A sunlit stream of air coming down over the Cornish cliffs made conditions right for a little Hobie-cattin' aboard Cheyenne last weekend. David Scully chats about the final training before the planned Jules Verne start

With no Jules Verne start in view for a week, the crew of the maxi-cat Cheyenne decided that a weekend’s sailing was better than hanging around on the dock, so we loaded food and took to the water.

The day started out overcast and breeze-less, but not long after the tugboat Plym Echo had cast off our tow, cat’s-paws of wind started to feather down Plymouth Sound, the clouds rolled off to the south, and Cheyenne’s bows started to slice water like a sharp block plane cuts soft pine.

This to the considerable relief of photographers Claire Bailey and Logan Baird, who had a Castle Air chopper booked at cost of thousands to take some aerial shots for their client, a Spanish television producer. We had a couple of their guys on board as well, but I wasn’t worried about them getting in the way, because usually photogs take a couple of waves in the face, throw up, and find a bunk for the rest of the trip.

The light stuff gave us a chance to try the Code zero, not a new sail, but a little used one, as we don’t normally sail in light airs. Sailmaker Paul van Dyke did his thing, persuading us to keep it up ’till it broke, and then we rolled out the Solent and got down to serious fun.

We don’t, as a rule, go around with a hull high in the air aboard Cheyenne, but rules, like records, are made to be broken, and the sunlit stream of air coming down over the Cornish cliffs made conditions right for a little Hobie-cattin’. The helicopter was digging in close and loud off our right hip, and we were able to score the wave tops with the daggerboard tip almost all the way to the Lizard before the waves got too big.

Then we bore off and tried the new kite. This sail was made for the 35-55kt winds of the southern ocean. We wanted to make sure we could get it up and down before we got there.

By the time we approached Ushant we had it figured out. The wind was now blowing solid 30kts with up to 40kts in squalls. Sadly, it was time to go to three tucks and the storm jib, and start the long beat back.

Cheyenne upwind? Kind of like the mechanical bar room bull, but with no tequila, and cold, cold, cold. But there were stars to steer by, and the sun came up pink and on time as we neared the Devon coast.

Good sailing, good training, for the cold bits, anyway, and the boat held up fine. This week we will see some glove and hat optimisation, and a few minor tweaks. Mike Beasley and Fraser Brown have big plans for increasing the comfort of their sleeping area in the port hull. Have to wonder what is going on when Kiwis start complaining about conditions.

Navigator Stan Honey is talking about a start next weekend, although he will not be held to a day yet. Today’s plan is to leave the dock before dark on Friday and to be passing the Lizard at about noon on Saturday. The weekend pattern is currently looking strong, with reaching conditions extending down the Portuguese coast, before the downwind run to the equator. A day to clear Biscay, another to St Vincent, and then it’s t-shirt time!