Jonny Malbon reports on the first 24 hours of the Calais Round Britain Race aboard Open 60 Artemis 4/6/07

We had a good start yesterday. The conditions were pretty unpleasant to say the least; even the start line was difficult to see. It was quite a daunting task lining up in the fog and ripping tide, but we got ourselves in a good position and had a clean start with the A2 spinnaker (beautiful big white one with the Artemis logo on) and full mainsail. After the start, the racing was very close and very intense especially as the visibility dropped to less than a boat length. There were also hundreds of ferries and ships careering around in the murk which made things interesting. We spent a lot of time using the AIS (Automatic Identification System – used to see shipping traffic) and radar because we were effectively sailing totally blind.

A couple of times another Open 60 would pop out of nowhere either directly in front or directly behind us so we had to make sure that we were on the ball, so that we would not have any shockers. We rounded Cap Gris Nez and the fog lifted completely and out in front of us we counted five boats. As we cleared the fog the rest of the fleet emerged one by one – which was very cool, and we worked out that we were in sixth position. The coastline down to Boulogne was bathed in sunshine and in totally different weather to Calais. We then had to gybe into the channel after the Boulogne buoy and head for the next waypoint – Bishop Rock, in the Scilly Isles.

This part of the race was always going to be very difficult and the weather was really confused and all over the place, so the pressure was really on. We took a different route than everybody else and sailed up very close to the UK shore as the light faded. At some points we were only doing 2 knots, and of course the fog came back! Back to the radar again as there were plenty of ships mincing around. You are never quite sure whether you have gambled too hard in situations like that, and it was a great relief to find out this morning that it had paid off for us.

The race only has position reports in the day, so night time is quite stressful, and hard work trying to go fast and maintain your position. When the 0400 (French time) report came through we found ourselves in 3rd which was brilliant. Still a long way to go though, and the conditions are still very demanding and those positions will change all the time.

We are sailing this morning in sunny weather which makes a great change. There are several boats around us so today will be another full on mission. We are just south of the Isle of Wight right now and we have been discussing the possibility of popping in for a few drinks, but that will have to wait. All in all a great first day, and we are going to try our best to stay on the leader board.
That is all for now – I have to lie down!

Cheers, Jonny and the boys.