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!