RORC Ile d’Ouessant Race
After being granted the title of Yachtmaster and completing my first Cowes Week with exhausting corporate hospitality I was still only in the first half of August. There was little rest to be had as I was competing in a 400 mile offshore race the very next day after Cowes Week, this time on a 45 foot fast boat with a crew of 12.
The race course set was along a very familiar route I had been training and racing down the last year. Starting at Cowes we drifted in very little wind west out of the Solent, thankfully the forecast was accurate and a building breeze from the east pushed us to the first turning mark at Wolf Rock. After many enjoyable hours of surfing down the waves past Dorset, Devon and Cornwall we turned left towards the Island of Ushant or Ile d’Ouessant on the North West tip of France. I would have rounded this island on leg three of the solitaire if my forestay had not have snapped and forced me to retire, so I was happy to get around it cleanly and start heading for the finish line at St Malo.
The Yacht, RP45 Katsu, was much bigger than I have been used too, enough head room in the cabin for me to stand AND a fitted toilet. I most enjoyed the three hours on three hours off watch system, I felt spoilt with the amount of sleep I was able to get. We worked the changes in the tide well to finish the race 2nd in our class and 5th overall in the fleet of 36, but more positively I was able to gain a lot more experience in sailing offshore with a nice bunch of people.
Soon after I was driving down to another of Britain’s favourite sailing regattas in Dartmouth, on board Redshift with a good group of Figaro sailors and friends. For four days the sleepy town transforms, hosting a fair and rides with street food stalls and rowing boats racing up and down the river. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough wind for our first day of racing but instead we motored the boat out the river to hunt for some fish and launched the paddle boards.
It was back to business for the following three days with plenty of tight racing on offer, again it was great to work within an experienced team pulling off some quick and technical manoeuvres. In this style of racing all the boats are different and require a handicap system to correct the finishing times before the final results are posted, it’s only after the racing you see that each position is split by mere seconds after hours of racing. On the final day of racing with bigger winds I missed the comforts of sailing solo as scrambling around a busy crewed boat I managed to pull my lifejacket cord inflating the air bag and activating the light, not a very subtle mistake. Soon after, during a tack, my shoe got caught and flicked off tumbling into the sea, never to be seen again.
It was a traumatic day on the water but our results improved, winning one race and coming close in the others cementing our overall third place. I am convinced if all teams had been sailing the same type of boat we would have won as we often watched the bigger faster boats make big mistakes, in a tight Figaro fleet this would have been hard to get away with . Nonetheless the Dartmouth Regatta was a very memorable event and once again provided me with a huge amount of sailing experience that I can take into sailing offshore.