A foggy beginning for Jo Cackett's first weekend of training for the Fastnet crew

Saturday 30 April 2005 – laying down strategies

Just like a first date, I was looking forward to meeting my Fastnet crew as these were the people I would be spending the majority of my weekends with, living in close quarters.

Gathering at Sailing Logic’s office in Southampton’s Shamrock Quay we quietly shuffled in for a presentation by our skipper Philippe about our Fastnet campaign. We introduced ourselves to the team and spoke about our background and objectives.

Our crew is a mixed bag of lollies, with Sara – Philippe’s first mate and Challenge Business crew volunteer coordinator, Annie and myself as the only females. Annie leads an exciting career as an Investigator for Customs and Excise, which made for some interesting stories when the wind was down. Annie just completed the Southern Ocean leg of the Global Challenge from Buenos Aires to Auckland and the Round Britain and Ireland in 2004.

The male crew consists of Alex, an investment banker with some cruising experience; Brian, owner of an air-conditioning business and completed a leg of the Clipper Race in 2000 aboard Portsmouth; ‘Badboy Badboy’ Jon, who works for Mars (promising to supply us with endless amounts of chocolate), and has experience racing with Sailing Logic, dinghy sailing and windsurfing; and Richard, a banker and a dinghy sailor who also sailed on Fay-J in the Warsash Spring Series.

And then there’s our enthusiastic all-round skipper Philippe, who I have already coined Ricky Martin for his resemblance to the Latino hip-shaking entertainer! Philippe outlined our goals as a team, which is to:

Win the RORC School Boat Series Trophy

Win the Fastnet School Boat Trophy

Top ten in the Fastnet

Top five in two RORC races

Judging by Philippe’s results last year with Formula 1 sailing these are achievable. As Philippe said: “We’re all about learning new skills, and being a strong team.” Incidentally, Philippe outlined one goal was ‘to get fit’ and we all agreed: less time in the pub and more time in the gym. After the Saturday evening efforts though, this is easier said than done!

After the onboard safety brief and setting up the boat, we finally got out on the water in a moderate Force 3. Tacking upwind we reached around 7kts; but it wasn’t long before the fog closed in and our sailing was halted for a while until the breeze kicked back in. Amidst the sound of foghorns, we had a whiteboard lesson outlining the steps for spinnaker hoisting and dropping.

Philippe wanted this to be an easy weekend to get familiar with the boat and working with each other and it was great that he went through the various steps of sailing without assuming we knew everything. Moving back into the Southampton water which was unaffected by the fog, we attempted some spinnaker hoists and drops until the night lights coaxed us over to Hamble marina to the pub for a late meal and flowing red wine.

Sunday 1 May 2005 – more fog and less wind

After a scrappy sleep due to Brian’s snoring, [not mine of course] we all shuffled out of bed early in pursuit of bacon and egg butties. May Day promised sunny skies and a Force 4, but once again we sailed out into the fog. Moving over to the Isle of Wight, closer to Ryde we attempted some spinnaker hoists and drops in a 5kt breeze.

Aeolus – God of the Winds – was not in our favour so we languished in the sun, eating lunch and nursing our hangovers. For entertainment, Philippe and Richard thought my lazing body would be better off swung overboard – but I grabbed their sleeves threatening to pull them in with me so they recoiled.

Moving back into the Solent the breeze picked up to 14 kts and we were motivated back into position for some spinnaker hoists and gybes. Getting a handle of it in the cockpit on the guy and spinnaker sheets, we all rotated positions to learn the different jobs. As bow bunny, as we’ve coined it, I was making the pole like a pro, despite my glove getting caught in the end at times and Brian nearly flying through the guard rail when we gybed.

As I helped helm the boat back into Southampton, I pondered on a good day’s sailing. And we said our goodbyes with sunburnt red, happy faces.

There’s still time to join a Sailing Logic Fastnet crew – if you’re interested go to: http://www.sailinglogicracing.co.uk/ or call Allie Smith on 44 (0)2380 330999