Skippered Yacht Charters

Monday, 18 July 2016



So there we were, 1300 on 18 Jun 2016, on the start line, just outside Wicklow,  with 3 MOD 70s (Musandam, Concise and Phaedo 3, start 1310) Rambler 88 and 60 others, with a warship as the committee boat, ready to race round Ireland.  But, of course, it did not really start there……..

Emails requesting expressions of interest from the crew went out around Christmas.  Volunteers came and went, but the crew finally settled at 5, not really enough to race, but probably sufficient to get round.  The race would be Cat 2 and so would require modifications to the boat.  The additional manual bilge pump was duly fitted over the winter and, once the final decision was made, the EPIRB was purchased and the entry fee paid.  Further modifications were made in pursuit of performance.  But things rarely run smoothly.  We destroyed the new spinnaker and, with a couple of days to go, the water pump was in pieces.  A replacement spinnaker was promised in time for the race, but never materialised.  However, the pump was fixed in time and an overnight delivery saw Pipedreamer in Wicklow Thursday morning, ready for the scrutineers.

In fact, the scrutineers did not visit until Friday, but when they did, there were few issues.  We had aimed off for the new rules on lifejackets (auto inflate, crotch/thigh straps, lights, spray hood, annual check, spare gas bottle and actuator) and had fitted MOB 1 DSC/AIS systems.  The heavy weather and storm sails were all in order as were the other safety related items.  We were ready to race!

So, back to the start.  With the tide taking us down to the start, we were a little too cautious as the clock ran down to 1300 and were well back at the gun.  However, we were able to tack into clean air and a fair tide and were soon making good progress on port tack – SOG 8Kts, COG 200 mag, wind 160/15.  We went for an early fishing expedition when we picked up a floating line from a pot!  We escaped after a 360 turn.  At 1530 we, along with most of the rest of the fleet, sailed into a hole (windless area), but were lucky enough to tack out fairly quickly and gain some advantage (wind 230/14).  By 1945, with 42 miles already sailed, we were short tacking against the tide down Rusk Bank.  We took the inner route at Lucifer Bank when the outer might have given a better angle to Tuskar, which we rounded at 2308, very much in touch with the fleet.  But with daylight gone and the wind forecast to increase we had missed the opportunity to run 2 sets of reefing lines.  We also took a northerly route, which did not seem to pay.

By 1500 on Sun we had a touch of a gale and were struggling to cope with the headsail and the single reefed main (ruing the earlier missed opportunity).  So we rolled away the Genoa and although we rigged the inner forestay, with the conditions becoming increasingly lumpy, we erred on the side of caution and did not send the crew forward with the heavy weather jib.  So we sat out the gale (we saw 39 kts true, 230) making little progress until 2300 when we unrolled the Genoa and were off again.  On reflection, we were now participants rather than competitors (if we had ever been), with this opportunity missed.  Still, we were sailing and there was a long way to go.

At 0900 on Mon morning we passed the mighty Fastnet at the start of a great day’s sail.  By midday we were off Mizzen Head in beautiful conditions, with the wind forecast to back offering the prospect of flying the kite, which duly went up for about 3 hours before dark, producing some spectacular sailing (wind 225/20+).  Unfortunately, we damaged the kite on the drop, but 300NM was up and we were going well.

As an aside, while doing some preparatory work for the spinnaker, I spent a wonderful 20 mins on the bow as the newest member of a pod of dolphins, several of whom were often close enough to touch and were clearly aware of my presence and not averse to a little showing off.

Over the next 12 hours or so the wind and waves were up and down and we responded with the first reef going in and then being shaken out, several times.  Our max speed was 14.7kts surfing down a wave.  Tue morning saw us repairing the kite – I sewed and Sam glued.

The log entry for for 2322, 21 Jun shows 533 NM covered,  the wind was 190/23kts, 54 52’.70 N 08 45’.50 W, making for Aran Island  with 1 reef in the main and by 0030 we were sailing under full sail.  0320 found us approaching Tory Island, which we passed at 0450 and the Asymetric went up.  Around midday we caught up with the group in front who had sailed into a hole under Rathlin – we joined them!  Not long after that Arcsine caught and overtook us while we (and the others) tried to find the merest hint of a zephyr to propel us forward.  By now the tidal stream in the channel was well and truly set against, with several of the boats further out caught in the overfalls.  We stayed close in, looking for and finding the back eddy, but still very little wind.  In some ways, what came next was our finest hour!  We had worked our way up the coast to the point where the 2 currents met and there was a breeze.  We noticed a gap in the overfalls and went for it.  We were the first boat to break free at 1530, but the others were quick to follow.  Having stayed out, looking for stronger breeze we were quickly overtaken by the others, who sought shelter closer in from the foul tide.

0820 Burial Island.  By now we had caught up with the group again.  Sam and Huw had worked out that by judicious use of the code zero and stemming the tide, we could make progress……just.  This they had done to good effect and we were back in touch.  The following 20 hours or so saw frustratingly light winds, fog and foul tide.  We entered another car park off Lambay, before the final run in to Wicklow with a fair tide for once.

Finished 0510 on Fri.  We stayed for the prize giving and sailed back to Holyhead overnight.  Job done!

Friday, 10 June 2016

Pipedreamer in Tatters

The overall plan had been to do the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle in 2015, The Round Ireland in 2016 and the Fastnet in 2017.  Of course, as you have heard me say before, no plan survives first contact and so it proved.  LYC announced their intention to come to Holyhead for their 2015 regatta and Dun Laoghaire to Dingle was off.  Surprisingly, however, despite this setback, the idea of going round Ireland gathered pace over the winter and we are now entered!  All of this is by way of a preamble to what happened 3 weeks ago.

To participate effectively (compete is a strong word!) in the above event(s) we had ordered a new deep reacher and about 3 weeks ago it arrived.  Keen to try it out and get to know it, we flew it in a Club Race, more or less straight out of the bag.  We were very impressed with its performance - and ours!  There had been one or 2 slight hitches.  The first recovery was a little laboured and the second hoist had not gone smoothly with someone standing on the halyard.  Nevertheless, we crossed the Club line, spinnaker flying and then went for the drop.  But it wouldn't, drop that is.  It was jammed.  We were now in amongst the moored boats, 4 or 5 boat lengths from a lee shore with the kite flying uncontrolled from the top of the mast, wind gusting over 20kts.  We tried everything we could think of, but to no avail.  In the meantime the kite started to tear itself to shreds.  It was not until we increased our skeletal manning with the addition of Dave and Max and sent Max up the mast that we finally resolved the problem - by now though, there was not much left of the new kite.  There was also no apparent reason for the snag and, while we have come up with some plausible theories, we are still really none the wiser.

So, here we are with a week to go to the big event.  A replacement sail is on order, but it will be touch and go as to whether it arrives in time.  Pipedreamer is due back in the water this afternoon, having been pressure washed.  There still seems a mountain of preparation work to do, but hopefully we will be on the start line in Wicklow at 1300 on Sat 18 Jun (with a new sail?).

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Raced By

So that was how 2015 raced by.  We sailed in 14 of the Club's Wed evening races, 3 of the weekend long distance races (results here: http://www.holyheadsailingclub.org.uk/index.php/sailing/racing/offshore-racing/nhc-results), the ISORA series, Lyver Trophy, VDL Regatta, Royal Dee Offshore Championship, Welsh IRC Nationals and attended the Greystones Regatta.  All in all we sailed about 1800NM and had a lot of fun.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Last ISORA 12 Sep

Having positioned the boat from Holyhead the day before, the final ISORA was direct start to finish, Pwllheli to Dun Laoghaire.  With only 3 onboard, we made a poor, but safe, start.  Approaching Bardsey, the wind was WSW 5-7 and the Sound was horrible - I have seen the sea and over falls bigger, but I have not seen them so confused.  Nevertheless,  as we emerged from the Sound, we were still in touch with the Js, a position we maintained until they set their Code zeros to cross Bray/ Kish Bank.  We stayed higher to round Codling with the aim of setting the Asymetric, which we did with some success, but we were unable to make good the loss before we hit variable winds off Bray (again) and lost out with our slow sail changes, an inevitable consequence of being short-handed.  The results can be found here: http://isora.org/images/2015/OverallResults/OverallResults.htm

ISORA To Greystones

After a windy week, a reduced fleet of just 3 boats set off from Pwllheli bound for Greystones and their regatta weekend.  The course was to leave South Codling to starboard and finish just outside Greystones harbour.  Pipedreamer, with just 2 onboard, made a very conservative start, but made up a position by St Tudwalls, only to lose it again in Bardsey Sound.  The crossing was uneventful in a steady SW breeze, but as is often the case, flukey conditions awaited just off the Irish coast, which led to a frustrating finish.

The wind was very light on Sun and racing was eventually cancelled for the day.  Nevertheless, our thanks go to Jenny Hanafin for joining the crew at short notice and swelling the number to 3!  Thanks also to the organisers for a great day.  The transit to Holyhead the next day was uneventful, though it never fails to amaze me how shallow it is over Bray Bank!  We arrived home to find the Old Gaffers weekend winding up.

Spinlock IRC Welsh Championships 2015

So to the National Championships in Pwllheli, 21-23 Aug, hosted in the new Plas Heli centre and on the new pontoons.  Pipedreamer's crew changed during the weekend - 6 on Fri, 7 on Sat and 6 again on Sun.  Overall, we came 12th, never really pushing any of the leading boats.  Somewhat frustratingly we sailed 9 out of 9 windward/leeward courses, which is not usually our strength, but with this much practice may become so!  The only remarkable thing recorded in the log was the amount of rain and the fact that the wind instruments stopped working, probably as a result of the deluge and becoming waterlogged.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Round Anglesey

We slipped at 1545, 14 Aug,  from the Holyhead fuel pontoon, having taken on 20 litres, to position Pipedreamer for the Round Anglesey race the following day.  We made good time and were rafted up on St Georges pier by 2200, in time for a pint.  The forecast for the race was for fair conditions and f3-5 wind backing from NW to SW and so it turned out.  We made an excellent start and, despite a couple of scares (clearance both above and below) and seeing a number of groundings, we had a good leg through the Strait.  By the time (1308 from the logbook) the wind had backed as far as W and we were well up with the leading boats.  We set the symmetric spinnaker off the Stacks and stayed in close to avoid the worst of the tide.  However, this necessitated a few gybes in a following sea and we managed to push the pole through the kite, which cost us time to repair and allowed Bada Bing (eventual winners) to catch us.  We managed to fly the repaired kite across the north of the Island until Pt Lynas, where a combination of wind and heading change made further progress with the kite counter-productive.  The final leg from Puffin to Menai Bridge saw us short tacking in company with Kerageous and Bada Bing, both of whom ran out of water (albeit briefly) - a fate we only narrowly avoided at Gallows Point.  It was all looking good with 200m to go to the line when we lost the breeze (and possibly the race), resulting in a frustrating hour or so fighting the tide, until a kind puff pushed us over the line at 21:45.

We dropped most of the crew off on St Georges pier before Huw and I took the boat through the Swellies to Port Dinorwic for the night, ready for our delivery to Pwllheli the next day.  The trip south was pleasant enough.  We lost the wind in Bardsey Sound and motored most of the rest of the way, glad we had had the foresight to put the extra fuel onboard.  During the run up the south side of the Lleyn, we were concerned by changes in the engine note, which coincided with RPM gauge failure and a drop in voltage.  We concluded that the voltage regulator on the alternator was playing up and so it proved when we managed to have it repaired a week or so later.