Safe and sound in Fremantle Sir Robin knox-Johnston prepares for next leg of Velux 5 Oceans 2/1/07

Tuesday 2 January 2007

The arrival in Fremantle could have been dramatic. Three hours before I crossed the finish line the autopilot finally gave up the ghost. I had full plain sail up and was coming in at 11 knots when Saga Insurance crash gybed. I gybed her back and switched on the pilot again but it immediately sheered off to port. There was no alternative but to steer her in, hoping the organisers knew where I was because I could not get below to call them.

I needn’t have worried. As I passed north of Rotnest Island boats began to appear with officials, press and by support team, a very welcome sight. It was getting dark which helped as the light on the buoy marking the finish line showed up clearly. My concern now was that once I had crossed the line I would have to leave the helm to get the sails down, but I need not have worried, Simon (Clay) and Peter (Cumming), out here to help with the refit, jumped aboard Saga Insurance and we managed to get everything down. Then the Customs boarded, helpful and friendly, and the official side of my arrival was speedily completed.

I suppose 50 years at sea means I take arriving in to a port in my stride, but there is always a bit of a buzz and it is always nice to see friends and have people to talk to for a change. Also there is the knowledge that for the first time on more than two months the boat does not have to be cared for. Once she has been safely tied up you can relax properly. The Fremantle Sailing Club has a reputation for is friendliness and it lived up to it. Even better, George Vallings had asked a Naval friend to supply a bottle of whisky! What was particularly pleasant was that both Alex Thomson and Mike Golding had flown out so it was a nice reunion.

It was two in the morning before we had finished with the press and I was able to make my way to a non-moving bed for the first time in 68 days. But not for long, as we were up at six to go over the boat and start the re-fit.

The huge difference between Bilbao and Fremantle from my point of view is that I do have a back up team here to tackle the work. It means we shall be properly prepared for the next leg to Norfolk, Virginia, and not being rushed as we were before. And this next leg is the tough one. Its not just Cape Horn to round, it’s the thousands of miles of Roaring Forties to traverse before we get to the Cape with the certainty of a storm along the way.

It is slightly strange to find oneself back in what one might call normal society and begin the process of adjustment. Simple things like having a haircut are reassuring and necessary! I have seen a Doctor about my wrist who put me on to a physiotherapist. The problem is tendonitis and the cure is rest. Well fortunately we have two weeks to rest it up.

But you cannot ignore the boat and the work she requires. My repair list is not enormous, and we do not have anything on it that should cause problems but the sooner the work gets done, the sooner we can go out and do some sailing.

The day after my arrival we stripped out the boat and prepared her for haul out. This involved removing the mast, as Saga Insurance would not fit into the haul out dock with her rigging booms in place. Thanks to the forethought of Simon, and the co-operation of the Sailing Club staff we managed to get hauled out before New Year, giving us precious days to work over the holiday.

Of most interest was the damage to the keel caused by the entanglement with the fishing line. It had cut about 5 inches into the trailing edge, but it looked worse than it is. We also discovered that filler around the keel had disappeared which would have increased resistance, something else we can fix. And whilst we got on with those jobs, Huw who had flown out from England started stripping out the electrics. We are starting from scratch with these, fitting two new autopilots so whatever gremlin has been affecting the existing ones disappears when they are removed. Plenty to get on with, but with a good and enthusiastic team the work list is already starting to shrink.

I’m now off to stay with friends for a few days who own a vineyard near Margaret River. All in the safe knowledge that my able team will keep the boat work going and I’ll be able to pick up where I left off when I get back on the 4th.

Happy New Year to everyone! RKJ