In May, Yachting World is sending Jason Best, a film critic with virtually no sailing experience to report on 1,700 miles of ocean racing in the Challenge Business's non-stop Round Britain & Ireland Challenge. Here's his first story
In May, we’re sending Jason Best, a film critic with virtually no previous experience of yachts or sailing, to report on 1,700 miles of ocean racing in the Challenge Business’s non-stop Round Britain & Ireland Challenge.
Jason (pictured left) normally reviews movies for our parent company’s TV magazines and spends “a certain proportion of the week in a darkened room”. He volunteered because it would be “so different”.
Between now and the start of the race on 30 May, Jason will be doing two five-day training sessions in one of Challenge Business’s 72ft one-design steel cutters. In fact, he’s already done his first, something of a rude awakening, and files this report.
‘My life as a film critic could not be more sedentary. I spend my time sitting at a computer or watching films in the well-upholstered comfort of West End cinemas and screening rooms. My only adventures are vicarious ones, and the nearest I have come to peril on the sea is viewing Master and Commander.
‘Then came a sudden rush of blood to the head. I accepted Yachting World’s offer to train as a crew volunteer for the Round Britain and Ireland Challenge, a non-stop circumnavigation of the British Isles covering 1,800 or so nautical miles and lasting around 14 days. What was I thinking?
‘My first week of training is tough; I’m literally learning the ropes. To a novice sailor like me, the deck seems full of lurking perils; even the jargon is terrifying: ‘snake-pit’, ‘shrouds’ and the ‘rectangle of doom’, as John, the skipper, calls the space to avoid if you don’t wish to be brained by half a ton of swinging boom. Scariest of all, though, is my inability to tie the simplest of knots.
‘Less than two months ago, I was lapped in Egyptian-cotton comfort in a 5-star hotel as a jury member on the Fantasporto film festival in Oporto, Portugal. Now the only sheets in sight are the ropes running every which way about the deck.
‘For two days we bob about on the waters of the Solent. The work is mentally and physically demanding. Then, on day three, we venture out into the choppier Channel and I am promptly stricken with nausea. In the space of a few hours I am physically sick more times than in the rest of my adult life put together. ‘Heave-ho’ takes on fresh significance.
‘Yet not all is lost. Throwing up on a yacht is an art form, but I grasp its principles instantly, spewing over the stern (downwind, naturally) with accuracy and aplomb. I may be hopeless at reef knots, but I puke with panache.
‘Things do get better the next day, fortunately, and I am thrilled by my last hours on board. A Force 6 gale is blowing in the Solent as we return to Southampton and nothing could be more exciting than standing before the mast changing a sail as the waves come crashing over the bow. I’m weary; I’m drenched; but I’m also exhilarated.’
Jason will be filing regular reports on yachtingworld.com about his training and during the race.