The Myth of Malham race to Jersey was full of highs and lows for Puma Logic: a windy start, a broken rudder cable, seasickness and a slow finish, Jo Cackett reports
To qualify for the Rolex Fastnet we were about to embark on our first RORC offshore race, from Cowes to St Helier, Jersey.
The forecast for Saturday 28 May was for Force 5 to 6 but when we sailed out of Cowes it was more like a Force 7 to 8. We didn’t have much time to talk it through and before I knew it we were bolting across the start line in 33 knots of gusty south-west wind, heading downwind with the spinnaker up towards No Man’s Land fort, east of Cowes. At one point we peaked at 15 knots boatspeed, leaving many boats in our wake.
Our luck wouldn’t last. In a gust we had a minor broach to starboard but managed to recover from it. But suddenly we broached again. I remember just staring at the water from the cockpit as we heeled, calmly thinking ‘This isn’t good – something is wrong.’ I could see other boats losing their spinnaker and our foredeck crew struggling. One of my crewmates, Sara, later told me she was free flying in the water hanging onto the guard rail.
To make matters worse we then did a Chinese gybe and I saw a look of shock on Philippe, the skipper’s face. He thought someone was stepping on the wheel until he realised the rudder cable had gone. Philippe had lost steerage which had caused us to broach and Chinese gybe. We scrambled to get the spinnaker down, I grabbed the emergency tiller and with a full main we sailed over to Bembridge Bay.
I thought our chance was lost. Were we going to have to retire? But Philippe had assessed the damage and optimistically said: “Right, our goals have changed. We’re now treating this race as a training race. As I’ve said before, ‘Race like we train, and train like we race’, so we’re going to take our time to fix the rudder and then we’ll set off.”
Our spirits were lifted and Philippe then spent two hours down below fixing the rudder cable. He explained that the bronze pulley was dented which had caused the cable to come off under pressure.
After starting at 0850, we didn’t set off again until about 1230 – at the back of the fleet. We rounded No Man’s Land fort where the winds were reaching up to 38 knots and on past St Catherine’s Point, beating upwind all the way across the channel to the Casquets.
This was when my slow decline began. The lumps and bumps triggered a few projectile deposits off the stern, but I got back on the rail feeling a little better. But that didn’t last long. While I was throwing up all over the side of the boat, Annie sitting next to me threw up all over me and Philippe. Slightly bemused, I dangled myself down on the leeward side while a few waves washed over me to clean the bits off. From then on Annie and I got colder and wetter and sicker, until she went down below to get warm in her sleeping bag and I remained curled in a ball in the cockpit, until finally I went down below and tried sleeping it off – a bit difficult when you’re gripping to stay on a heeling bunk.
In the meantime, there was another mishap when the first reef pendant broke and Philippe struggled to reign it back in.
It wasn’t until 0400 that the wind calmed and the spinnaker was hoisted. Guernsey was a welcome sight. We rounded the south-west tip and headed towards Jersey’s south coast. To the crew’s amusement it wasn’t until then that I decided to test out my electro-pulse relief band for my seasickness, which actually did seem to work – no doubt because I was distracted by the fact that I felt like an electric socket!
It was a slow but exciting crawl to the finish line as we rounded Corbiere in only a puff of breeze. With three to four other boats we played tick tack toe, close tacking off the rocks of Portelet Bay- holding our breath as one boat called for water only a couple of metres off the rocky point on our inside. With the jib up, we silently tacked back and forth under Philippe’s calm instruction. Thanks to his local Jersey knowledge, we tacked wide into the bay, avoiding the sheltered area that led the other boats to struggle around the point.
Crossing the finish line we cheered with elation and relief. It took us around 30 hours to get there but we made it. And we were even happier to learn that even in the midst of adversity we came eighth in our class. Out of the 26 in our class IRC Class 1, only 15 finished. And out of the 105 yachts that started, 38 retired.
After shovelling down some food in Jersey – KFC wasn’t best to line my empty stomach but at that point I didn’t care – we headed back home again leaving a tangerine sunset behind us. We motored across the channel at night and sailed on a reach in a nice 10-15 knot wind the rest of the way – and for once I wasn’t feeding the fishes.
The Myth of Malham Race was a great introduction to offshore racing with all the essential ingredients: from gale force winds to a calm breeze and a positive and supportive crew. As crewmate Brian said: “It was great how we pulled together at the start in those conditions as it doesn’t get much windier than that – and if it does I want to get off the boat!”
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