The Fastnet race is tough. It’s easy when you do a lot of offshore racing to under estimate the challenge of this course. If 350 other boats can do it then it must be fairly straight forward right? Well the answer to that is firmly no. Every one of those boats that makes it round the rock and back to Plymouth in one piece deserves respect for all the hard work preparing and toughing out the 450 mile beat. Matty Adams and I learned the hard way what happens when your homework on the dock isn’t what it should be and the little niggles become big problems.
Our race didn’t start as smoothly as it could have done with a bit of over eagerness on our part, probably a result of the hundreds of match races we have done together, lead to us being over at the start. Then to make matters worse as we battled it out with the longer heavier boats tacking up Cowes green we managed not to hear our number being called out on the Radio. It wasn’t till fellow Figaro competitors Henry and Henry hailed to us on our first cross that we realized our error and headed back to the line, against the tide. This thirty minute deficit at the very start was a bitter blow and did nothing for morale on board.
The next setback was a ill fitting lid on our spare diesel can down below which lead to a nasty fuel smell and slippery downstairs area for the rest of the race as the rough Solent chop spread the red stuff all over the place. After this not too much went wrong for a while as we got into a rhythm between us sailing the boat hard upwind and enjoying the sight of being ducked by Ramble at the needles! We had a bit of a slow time at Portland as we had to stay well offshore to stem the turning tide and lighter winds but things were going ok. A slightly random and unexpected autopilot failure on the first morning made things a bit harder on deck and gave me some head scratching to do down stairs with a screw driver and a multimeter.
Then distaster struck, I was checking the nav situation down below when the boat came upright in a way that didn’t feel good. I looked at the base of the rig to see the tale of the main halyard disappearing into the mast and the sail running down the track. We quickly set about trying to work on a fix although with no other masthead halyard the thought of a 12 foot drop from the masthead was a little intimidating. Just off Land’s End the sea way made things pretty hairy up at the hounds. A couple of small falls put me off further attempts so we headed into Mounts Bay looking for smoother water but after two more harrowing trips up the rig we called off the operation and headed back to the Solent, licking our wounds.