David Glenn was invited aboard Robert Miller's Mari Cha 1V for a spectacular day's sailing during Monday's Rolex Race Around the Island
Simple arithmetic showed that the chances of avoiding a blood vessel busting session on one of Mari Cha 1V’s 11 (yes 11) sets of grinding pedestals were virtually nil. Fully manned they soak up 22 crew so it would be only a matter of time before the agony began.
Skulking around the aft deck (about the size of a squash court) wasn’t an option either because racing skipper Mike Sanderson had made it clear in the nicest possible way that anyone ‘not doing anything’ should be in the middle of the boat on the rail with their legs out. It simply wasn’t worth asking whether 12 stone (including notebook) was likely to make much difference with 16 tons of canted bulb sticking out to weather, 10 tons of water ballast waiting to be ‘pumped’ and 40 other crew perched there.
Getting the chance to sail on this aircraft carrier of yacht which continues to break records at will and which has more pulling power than any J, any Mirabella, in fact any superyacht you care to mention is like getting an invitation to climb Everest, go to the Moon, or take part in a Grand Prix . You’ve got the idea.
Considering the pounding Mari Cha had just delivered to her crew, I was surprised that anyone wanted to return for more punishment but the day looked fantastic and there was the serious issue of defending Mari Cha’s position against the ultra fast canter Maximus. She had come shockingly close to catching Miller’s machine during the transatlantic and co-owners Bill Buckley and Charles Brown and their boys were out for blood. YW website editor Sue Pelling was also aboard so it was imperative to win! See Pelling’s Maximus story here.
At the start in the light airs Maximus is up on the line so Sanderson needs pressure, goes left under her transom then rolls right on top of her as our vast sail area drives us on and the apparent figures build and build.
We seem to have left her for dead and only Charles Dunstone’s Nokia Enigma is holding on, impressively nimble until the little line of wind Sanderson and skipper Jef d’Etiveaud have spotted is reached and we’re off like a robber’s dog, heading for a gybe just short of Gilkicker. D’Etiveaud holds up two fingers from the nav station companionway which means two minutes to the gybe. There can be no room for ‘hold it, I’m not ready’ because in two minutes time Mari Cha’s bulb, suspended almost 22ft below the waterline will be centred and on the bottom. Sanderson goes on two. Everyone is, of course, ready – there’s barely a word spoken as the vast sail plan flops across to port. The numbers remain virtually constant.
But the best sailing is saved to last. Who ever said you never get an impression of speed on boats this big? Well try this. As we scream round the Bridge buoys at 17 knots the big black asymmetric with the consistency of roofing felt goes up and a giant mizzen staysail sheeted off the mizzen boom is also set. And we go past Hurst like an express train 23.4 knots on the clock plus a bit of tide under us – this is motorway sailing.
And the gybes? They are an exhibition in sail handling. With the sun on our backs, a broad, flat sparkling wake, the Isle of Wight going past at 25 knots and being mobbed by spectator boats the finish comes all too soon.
The complete story of David Glenn’s race round the island on Mari-Cha IV will appear in the August issue of Yachting World.
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