Jo reports from on board as they round the Fastnet and head for home

1st in class at the Fastnet!

It’s been a long couple of days but we’ve made it! And it may have taken a while to get to the southern Irish rock, but what a damn good sight it was when the luminous lighthouse came into view on the horizon, and even better when we found out that we had rounded second on the water and first in class. All the hard work had paid off.

Our journey there was full of more light winds. On the morning of Tuesday 9 August we had 9kts of breeze and the lightweight headsail up. I bounced on deck to find dolphins surfing the bow this time, much bigger than the porpoises the day before, and the Piranha watch told us about seven were later playing around.

By the afternoon the breeze had dropped to 5kts and again it was a beautiful day full of blue skies and sunshine. Sitting on the rail, the boys onboard were talking of getting us girls to do some pole dancing on the spinnaker pole – obviously the sun was getting to their hormones.

By lunchtime, we munched on pesto pasta and contemplated on the ETA to the rock with 46 miles to go and a dying wind. At 2.5kts of breeze we did stop moving and we heard an eerie muffled noise that sounded like the firing of cannons in the distance. At first we thought it was something under the boat, and I had a horror thought of an injured dolphin dragging underneath. Then along came Dazzle, a catamaran who had also fallen to the mercy of the windless afternoon. We waved and they asked us if we’d begun rationing our beer yet, and as we watched them drain the last of their wine cask, crank the music up, we floated alongside the party boat with what sounded like World War III going on behind us. As Jonboy said: “Very bizarre.”

Hiking out on the rail, we tacked back and forth, trying to suck every bit of speed out of any wind that came our way. We amused ourselves by playing word games and singing songs like “We are sailing” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” at the top of our voices that even made our seagull audience fly away.

We had been travelling on the rhumb line when we fell into the wind hole and it took us two hours to get only eight miles. There was the chance that other boats could have gone north and avoided it.

By early evening the breeze started to build slowly as we headed straight to the Rock using the wind shifts. We expected it to reach 10kts but it remained shifty, meaning we arrived at the Fastnet Rock at the wee hour of 06:16:03 on Wednesday 10 August, just as Sara had predicted in our own sweep stakes.

Passing the hostile Fastnet rock and its magnificent lighthouse was an amazing feeling. I really felt the magnitude of being in such a famous race. And we felt like rock stars as we hoisted the kite north of the lighthouse when a helicopter came and hovered over it, taking pictures of us and the other boats. The skipper, Philippe, had some gentlemanly banter with the RORC race officials Ocean 6 offering to sail up to the rock to share champagne and strawberries – but of course they pointed out we’d be breaking the racing rules. As we sauntered by, a little shocked by the news that we were second on the water in IRC Class 1?and later finding out we were first on handicap, we headed towards the next waypoint to the west of the rock.

The prize for best communication with the race officials was between Ocean 6 and the Belgium skipper from Oxygen, who said: “May I ask you dis one thing. Who is de lady in pink on zee top of zee tower – we would like to exchange the Kingdom of Belgium for her.” And Ocean 6 answered: “May I remind you of the International Yachting Rules that state pirating and pillaging of the lighthouse assets is not permitted.” And Oxygen replied: “Well, we will ‘ave to send a catapult across to the rock to take her from you!”

It was dead calm waters, true serenity I thought, not a sound?except for Jonboy relieving himself from the transom. As luck has it, our choice to go west with the northerly wind to make the waypoint ended up with us in another wind hole, as we unhappily watched the IRC 1 boats such as Magnum and White Knuckles who had arrived at the rock behind us, stretch on ahead further south.

The south-west wind had picked up to 5kts, and as the fog closed in it built to 8-10kts and we were back in action with Schoomy on the helm. To keep us weary Pumettes motivated Philippe then congratulated us on our result to the rock, being a “dream come true” to achieve in one of the hardest races, the Fastnet. And now we just need to carry it through. He said: “The reason why we do so well is because we work as a team, not like some other boats that are only out for themselves, they don’t work together.”

Through Wednesday night we sailed downwind, and managed to catch up to the other IRC 1 yachts, leaving the two Prima 38s, White Knuckles and Longbow to our port as we steadily tailed them into the morning. At this stage it appears many of the boats that passed the rock hours behind us have gained considerably, putting it down to the wind filling in from the north much stronger than we thought. But at this point we’re holding a strong position as we ride the north westerly to the Scilly Isles. The race isn’t finished yet – Puma Logic will be keeping up the pace to the end!

Picture: Jo trimming. Philippe Falle