Pip Hare is busily preparing to restart the race, but the forecast does not look promising
Castle Bay, Barra, West Hebrides. Five hours to the restart:
“The sun is shining on Castle Bay and right now it is one of the most beautiful places I have been, blue skies, clear water, sandy beaches and the background of hills and islands.
The boats are swinging, at anchor or three to a mooring buoy; all the class 40’s and the faster boats have gone and been replaced by the class 4 boats just arrived and those who were not lucky enough to get a mooring when they first arrived and have been dragging anchors across the bay for the last 24hrs, impatient for the 40’s to leave and free up a mooring.
Flags are fluttering and the bay looks idyllic. The local TV were filming the scene this morning and I wondered if they had any idea just how manic, life behind that serene scene is as we all recover from the last leg and prepare for the next.
The Shed fared well on leg 2. The only damage sustained was two blocks blowing up, and we also had a leaky window to remove and re-seal during our 48 hrs here.
Others have suffered, ripped sails, broken bow sprits, broken spinnaker poles, electronics failure, mast tracks ripping off and part of the challenge of the race is to get all that fixed and ready to go again in a remote Scottish island, with no mobile reception and an airport that only operates at low water.
The racing rules stated that we must carry with us a means of anchoring and getting to the shore in Barra. This has been interpreted various ways and crews can be seen passing in various states, at the top end of the scale are the boys with an outboard, all of a sudden the most popular guys in the fleet, then there are the avon red crest gang of which The Shed is a member; I think we should have organised an avon red crest regatta, there are enough around most of which are as old or older than their owners and still going strong.
However, most of the boats from the faster boats are children’s swimming pool toys, and at anyone time, you can watch grown men, frantically paddling out to their boats, being blown sideways across the water, with waves lapping over the sides and bottoms millimetres from the wet. Or one paddling and the other pumping frantically in a race to get to the shore before a section of the dinghy sinks completely.
Once ashore the activity centres on the Castlebay Hotel, race head quarters! Here there is one bathroom to be shared by all 56 boats, remarkably without queues, though now into the second week of the race, personal grooming seems to have gone by the wayside, beards are forming, shoes are no longer required and baggy old thermals are how one dresses for lunch.
There is no mobile signal for most of us on the island and so the wifi provided by the hotel has taken a hell of a bashing. The amount of weather data, grib files, synoptic charts that are being downloaded to a small hotel in the Hebrides must be puzzling someone in the US government – I am told they know all about what happens on the internet.
The local co-op has been stripped of energy drinks, fruit, and chocolate supplies are running low. The bar and restaurant are standing up well to the influx, however last night the staff of 4 had to cope with over 100 hungry sailors and their entourages all deciding to eat and drink at the same time. Not a harsh word was offered, but the portions did get smaller over the course of the evening.
We have just been focussed on the boat, getting dry, getting sorted, getting some sleep. Again we had Ian from Blue NG meet us as a shore crew and he diligently put his head down to any task we threw at him, whether bailing out lockers or ferrying us to and fro from the shore in the dinghy. What a star!
I hit a wall yesterday evening. I was so tired. I seemed to be running all day, trying to find time to catch up with myself, trying to get back ahead, to get the boat in order and then to spend a bit of time getting myself in order.
A look at my emails and all of a sudden the outside world came flooding in to a place where it really does not fit. Taking part in a race like this is all consuming; it has to be. You cannot take your focus away from the boat and the rest of life must sit on hold, but surely this is one of the pleasures of what we are doing?
I gave my free drinks tickets to Phil and came back to The Shed for a long and deep sleep, which was only interrupted by Paul and Marco knocking on the roof at 2am, they were leaving and I wanted to cast them off and wish them well, as current leaders of Class 40 in Sunguard Front Arena, I hope to see them in the same position when we reach Lerwick. Marco of course I know from the OSTAR last year, and Paul I met on a race coaching course in February; over the last few months we have helped each other out a lot getting our boats ready for this race, working together pooling our skills and resources. This is something that Brian Thompson is trying to get going in Halsar marina. A centre where short handed sailors can be based and can train together, work on each others boats and help each other along. We are already doing that but would love to see things take off in a bigger way.
This morning our neighbours have changed from a Class 40 to another Schumacker designed boat (The Shed also being one) Santana, sailed by brother and sister Myles and Ashley Perrin. They had an amazing second leg and stormed Class 4 arriving hours ahead of the next boat, pushing hard downwind, Myles said the boat surfed at 23.8 knots, and then he Chinese gybed! Worth the push as their parents arrived and it was Fathers day yesterday so they took their old man out for supper.
We had a great surprise yesterday when we found a HUGE parcel waiting for us in the race office. From Ian and Fee a GIANT home baked fruit cake packaged up and posted by royal mail, it weighs a ton. Thank you guys, I have spoken with James on the race committee and decided that if we take the cake to the windward rail to snack on, it is not technically stacking! So when it gets breezy the cake will be with us at all times.
We restart at 21h 28m 25s we know this as we are writing our leg times on the inside of the cuddy, along with all the messages and hints from friends, family and fellow competitors.
The wind is looking horribly painfully light. Overnight there will be nothing.
When we leave here, the course is to leave Muldoanich, Berneray, Barra Head, St Kilda, Flannan Island, Sule Sgeir, North Rona and the Shetland Islands including Out stack, outer skerries and Bressay to Starboard. The Finish is in Lerwick. These are all places I have mostly never heard of before, especially St Kilda which is annoyingly out in the Atlantic.
We are hoping the last of the breeze will take us to the bottom of the islands and so we will still be able to maintain some lead on the boats in our class.
The danger is that if there is no wind for the start and we sit going nowhere for two hours, then the rest of the boats over whom we have gained a lead, will come and join us at their start times, only a couple of miles behind when it could have been 10 or more. It looks like our frenzy of activity will end in a high tension light wind start in fading breeze but that is the luck of the draw; just got to keep The Shed moving.”