Ed Stacey reports on the Rolex Fastnet Race from the navigation station of Mike Golding’s Challenge 67 Ecover
“Phew, what a scorcher! After rounding the Rock and setting our kite, we were in for an 18-hour downwind rollercoaster ride. As the sun rose so did the temperature and with just one yacht in sight (its blue spinnaker luring us towards the horizon) we had nothing to do but wait for the breeze to fill in.
“Over the previous couple of days the battle lines had been drawn between the two watches, Mikey & Co and Alex & Co. The former are self-proclaimed ‘speed demons’ having set some impressive distances; we were happy to be labelled ‘the grafters’.
“In their demonic quest for speed we were finding ourselves having to fix bits of minor damage and make the necessary course alterations to ensure we were not heading for the Canaries.
“The other watch are the international jet-set: Adrian and Don, two Californian dudes whose idea of a good time is to climb the rig in order ‘to get some shots’; Nickie, an Aussie over for the Fastnet and a ride on Australia II in the Jubilee, and Pete, the token Brit who ensured that their morale remained somewhere in the stratosphere.
“Our watch comprises the best of British: Jon and Nick, two veterans from the British Steel Challenge; Tyneside Tony, a Geordie wit who makes sure the watches pass mirthfully, and Charles, a fellow Ludlow boy which in itself is sufficient to make him a damn good bloke. With no-one to race but ourselves this healthy rivalry led to a full day of downwind sailing that was at times breathtaking.
“With the sun on our backs we surfed down some of the big rollers and covered the 150 miles to the Scillies in just 18 hours. Dirty tricks abound and the other watch has even tried sleep deprivation as a tactic. Anyone who has tried to sleep while the kite trimmers go into overdrive will know that this is a form of torture far worse than having electrodes attached to the nether parts! OK, maybe not, but it has had the desired effect.
“Both watches can be justifiably pleased with their efforts and, at the time of writing, with the sun has poking its head above the horizon our ETA at the finish is just before noon. A couple of yachts are within half a mile off our starboard side (the big blue spinnaker of yesterday being one) they will shortly be within heckling distance.
“They have come off the wind to gain some speed but it’s a short term solution. They’re toast and they know it! So I’m off to get some sunshine, in a few hours time we will be across the finish line and the adventure will be over – just in time for the partying to begin.”