YW talks to the final members of Adela's crew as they prepare for the start of the Pendennis Cup
The crew mess is certainly living up to its name this morning. I’m told Carrie, the stewardess, is somewhere around here, but I was never any good at hide and seek. Sure enough, she pokes her head out from under the huge pile of polo, rugby and t-shirts. “Good morning, had a nice nap?” I ask; she doesn’t seem too fazed by the situation, “Oh, it’s like this every time we race.”
She wiggles herself free and is doing marvelously well to stay so calm, considering the fact that over 30 extra race crew will be arriving onboard on Sunday afternoon for the pre-race practice. She spurts the logistics involved in getting well over 40 people kitted out with the Adela uniform: “I began designing and ordering the rugby shirts two months ago. As soon as our Captain gives me a idea of who will be racing, I begin the huge task of clothing them.”
Each team member needs a race t-shirt as well as a rugby pullover due to the cooler racing climate. On top of that, they need spare sizes, extra uniforms for visitors, friends and guests; soon Adela’s got an order for over 200 articles of clothing; “in one year alone Adela spends over €30,000 on uniforms for regattas.”
One of Carrie’s, and the second stewardess Jess’s largest tasks, on top of preparing the crew’s uniform, is the interior maintenance of a classic re-build like Adela. All the French polished mahogany in the guest areas has to be maintained and every six months, it has to be refinished; Carrie has to organise flying in French polishers especially from France for this huge task.
After this, she moves on to the silver fittings; “I get everything polished properly before our owners and guests come on boards. Taps, soap trays, light switches, cupboard handles, every single finger mark need to be polished away.”
It doesn’t end there, after the polishing is concluded, Carrie cling-films the freshly polished silver to prevent tainting the area with dust, or wear and tear of any kind, be it a water splash, fingerprint or salt-air stain. This is then removed only five minutes before the owners arrive.
Once the owners are onboard, Carrie caters for their every need; she looks after guests, helps unpack the owner’s suitcases and organises dinner reservations at various restaurants. In short, she has to ensure that everything is perfect for the duration of the owner’s stay and make sure they feel as much at home as possible.
Although, with such consideration to the owner’s pleasure and comfort, it’s easy to forget that in seven days, Adela will be racing on UK waters against six other superyachts, each competing for the Pendennis cup. “Yes, it’s a fine balance, we have to be able to go from pure luxury to locking down all the furniture in place and heading out to race in only a few hours; it’s these final few days of pressure I love as we all come together, crew and owner, to give Adela the best possible chance of success in the Pendennis Cup.”
The First Mate
Will Miner, the first-mate, is looking to the skies; he’s on deck and the masts protrude high towards the sun. The upcoming day’s weather is vital; tomorrow is the pre-race day when over 30 professional crew arrive in the morning from all over the world, eager and fresh, ready to begin time-trials and sail tests. The first-mate will organise all these people, and despite being thoroughly experienced on Adela, I ask him if he is naturally a bit apprehensive; “Oh, this next week will be absolutely hectic; I really don’t have time to think about my own emotions and anxieties. I’m here to reassure the rest of the crew, make sure everyone knows what they are doing, are comfortable in their roles and that everything is safe.”
Of course, when you’re travelling at 13-14 knots on potentially choppy seas, there is little room for error; Will’s job is to eliminate this completely. He has to make confident and educated decisions and everyone looks to him for answers and I notice he rarely gets a minute alone; someone is constantly firing some question or another his way. I overhear him discussing sail configurations, looking at weather updates, whilst taking calls from the engine room about various minor repairs and also contemplating the crew arrangement for the week; “we’ll have 50% of professional race sailors, combined with 50% local sailing teams, it can be a difficult combination to manage and merge.”
“Adela is not as easy boat to sail,” he informs me, “unlike the new modern aluminium designs, which have push-button, roller-furling sails, Adela requires every crew member for every manoeuvre.” Yet he is adamant about efficiency, “it’s vital each member understands their role to ensure safety and success whilst racing, and of course, the sails make a difference too;” He jokes, “we’ve just got a couple of new spinnakers arrived onboard this week…” he paused and smiles, “but they’re the Captain’s babies really, so I’ll let him tell you all about those…”
It’s Sunday, but with all the activity going on it doesn’t feel like it in Falmouth Marina. With only one day to go until Adela will be competing, the deck is alive with crew. The Captain, Greg Perkins, is taking a few minutes of peace and quiet, although admittedly, with me. We’re stood close to the beautiful varnished teak and stainless helm. Greg is very much the father figure of the boat; stern when he needs to be, comforting at others, calm but clearly in control; it’s obvious he has earnt the respect of his fellow crew over years of experience. Greg returned to Adela after working there before following the retirement of Steve Carson.
Greg is keen to get the very best out of Adela; two brand-new spinnakers have arrived this week in time for the Pendennis Cup. Greg fires facts at me from memory “the new spinnaker, the red one, is 25% larger than the one it is replacing, that will be the largest kite the boat will have ever have sailed with at over 1000m2. Then our second spinnaker is a reaching kite made of heavier cloth and is flatter so we can sail closer to the wind, and all in all gives us at present, 2000m2 of sail to play with at any one time.”
He happily continues, “on top of our new spinnakers, we’ve currently got a new staysail and yankee under construction, along with a new mainsail arriving in winter.” Some of the current sails are between 7-10 years old, and are no longer suitable for racing; they are losing their shape and becoming brittle. Greg is all about the competition and achieving the most from Adela, keeping her on top of her game, so to speak.
Over the next few days Greg will be keeping a close eye on the weather, both physically, and through forecasts. “Yes, I use hour-by-hour forecasts, which come from different sources, so I can assemble an overview of all possible conditions prior to racing, to make an informed decision. You have to use intuition and make your sail choices once underway.”
Each racecourse is released on the morning of each day, so Greg will want to predict what possible course and conditions they could be racing under, and then discuss sail configurations. “It’s difficult to change the headsails, so we try and look ahead and stick with one.” A sail can weigh anything up to 600kg, so changing it whilst sailing is an option they would rather avoid. With a 465m2 mainsail and another 4 sails to manipulate once out there, there is no doubt that the adrenaline will be pumping.
“In a sense, it all comes together last minute; we can talk tactics through and through, but once you’re out there with the breeze through the rigging, the specifics go overboard, and for most of us instinct takes over. This week will be fantastic, I can’t wait to try out our new spinnakers”
Although it is easy to get wrapped up in the pre-regatta hysteria, Greg is always looking towards improvement and the future and this winter he’s got a huge refurbishment schedule. The host of the race, Pendennis, is also playing host to the refit, when Adela will spend four months in their workshops as they fit a new engine, re-spray the entire rigging, all the generators get reconditioned and a huge paintjob of the entire hull.