Sabotage, Chinese gybes, broaches: Friday the 13th held many challenges for the Flying Fish fastrack crew

Day 42 – Cowes Week Day 7

Since we were not going to sail on Saturday, the infamous Friday 13 was to be our final day’s racing at Cowes, and turned out to be one of the most exciting days of the week.

Motoring around the entrance to Cowes marina in a fresh force six, hoisting the sails and putting in a reef, we realised that our boat had been sabotaged! Half a dozen raw eggs lay in the mainsail, a couple breaking on the deck while the others we saved for revenge later.

A good start saw us beating westward, upwind and against the tide in 20 to 25 knot winds. A hard day’s sailing lay ahead. Soon after the first weather mark, and a very wet upwind leg, we got a bit caught up with a few other yachts in our class and were forced to gybe, losing out to a few boats including arch rivalsForeign Affair. positions and enabled our sister boat to get their much needed head start. The next upwind leg was just as wet and exhilarating as the first and we all got into a routine of hauling each other over the coach rail and on resume positions on the guardrail.

Another downwind leg followed, much longer than the first. We saw gusts up to 35 knots and awkward sea conditions. We questioned whether to put the spinnaker up, but like the majority of our fleet we played safe and left it down. Instead we poled out the number three headsail and pumped the mainsail on the tops of the waves to gain speed. Squeals of excitement aboard as we hit ten knots of SOG against the tide!

Approaching the downwind buoy we broached and were forced to do a 360 to avoid another yacht. After another short beat we were on our final downwind leg, sailing inshore to avoid the foul tide and find some smooth water. With the apparent wind down to 20 knots we decided to hoist the spinnaker and attempt to catchForeign Affair. Within seconds of hauling the halyard and setting the kite we were caught by a freak gust which caused us to Chinese gybe! Everyone hung on as the boat went on its side, soaking everyone to leeward. Russell had water up to his waist as he clung to the pushpit and we momentarily lost Nick under a torrent of water on the bow! In all the excitement we barely had time to notice our spinnaker had also been sabotaged and filled with rice! We got the boat back under control and dropped the spinnaker, going back to our original poled out headsail. We were all buzzing as we crossed the line, unfortunately a few minutes behind the other FF boat, but happy to have a great drama story to tell the other crews later.

It was without doubt one of the best days on the water, and we celebrated the end to a fantastic Cowes Week sitting on deck on the four Flying Fish boats, drinking champagne and watching the fireworks.