saw 42 knots true, we had to battle through the Needles Fairway to catch the last of the favourable tide. The waves were massive and irregular making it difficult to keep momentum and resulting in a number of waves swamping the boat! We hit one wave that picked me up off the deck and deposited me headfirst into the cockpit, bending the foot bar and conveniently turning the auto pilot on with my head!
Confirmed – Oilies still leaking!!
In an attempt to find flatter water we took the scenic route to Eddystone hugging the coastline during foul tides, staying inshore off, Swanage, Anvil Point and St Albans, Exmouth, Torbay, Brixham, Dartmouth and Salcombe….tempting!
A bonus for a heavy weather race was the clear sky till late evening and a night sky illuminated by the stars. The fair weather continued through Saturday with the wind averaging 20/25 knots with gusts up to 35.
As we reached Brixham we picked up Winsome on AIS nearby. At this point we discovered we were one of only 3 boats still racing, thanks to the live updates on the RORC Facebook page.
We caught a glimpse of Magnum 3 as we reached Dartmouth, very jealous that they’d made it round and were enjoying the joyride home! We then picked up an updated met office forecast that announced more gale warnings in the area expected “soon”!
Rounding Eddystone at 6.10pm we quickly hoisted the kite for the sleigh ride home. The forecast gales caught up with us in Lyme Bay, with a sudden increase from 22 knots to 37 with a 30-degree shift … interesting in pitch dark!! While we were preparing for the spinnaker drop we were screaming along at up to 17.5 knots holding on tight, fluorescence everywhere, a moment I will never forget. I’m not sure I’ve ever smiled so much before in my life – but only once it had been confirmed that the mast wasn’t going to snap!!
Sailing with white sails only was something of an anticlimax – still a long way off the finish but with the wind consistently above 30knots and surfs over 14knots, we crossed Winsome again off Anvil Point.
Crossing the finish line at 06.11AM only 12 hours after rounding Eddystone, finding we had won the prestigious Myth of Malham Trophy was the cherry to top a great race.
Big congrats to all who finished, a great achievement, one that has confimed us all as just a bit crazy! As much as no one believes me, I thoroughly enjoyed the race and given the choice I would definitely relive it!!
Max Wind Speed: 42 knots.
Max Boat Speed: 17.5 knots.
Photo Credit: David Ballantyne