Well now with feet firmly back on dry land after completing the Triangle Race a double handed offshore race with my dad it is time to reflect on the race, the experience and going forward.
Here are a few of the key facts before I crack on with the rest of the report:
3 x Legs - Torquay to Kinsale, Kinsale to Treguier, Treguier to Torquay (650 miles)
29 Entries competing over 3 classes. Class 1, 2, & 3.
Double Handed Race
2016 - One of the most brutal 1st legs ever experience (winds avg 26 knots - gusts up to 37 knots) all on the nose
1st time my dad and myself have ever sailed together for this long and double handed let alone done this race.
Our boat Sunfast 3600 - Footloose 2, carrying a higher handicap then the other 3600 due to a large symmetrical kite
Leg one kicked off from Torquay with some heavy downpours and then bright sunshine, the noise of engines of different planes flying above due to the airshow.
A quick blast across Torbay and neck and neck with overall winner (Gary and Russ) on Amylou at Berryhead before having the wind on the nose which is where it remained for the next 47 hours.
All boats making good ground past Start Point and headed towards the Scilly Isles, a few already headed to port due to breakages, which were the first of a fair few. We blew the back of the boom out and lost the outhaul in the early hours of the Lizard. After rounding 1st at Scilly the breeze suddenly jumped up several notches within minutes we were smashing through 20+ knots into the Irish Sea. Then the fun really started....
The wind continue to to dial up with the averages around 26 knots and gusts being felt of 37 knots. Then throw in relentless 15-20ft breaking waves that pummelled both boat and crew for a minimum of 13 hours. In the pitch black the only light coming from the whites of the breaking water along with the endless buckets of water in the face and being thrown across the cockpit.
BANG! goes the reefing line, time to chuck in the 2nd slab.....the mains falling down - the pins given out at the top of the halyard - time for only the No.3...
Sailing for a huge part of the leg only on the main, being dragged lower, and as the breeze started to drop and become much shiftier off the shore as we approached the emerald Isle it was painful as our lead disintegrated, but constantly pushing, we cross the line taking line honours but gutted to have lost what we did. Time to fix, time to learn from the mistakes, time to eat, sleep, oh and go and wash and dry all my dry clothes as they landed in the bilge and soaked up everything possible. A final kick in the nuts came from seeing my Go Pro looking more like a fish tank with water half way up the waterproof housing....DOH!!!
An amazing leg and full credit to everyone of the crews, that made it safely to Kinsale no matter how long it took or how hard the sail was due to breakages, it was truly special to have the bulk of the fleet into Kinsale and after the handful of Ibruprofen and Co Codamol the bodies were ready to fight again.
A huge thank you to MGM Boats and John MacDonald from Kinsale supporting CH Marine in Cork for their amazing support in getting a new Whichard part required for the main halyard in time to race for leg 2. (It couldnt have been any closer).
Wow downwind sailing what a relief - 17 - 22 knots, bright sunshine and waves as the fleet hammers down the Irish Sea, it felt more like it was the Med.
Everything going well for all the fleet as Ireland disappeared in to the distance and we start to near the Scilly Isles within the early hours. A mistake onboard from us both while gybing in waves between the TSS caused a wrap in the kite that became our worst nightmare. Completely stuck headed towards the rocks, the fleet gaining every minute, beads of sweat pouring from both of us as we frantically tried to free the kite..then....rip...trapped between the genoa halyard and forestay and pinch point and that was that. But on the positive the kite was down, a quick sail change going to the A3 and were off again, loosing 2-3 miles on the fleet.
Time to push and focus the breeze dropping, our hearts sang thinking we would be reeled in. The decision to trim the kite every second and every minute allowed us to pull away again and soak lower to our surprise even to the other Sunfast 3600 with their large A1 and the other symmetrical kites. Punching through the English Channel down to the Brittany coast and the decisions to stay out or go in close to the shore with the tides and the breeze predictions.
We crossed the line again to Line Honours and over and hour over the other 3600 but due to the breeze holding for the rest of the fleet it provided a great opportunity for others to make gains and thats what they did. But the sunrise on that final morning was something special, as the warmth came back to us and seeing the finish line it was a great way to celebrate fathers day having completed another leg with my dad. It also drew me into my thoughts of what my baby daughter thinks of her dad doing this race and the hope of her feeling proud of what he has achieved. As we motored in to Treguier, while the dolphin smacked our rudders around it had that feeling of "what might have been" again.
Again another huge learning point for both of us and the continued development of crew and equipment.
Again a huge congratulations to everyone who sailed a great leg and a special mention to fellow Exe SC members Rick and George for a great performance winning their class and coming 2nd overall in the leg.
The final sprint home....but due to the light winds some what longer then everyone hoped / expected.
Again upwind battling big holes in the wind, a separation between the fleet as some headed West and the bulk to the East.
The boats that had been prominent at the front of the fleet again lead into Start Point, but with the wind dropping to a couple of knots it became more a waiting game, searching for wind, using everything you had or could get. This was the final blow to us... due to other commitments I was required to be back into Torquay early afternoon to enable me to get home, swap bags and then get to Cardiff to commentate on the Extreme Sailing Series. I had already sacrificed 1 day to enable the final leg but as the wind shut down the countdown clock became more the deciding factor of when we needed to put the engine on and accept the retirement.
Unfortunately as midday draw in the start of the engine was the end to a race we certainly did not want to finish like that but had no other choice. When I looked back at the results and seeing the first boat only crossing the line by 16:30 it proved it was the right choice.
The other bits:
The Marines Rations we were eating, classic fun digging out these new meals and playing roulette to what each one would taste like but all in all they were cracking and a big thank you to the Blicks for sorting these for us.
Wow we had some laughs about the food, the conditions and much more, which was a key thing that kept us going.
To all the other crews, a massive congratulations for your successes, and making another Triangle race so spectacular. There is a colossal number of thank yous so fingers crossed I manage to tick at least some of them off:
RTYC, David, Jan, Peter and all the organisers involved with making this an amazing race.
Kinsale YC for your superb welcome and hospitality and always happy to help attitude.
MGM Yachts and CH Marine for organising the parts we required and getting them to us in the knick of time.
Peter at 1 Sails for his continued support and of course repairs (sorry)
Chatham for providing me with the the best footwear possible for any conditions
Exe Sails for the continued list of accessories we required
and of course the most important people... my amazing family for your continued support in enabling me to always challenge myself, push the boundaries of my limits and do the sport i love.
Well going forward.....who knows, will there be another Triangle Appearance....watch this space