Spirit of Weymouth - submarine with masts on - Peter Zimonjic reports from the Fastnet 14/8/07

Steve White’s Open 60 Spirit of Weymouth is currently in the Irish Sea experiencing severe weather competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race, Peter Zimonjic is the media correspondent on board and sends this message about the conditions on board:

“It was not long after the Sun set that we learned the storm warnings coming from the British coast guard were just about spot on. Darkness brought with it rain, heavy rain, increased winds from a high of about 18 knots in the day to over 40 knots.

“Our route, towards Land’s End, was made all the more difficult because that is pretty much where the wind was coming from. It meant we had to bash into the waves all night, sailing up wind, in order to reach the Lizard Lighthouse near Land’s End.

“Open 60s are some of the fastest boats under sail anywhere but they are not meant for sailing against the wind. Built almost completely of carbonfibre every bang, every creak of the rigging as the boat comes under strain and every wave we hit send shockwaves through the hull.

“The banging and knocking of the hull is at times so bad it makes sleep slippery goal. Trying to put one’s head down is like trying to sleep in a steel barrel rolling down a mountain side.

“Making the journey all that more uncomfortable is the wetness. Waves constantly crash into the cockpit drenching everything making any time on deck, a soaking experience. Co-skipper, David Melville, describes the Spirit of Weymouth as a ‘submarine with masts on’ and he is not far wrong. I can see him up on deck right now getting a lashing of spray in the face.

“By first light the wind had started to die and I was being warned that when we round Land’s End I would see what this boat would really do. We would soon be sailing where this boat ‘likes it’ with the wind coming over the side instead of the front. I can hardly wait, anything has to be better than this constant banging into the waves all night.

Standing on deck in the almost pitch black with the waves and rain lashing us as they did last night I asked myself what kind of a man would want to sail in the Vendee Globe race. The boat’s owner, Steve White, is gearing his whole life towards entering that race and if he is successful it will mean three months at sea; alone, bashing into the waves and spray… It has only been one day of it so far off the English coast and I think I have already had my fill.”