Nick Bubb reports from Lowestoft - the final stop before the finish of the Round Britain and Ireland Race 6/7/06

Nick Bubb and Alex Haworth aboard the 30ft trimaran Kenmore make it to Lowestoft despite mainsail problems. They are now preparing for the Shetland Round Britain and Ireland Race final leg to Plymouth. Bubb reports?

I’d hoped to be sitting down writing this report yesterday but light airs stalled our march towards the finish. In the end it could have been a lot worse as we managed to skirt some of the oilier patches and keep Kenmore moving with our large flat gennaker, perfect for the job. As long as we kept some apparent wind we were ok but if we lost concentration and stopped then it would be a painful wait for the next puff.

Anyway, back to the start and probably more importantly the start of the stopover, which was a race in itself…aren’t they all? Many thanks to Ewan and Trina Stirling, they met us as we arrived in Lerwick and kept us fed and watered throughout the 48 hours. I’m sure Ewan won’t mind me saying this but it was really good to meet someone possibly more obsessed with sailing than me. Their whole house was set up to cope with sailing and it was ideal for us, from the large bath to the well stocked workshop in the cellar and then to the cooking of Trina, it was certainly a memorable stopover.

I had a few weeks rest to catch up on but we had a long jobs list so as usual it was all about compromise. The major jobs were some minor repairs to the spreaders to finish and a lot of work on all the halyard exits and sheaves to stop the chafe and protect the halyards.

Aside from this there was the usual checklist to complete and weather forecast to study. We got it all done, although not without having Ewan and Trina down on the boat till midnight the evening before we were leaving. It was fantastic to have Ewan helping finish stitching covers on our halyards and Trina cooking for us at 0100 in the morning once we got back.

I must just take a moment to wish them both the best of luck in all their sailing events this summer (too numerous to list) and congratulate Ewan and the rest of the Shetlands team for winning a place in the National Match Racing Finals in Weymouth. At their qualifier they beat, Nicole Johnson amongst others, who I am sure many of my old university team racing friends will remember was one of the top sailors around never mind females, she certainly had the upper hand against my team! Go Team Sheltand.

So back to leg four, bang on track with Clemency’s forecast we had light winds from the south as we started at 0910. This breeze built all day until in the late afternoon we had a steady 30 knots (incredibly our wind instruments survived the dismasting) but painfully it was still from the south.

We ended up with two reefs in the mainsail and two in the solent, with the situation under control we were free to worry about the mast…. In the early evening just when we were settling down (ish) a big rip appeared along a seam on the mainsail. Fortunately it was below the third reef so we quickly took our final reef and decided to worry about it later! It appears to have been some old damage from the dismasting that didn’t quite get sorted. By now the stress of the last few weeks was beginning to take its toll and I was exhausted, with the hatches firmly battened down I took a long rest and left Alex Haworth to see out the storm. He was superb considering he hasn’t sailed the boat much recently and the fairly extreme conditions.

After a good few hours sleep the world was different place, as dawn broke the wind eased and the sun came up, within an hour the wind was almost gone and we re-hoisted the mainsail to dry it and prepare for our repairs. With various ‘plasters’ supplied by Quantum we got onto it and version two was good enough we decided, so pressed on with our race, or as much as you can in 4-6 knots!

The rest of the leg was fairly uneventful, we ghosted south through the North Sea usually about 10 miles offshore with full main and gennaker, the visibility was pretty poor though, so we had to be extremely vigilant throughout with busy shipping in the area.

The final battle was against a foul tide just short of the finish in a dying breeze but we eventually got in just after it turned at 0102. The good news is we re-start with six hours of tide under us. The best news though was that we had overtaken ‘Triple Fantasy’, another 30ft trimaran and are now within striking distance of ‘Palletline’ a 30ft catamaran and several monohulls. Not quite all to play for but still a great challenge in this epic race.