Great seven day sailing trip last week that took in the varied delights of Swanage, Alderney Week and Weymouth Harbour, as well as a visit to Café du port Omonville la rogue and TWO encounters with Poole Bike Night – not necessarily in that order! A cultural melting pot, as well as a culinary feast in the galley with so many chefs on board. We shot across to Braye Harbour, Alderney in 10 hours from Swannage Bay. The return slingshot path from Omonville to Weymouth saw us barely making north for several hours into the spring tides, despite a heading of 320 degrees. 12 hours after leaving French waters we were safely ensconced in The Stable Weymouth with pizza and cider, recovering from 35 knot gusts (occasional force 6 was the forecast!!). The final day’s sailing was a grand tour of the Jurassic coast, past two pan-pans and sailing all the way through the harbour. Only about six engine hours in total over seven days.
Contact us to discuss your own bespoke trip in 2019.
We are looking for new Company Directors to get involved with Sail Boat Project.
We are a friendly community sailing school, working to widen access to the sea through sail training. As well as RYA sailing courses we offer community work, like our supportive Dementia Sails. We are also involved in importing olive oil and other products from Portugal to Newhaven by sail cargo vessel!
Interested? Can you offer 2 hours a month to attend a directors’ meeting; one day a year to attend our annual review and planning day; plus some time to support an aspect of our work?
Register your interest by contacting us by Monday 19th March. Induction given.
Time and enthusiasm is the most important thing to offer! But some skills and experience that would be great are: supervision of staff / sailing background experience running a small business / accounting & finance experience
Last week saw Newhaven Harbour welcome Nordlys, a Sail Cargo ship that had travelled all the way from Portugal. Despite the weather, there was a great turnout excitedly awaiting the arrival of the ship and the organic olive oil on board. Have a look through the photos to see the entrance to the harbour, the unloading, and some of our happy customers!
For more information or if you are interested in getting some olive oil for yourself follow the link below to the Sail Cargo page.
Course length – 50 nautical miles. Number of boats – 1400, give or take a few. What?! Start time – 0620. What again?! And we weren’t the first …
The Round the Island Race (round the Isle of Wight, just in case you’re not familiar with it) has been running since 1931. This year, conditions were perfect and a new course record of 2 hours 22 minutes 23 seconds was set by the trimaran Concise 10. We weren’t anywhere near that but, just under 10 hours after we started, we crossed the finishing line – what would be our position?
The weekend had started as normal on the Friday morning at Itchenor. Also following a familiar pattern was the appearance of another new crew member! Our new skipper for the Fastnet, Jake, joined us for the first time. Jake’s been sailing since before he could walk and was in the UK youth Laser squad before moving on to crazy single-handed ocean racing in his self-built mini-Transat 6.50. He’s sailed around the Fastnet rock several times but never as part of the Fastnet race and brings a wealth of racing experience. Mike was at a wedding so we were 7 for the race – Jake, Ben, Dhara, Trevor, James, Farouk and me.
We didn’t hang about for long at Itchenor, motor-sailing gently down the Chichester Channel and up the Solent to Cowes, on the way discussing the intricacies of spinnaker hoists, gybes and drops. The wind was north-westerly force 3-4 and the sea state calm, good conditions for spinnaker practice, and so we turned downwind just west of Cowes and set to work, rotating roles so we’ll all understand and be competent in each aspect when we’re on the Fastnet.
We were booked into Cowes Yacht Haven and were lucky to be the last to arrive on our pontoon; we rafted up as the outermost boat, which meant we wouldn’t have to wait for anyone in the morning or have footsteps over us all night. As you might expect, Cowes was heaving! 1400 boats with an average of 10 crew plus visitors – that’s a lot of extra boats and people. Nonetheless, we found a delightful, quirky Indian restaurant on the High Street and had a sensibly early night.
Saturday – race day – dawned rather grey and a little chilly, but clear skies were forecast for later. We also had three new crew members – Roy, Paula and Gail joined us for the day and brought a surprising degree of chirpiness for 5am!
So many boats! Starts were every 10 minutes from 5.30am till 7.10am and there were yachts of all shapes, sizes and competence jostling for position, with shouts of “Starboard!” echoing all around… Our big new genoa, on its second outing after the Morgan Cup, didn’t give us great visibility so Farouk took the lookout position on the pulpit, doubling as figurehead and bow fender!
The Round the Island Race goes anti-clockwise so we headed west from Cowes. Jake found us some clear air and kept us away from danger before handing over to James to fetch comfortably down to the Needles. Things got a bit crowded as boats gybed and hoisted spinnakers round the rocks and we headed down to St Catherine’s Point, the southernmost tip of the island. It was a beautiful, spectacular sight, hundreds of yachts with multi-coloured spinnakers flying in bright morning sunlight.
After a bit of port-starboard silliness by others at the start of the leg, James and Trevor decided that they wanted to be fresh for the second half so headed off down below while the boat was on a nice even keel, helped by our three day crewmembers who were doing a first class job of camping on the rail! Conditions were perfect for Farouk, who’d been relieved of bow duties, to practise his trimming, easing the sheet until the spinnaker luff started to curl, and then grinding it back in on the winch; ease, grind, ease, grind…
Two hours later we gybed round St Catherine’s point and found ourselves on a fine reach heading up towards Sandown Bay, just managing to keep the spinnaker flying, dropping it as we hardened up towards Bembridge. And then it was tack-tack-tack up to the Forts, keeping away from the shallows off Ryde, criss-crossing with countless other yachts trying to work out how best to buck the tide that was now flowing against us as we made our way back to Cowes. The wind was easing too, of course – “I don’t believe it – foul tide and no wind at the end of the race – how often does that happen?!” quipped Dhara.
We decided to head over to the mainland, out of the main tidal stream and into clearer air, taking a close look at the little Stokes Bay Sailing Club youth dinghies as they zipped around the buoys. Things got a little crowded again as we neared the finish and had to put in a few tacks. We crossed the line at 4.11pm, 9 hours and 51 minutes after the start.
It was good to arrive back in Cowes at a reasonable time so we could freshen up and enjoy the evening’s festivities, prior to a gentle sail with a little more spinnaker practice back to Itchenor on Sunday morning.
I nearly forgot – what was our finishing position? We were quite pleased to find that we’d finished in 418th place. Top third – we’re getting better. Star Wars Episode 7 is The Force Awakens – I think some competitive spirit is awakening in this crew 🙂
Next up – the Channel Race on 22nd July, last one before the Fastnet on 6th August!
A lovely weekend of Solent sailing with Jalapeno and Karic both out working. We rafted both boats together at anchor in Osborne Bay on the Saturday evening for a swim around the boats, followed by a joint dinner. Lovely moonrise/sunset and a chance to identify the navigational marks in the Solent light up during dusk, a great way to apply learning from our navigational theory courses.
Regular readers may have noticed a Star Wars theme to the titles of the last two blogs. I was wondering how to twist “Episode 6 – Return of the Jedi” to fit our marathon trip to Guernsey and could only come up with “Return of the Jaded”, but this doesn’t accurately reflect our feelings at the end of an exhilarating run back to Itchenor (of which more later). Yes, we were tired, very tired, but definitely upbeat. Maintaining the science fiction theme, perhaps “Sleep – the final frontier” might be more appropriate?
Anyway, here we go – The Morgan Cup weekend. The event dates back to 1929 when the cup was donated by a member of the Morgan family (of JP Morgan fame) and is traditionally a cross-Channel race. It’s designed to last 24-36 hours and starts on a Friday evening from Cowes. With at least one night sail and a distance of up to 160nm, the race is good preparation for crews planning to do the Fastnet.
We gathered on Friday morning at Itchenor. There were a few new faces and some missing ones – Jason had withdrawn for health reasons and Luke, Mark, Phil and Woody had also decided not to continue with the Fastnet campaign. Dhara, Trevor, James and I were happy to be joined by Ben, Mike and Farouk. Ben is Sail Boat Project’s Chief Instructor and very familiar with Jalapeño, Chichester Harbour and the Channel. Mike’s a trans-Atlantic two-timer who recently completed his Coastal Skipper qualification with Sail Boat Project (SBP) and Farouk is a regular SBP volunteer. Farouk is also in his early twenties, bringing very welcome energy and sleep-deprivation-resistance!
We spent the first few hours getting to know each other, refamiliarising ourselves with Jalapeño and going through the plan for the race. There was quite a lot of discussion about watch patterns as the old Navy four-on-four-off that we tried on the De Guingand Bowl Race didn’t give us enough rest time. We settled on trying 3-3-3: 3 hours off-watch followed by 3 hours on stand-by and then 3 hours on-watch.
We motor-sailed gently over to Cowes and went through the normal pre-start routine of circling the committee boat displaying items of safety equipment – this time our air-horn and radar reflector – before focusing on the start. A westerly force 4-5 and a downwind start meant that we had to be careful not to overshoot the line as we headed for the Forts at the eastern end of the Solent. Ben guided us calmly and confidently away from Cowes and we settled into our watch system, with James and myself first up, taking Jalapeño past Bembridge and round the Nab Tower before heading south into the Channel as the sun set at the end of our watch.
The two night watches – Dhara/Mike and Ben/Trevor/Farouk – had the fun of taking us most of the way through the shipping lanes, as the big ships made their way between the Traffic Separation Schemes at the eastern and western ends of the Channel. The watches were mostly uneventful apart from a sharp tack to avoid a head-on collision with another yacht – we were on starboard but it seemed they hadn’t seen us under their genoa. James and I resumed at 3.30am on Saturday to do the last bit of weaving past the tankers and container ships and were lucky to see the sunrise before we headed below for some rest.
Sailing conditions continued to be almost perfect and we made good progress south-west towards Guernsey, leaving Alderney and the Casquets buoy to port and feeling hopeful that we’d get round Hanois Point, the south-west corner of Guernsey, just over 10 miles from the finish at St Peter Port, before the tide turned against us. But of course we didn’t. The wind went flukey and then died, leaving us in a potentially dangerous situation just off Hanois. Our skipper decided to motor to get us away from danger, and we steered perpendicular to our desired course so as not to give us a racing advantage.
The light winds and foul tide cost us at least five hours, possibly more. We crossed the finishing line off Castle Cornet at 2.00am on Sunday morning and pulled wearily into St Peter Port harbour. 4 hours later we were off again to catch the tide through the Alderney Race. Despite the short sleep, we all felt quite refreshed, possibly because the boat hadn’t been moving for those 4 hours!
We were straight back into the watch system, James and I taking us past the island of Herm towards Alderney through a slightly misty Russel Channel. The wind built steadily through the day and into the evening and by the time we passed the Nab Tower we were in a good south-westerly force 6. Jalapeño was surfing down the waves and for the last couple of hours we averaged well over 8 knots. Mike, on the helm, couldn’t stop grinning!
Trevor had put together a passage plan to take us up the Chichester Channel to Itchenor as part of his preparation for the Coastal Skipper course and, in the dark (10.30pm) and on a strong flood tide, he guided us safely in. 31.5 hours out, 4 hours in Guernsey and 18 hours back. Good preparation for the Fastnet!
Next up – Round the Island! Over 1000 boats and a 70-mile course – should be exciting!
Yes indeed, the RORC De Guingand Bowl race. Designed to last 24-36 hours, the Ging-Gang starts and finishes in the Solent and its course changes each year depending on the tides and weather. We had been expecting to set off south towards Cherbourg but the forecast was south-westerly backing southerly, leaving the prospect of a lot of tacking for boats that didn’t reach Cherbourg fast enough, so this year we went most of the way round the Isle of Wight twice (intentionally!) with a run down to Anvil Point off the Swanage peninsular.
We met in Haslar Marina in Gosport, on a slightly chilly Friday morning. It was the first time that all nine of us had been together, because James joined the crew after the Sea Survival training weekend and Phil and Woody were away on our first training sail last month. We spend the morning re-familiarising ourselves with the boat and catching up with each other, and doing various bits of boat maintenance and checks to make sure we had all the right gear for the race the next day. Perhaps the most challenging task was to get 2 huge sheets of orange sticky-back plastic to stick to our storm jib – James, Luke and Woody passed their auditions for Blue Peter!
In the afternoon we sailed gently over to Cowes Yacht Haven and completed a few more last-minute bits and pieces (the dodgers with our sail numbers had gone missing so Jason and Trevor did their own Blue Peter “here’s one I made earlier” trick) before repairing to a local hostelry to talk race tactics.
Race day dawned and the marina was a flurry of excitement. By the time we crossed the starting line off the Royal Yacht Squadron at 9.10am, the early morning rain had cleared and we had our sunglasses on and were splashing on the suncream. Up went the spinnaker with Woody leading the foredeck crew as we headed east up the Solent, leaving No Man’s Land fort to starboard and heading south past Bembridge on our way to St Catherine’s point, the southern tip of the Isle of Wight.
It’s 40 years or so since I came on holiday to the Isle of Wight – Blackgang Chine and all that – and I’d never sailed round the island before, always passing through the Solent, and I loved every minute as Luke, Woody and Mark steered us a steady course past spectacular cliffs and sun-drenched beaches. We changed watches at 4pm as we approached the Needles and Jason, Phil, Trevor and James took over.
Luke, Woody, Mark and I were back on at 8pm and it was starting to get a bit breezy. With Jason and Dhara’s help, we worked on getting Jalapeño nicely balanced and, with one reef in the genoa and main and the wind gusting 30mph, we whooped as she comfortably hit 10 knots on a close reach on the way down to Anvil Point, where we turned round for home. We felt a few drops of rain towards midnight and Jason generously offered to take over early so we wouldn’t get wet before going off-watch. It turned out to be a very kind gesture as the wind and rain really kicked in over the next four hours, giving Jason and his team an exciting time! They coped admirably and, despite the worsening weather, sleep came quickly to me and I awoke quite refreshed just before 4am for our next watch.
As chance would have it, both wind and rain had had enough and our 4am-8am watch was actually a little too peaceful. Unfortunately – and, to be fair, not surprisingly given it was our first time on Jalapeño – we had dropped a bit behind our schedule and ended up bucking the tide for much of the previous 12 hours, but the flood tide was with us now and swept us across to St Catherine’s Point and up the east coast of the Isle of Wight.
The wind picked up and, 28 hours and 13 minutes after starting, we crossed the finishing line in glorious sunshine once again.
Next stop – the Morgan Cup on 9th June. And this one definitely will be across the Channel, to Guernsey. May a south-easterly Force 5 be with us!
Chichester Harbour, Itchenor Reach, just before noon. There’s a south westerly force 3, the sun is shining on a beautiful spring morning and the Sail Boat Project Fastnet 2017 crew are together on our boat, Jalapeño, for the first time. We’re tacking down the channel to the harbour entrance trying to avoid the Saturday morning dinghy racers as they zip around with spinnakers flying.
“Hmm, it’s not that wide, this channel”, I muse as I take the helm from Trevor for the first time. I glance at the depth meter – 6m, OK. I have a look around and notice we’re approaching a channel marker buoy. “Get ready to tack!” I shout and the crew slips into its routine, impressively slick after just a few minutes on the water together.
I want to hold this tack for as long as possible and look for the depth meter again. Dammit, there’s someone in the way – the cockpit is quite crowded with everyone on deck for our first sail. I ask him to move and … 1.5m! “READY-ABOUT-LEE-… oh.” Jalapeño gently comes to a stop on the soft Chichester mud midway through the tack. We back the genoa and, with a little nudge from the engine, we’re free. “Nice of you to take the pressure off the rest of us” Mark quips as we set off down the channel again.
There’s a lot to learn. And not just about the boat or sailing or navigation. 13m by 4m is not a big space for 9 middle-aged men to share for a week. NINE middle-aged men?! Yes, we’ve been joined by James, who’s also sponsoring our adventure through his recruitment company BRS Global.
Fortunately, we’ve all spent a lot of time on boats, most of us know at least one other person reasonably well and – as Mark showed earlier – everyone has a ready sense of humour. Dhara, first mate and one of Sail Boat Project’s founders, links us all together: Luke, Phil and Woody have done half a dozen Round-the-Island races with Jason, our skipper, and are old school friends. Mark has known those 3 lads for some years and he and Luke know James through Brighton Surf Life Saving Club, Brighton Sailing Club and some crazy masochistic keep-fit thing called Spartan. Trevor’s been helping Jason rebuild one of his boats for some time and did a lot of electrical work on Jalapeño. It turns out I went to the same school as Luke, Phil and Woody, a few years ahead of them, and we have friends in common, and I’ve known James for years – we once tried to sail round an island in the North Sea in Hobie 16s but 4m waves got the better of us … Only Phil and Woody were missing this weekend, as they were on a rugby tour with their sons.
So, the sailing. We gathered at Itchenor on a gloriously sunny April morning and spent the first couple of hours familiarising ourselves with the boat basics – safety equipment, sails, engine, galley and heads. Once out of the harbour, we set about building ourselves into a well-oiled machine, starting with learning how to change the genoa. We had three on board (plus the storm jib), the biggest a huge 145%, and hoisted and stowed all three several times during the weekend. We took turns on the helm, with Dhara coaching us on buoys, landmarks and underwater hazards as we made our way west into the Solent between the Forts, and Jason giving us tips on sail trim.
As the sun set and the wind dropped, Dhara helped us identify ships and buoys by their lights and we made our way gently into Cowes, very eager for some hearty refreshment! The food and drink did their job and Jalapeño rocked gently through the night to a chorus of basso profundo, baritone and tenor snoring …
Fully refreshed we awoke to a just-boiled kettle as Luke took on the role of principal morning tea-maker. Not long afterwards we were heading east past Ryde, hoisting the spinnaker and trying to work out how on Earth we supposed to gybe the thing. 20 minutes is OK in daylight, force 1-2 wind and a flat sea, but in the middle of the night in a gale and Atlantic swell? We’ll need a bit of practice …
The wind dropped to barely a whisper as we completed our man-overboard drills and approached the entrance to Chichester Harbour, so we treated ourselves to another of Dhara’s fabulous lunches as we dropped the sails, motored back to Itchenor and reflected on a fun and educational weekend.
Next stop – our first Fastnet qualifying race! Time to do it for real. 3 days and 160 nautical miles. It’s the De Guingand Bowl Race on Friday 12th May – may the Force be with us!
I spin round and catch sight of the flames starting to blaze in the corner just a few feet away from me. Everyone’s shouting; alarms are blaring. It all melts into a single disorientating racket. I can’t think straight. It’s getting hotter. What do I do now? Who’s doing what? Where’s the fire extinguisher? Is it the right type? How does it work? It’s getting really hot now. “JOHN! HAVE YOU SHUT OFF THE ENGINE?!” Er …
“PREPARE TO ABANDON SHIP!!”
Ross from Vortec Training takes pity on us and opens the door, allowing us to escape into the cool, fresh spring air. He puts out the fire and turns off the alarms. We breathe more calmly and try to think about what’s just happened.
All of us in the crew have spent quite a lot of time on boats of various sorts, in difficult conditions at times, and have had to deal with incidents and emergencies in different situations, yet we would have lost the boat and perhaps some of the crew if that had been for real. We’d met each other briefly a couple of hours before, exchanged greetings and had an introduction to the course.
Ross then took us to the simulator – codenamed Pressure Cooker – and explained the controls and what was about to happen. But he’d only explained it once. And we hadn’t drilled it. This was one of the themes of the weekend. Practise as much as you can the things you can practise so they become automatic. Do them again and again and make sure everyone can cover different roles. This will give you more brain space to think about the situation you’re in.
Because, in an emergency, there are very few “in this situation, do this” rules. But there are guiding principles, aids to prioritisation.
We’ve just spent a weekend on an ISAF/RYA Offshore Safety/Sea Survival course run by Vortec Training in Port Solent. On Saturday, James, our trainer, focused on what you can do to avoid forfeiting the race and get the boat home still afloat with all crew on board – hence the fire-fighting training, as fire is one of the most serious hazards on a boat. We examined races and events where, tragically, lives were lost, and from which important lessons have been learned. One of these was the 1979 Fastnet, after which many improvements in safety equipment were made. Another was the 1998 Sydney-Hobart, which highlighted the importance of training – not just having the equipment, but knowing how to use it, and more generally what to do when things turn against you. In both of these races some boats finished, battered but intact. They weren’t the biggest boats, but they were the best prepared.
On Sunday we looked at what to do if you can’t get your boat home. The first thing is – stay with the boat as long as possible! It’s your best liferaft. When do you abandon ship? Only when you have absolutely no other choice.
What would we want to take with us on a liferaft if we had to abandon ship? What would we expect to find already on a liferaft? How much space is there to take all the stuff we’d like? (Answer – not a lot!) How can we be best prepared to make sure that we can get our hands on everything we’d need? And if we could only take a few things, what would they be?
What are our priorities?
PROTECTION (shelter, warmth) – LOCATION (be found) – WATER – FOOD.
How long will you survive if you’re immersed in water? 3 hours at 15OC. If you’re lucky. 3 minutes at 5OC. If you’re very lucky.
What does my PLB do? Is it AIS or EPIRB? What do these TLAs mean?! Flares. Hold the cold end! Read the instructions well before you need the flare. Be familiar with your equipment.
We learned the Survival Rule of Three: 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water, 3 minutes without air.
We ended the day in the pool, getting very familiar with each other climbing in and out of a four-person liferaft (it’s tiny!).
It might never happen but … if it does, I’ll be glad I did the training … again. I first did the course 5 years ago and I realise how much I’d forgotten, or never really taken in. It was also a good intro to the rest of the crew – Jason, Dhara, Luke, Mark, Phil, Woody and Trevor – I’m sure they’ll have my back if I need them.