Jo's Puma Logic Fastnet team came home in victory, winning the School Boat Trophy, 1st in IRC Class 1B, and 3rd in overall IRC Class 1 and 1st in Reflex 38 class
It’s all over and we’ve been living in a surreal dream the last couple of days in Plymouth, induced by exhaustion, alcohol and elation over the results of the race.
Right up until the end we were unsure what position Puma Logic was holding. We knew we were up there with the top boats but aware that the slightest hick-up meant costing us precious miles – and the distance between us was close.
With the spinnaker up, flying us downwind on the north-westerly we realized we had been slowed up for the most part of Wednesday night and Thursday morning because of some kelp caught around the rudder. After freeing it, we worked tirelessly to keep the boat trimmed at optimum level.
Reaching the Scilly Isles by lunchtime was a welcome sight after the long stretch of the Celtic Sea. My attempt at cooking lunch however was a bit disastrous as we bordered on a dead run and the rolling boat caused my chopped tomatoes to fly to the galley floor, twice.
On watch for the afternoon, the Sharks were on a mission to keep up the pace as we trimmed the kite, swapping jobs so we didn’t get too tired. We were all pretty exhausted by this stage but constantly talked each other up to keep the momentum going. Ever optimistic and vigilant, watch leader Mark making sure we were communicating and concentrating on the trim, as he kept a close eye on the shifting winds.
Heading along the south west coastline we could see Magnum and Meta Baron offshore to our starboard, and the two Prima 38s, Longbow and White Knuckles still paired up about three miles ahead by the time they rounded The Lizard. This meant they were 28 minutes ahead, which was looking good for us as they gave us a maximum of 1 and a half hours on corrected time.
By the evening the night closed in and my watch had a snooze in the forepeak, the boys a bit disappointed that I would only top and tail (my feet where their head was). Every now and again we were awoken to help with a peel or start hiking out on the rail as the winds started picking up to a steady 12kts.
Throughout the home run we did three peels from the lightweight to the heavyweight kite as the wind pressure varied. On the last peel as the winds were building to 17-18kts, exhausted I made a disastrous mistake on the bow as I tripped the line on the spinnaker pole after hearing Philippe shouting “trip, trip” – but of course he was only referring to Sara on the bow who was spiking the end of the pole to swap over the kite sheets. We managed to keep it under control and drop the old kite with no damaged caused, but I was left in a state of despair from my ‘Wombat’ actions. After each peel we sent Jonboy the Brave up the mast to untwist the spinnaker halyards, and he shimmied down the forestay like a true Tarzan.
The atmosphere onboard was intense as we were coming around the headland into Plymouth late on Friday night. An eerie silence spread over us with only the sound of the waves lapping from the boats around us, and the kite trimmer shouting to the grinder. The committee boat flashed their lights to identify us, and we tried to ignore the RIB of family members who came out to greet us. Without having to drop the kite we cruised over the finish line on a close reach and as soon as the buzzer went we all let out a cheer. Relief washed over us as our welcoming party in the RIB came to our starboard, flashed their cameras and gave us a much appreciated hamper of Champagne, beer and other goodies. After the obligatory Champagne showers all round, we kissed and hugged, a bit shocked, a bit weary but very happy!
Finishing at 01:34:12 on Friday 12 August, our results were fantastic. On corrected time we came first place in IRC 1B and third place in IRC 1, just behind the well-deserved Prima 38 – Bounty Hunter and an X 442 – Ster Wenn 5. We also won first in the Reflex 38 class. And to top it off we won the School Boat Trophy! When Janet Grosvenor from the RORC presented the trophy she mentioned how important it was to have school boats participating. Philippe accepted it with a huge grin on his face and Allie, Managing Director of Sailing Logic had tears in her eyes.
The atmosphere at the prize giving at the Royal Citadel, home of 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery in Plymouth, was electric. While the 98ft ICAP Maximus took trophies for line honours and first home in Class Super Zero, the crowd was in awe of the French crew of the Nicholson 33, Iromiguy, owned by Jean Yves Chateau who won first overall in IRC handicap. It was a truly moving event.
Out of the 283 boats that took part in the Rolex Fastnet Race, Puma Logic came 53rd on corrected time. Puma Logic now leads the RORC series in class IRC 1, above the IMX 40 – Maverick II, an phenomenal achievement for a school boat. And it is here that the Puma Logic crew part our ways – leaving the final Cherbourg race of the series to the inshore Sailing Logic team. In September we will find out if we win the series overall – which would be a real buzz. In the meantime this ends a brilliant journey and amazing learning experience where good friends have been made and fun times had – but of course, despite feeling like zombies, we didn’t leave Plymouth without a number of drinks and celebrations to prove it.