What can I say, we last spoke upon arrival at Bayona in Mid June. Yet here I
am 97.56 Nautical miles ENE of Madeira. I think that being owner and skipper
takes its toll of me, certainly I was in need of a break from everything
when we arrived in Bayona, add to that the fact that I became dehydrated. I
got out of the routine and spent a good deal of time just "switched off",
the next thing we were sailing down the coast of Portugal every day and
there didn't seem to be the right time? The daily runs down the coast were
OK but they still reqired a lot of prethinking in terms of buying diesel and
food etc, not all the harbours had diesel and so we had to load up where we
could, some of the longest days were spent motoring for 60 or so miles into
the wind and sea. I would have been so ill had I tried to write in those
All in all I suppose I let matters slip. In retrospect I can see that I let
my crew down, I let my friends down, I let you, my reader down, but most of
all, I let myself down!!.
The last few race days along the coast of Portugal were actually very
pleasing, I yielded to the dark side and sailed Rebel at full tilt and
perhaps a little more. I must say it does bring out the Devil in one. On the
last day which was 64 miles we drove her like mad from the start. We went
over the start line with the parasailor up a flew it for about 50 miles.
Until we had to turn East at the bottom corner of Portugal to sail up to
Lagos. A rival, "Gertha 4" was broaching about somthing delightful/awful
depending on ones moral attitude and in the end had to take down their
assymetric which let us roar through yelling like the Essex lowlife that
some of the crew really are!
As we turned the corner we kept up the parasailor despite the increasing
wind. The wind was North, we were sailing approx East and the wind was
coming off the shore with no real sea at about 25knts true. We flew. We had
taken onboard that morning at 6am a young guy called Charlie who was and
stil is no doubt, the son of the owner of Cheroon a big new 46ft or so
sloop, he had never sailed a cat before and having been the worse for drink
the previous night we had invited him on board to race, "a real boat, not
half a boat". So the scene was set really.
We knew that the spinnaker would have to come down but didn't want to give
up the speed or the lead, especially as I knew that the last 6 miles were
hard on the wind and would involve tacking. ( Cats are not so good to the
wind as monohulls, but not that bad either ). The trouble was that we were
making leeway off course because the spinnaker was at its windward limit,
but we were doing a steady 11knts. ...The Devil was in the air. The Devil
was in the air to the point where we had a crew lecture by the skipper
explaining,( what of course they already knew) exactly how I wanted the sail
brought in and exactly ow we would put up the main and genniker. ( Mono's or
"Leaners" or 'alf-a-boats ) always carry the mainsail with a spinnaker so
that they can safely drop the Spinny behind it. A Cat on the other hand
doesn't need that ability , she is so much more stable and not prone to
broaching, further we use a snuffer on the sail, a sort of a sock that we
can pull down to collapse the sail. It means that we are more flexible down
wind regarding course changes but does mean that we have to hoist the main
if we want to sail upwind. It was agreed how we would effect this and we
timed it. It took 4 minutes. That is the best time ever and was a credit to
the crew, but also a window into the mood onboard. We were serious.
We were now able to sail a little North of our needs to regain some lost
North due to the Spinny. By now the other boats were rounding the point,
each was analysed and timed in its actions. No one other crew got it better
than us. Next was the fact that the wind was increasing noticeably, now
about 30 over the deck. Our Genniker was beyond its safe working load but we
were just screaming along and so it stayed up. Some of the other crew had
left the spinnakers up, possibly hoping not to have to pull it down in such
winds and possibly hoping to gain ground with fingers crossed.
There were some spectacular scenes. A big Halberg Rassy was so far over
that the spinny was in and out of the water, then it broached horribly and
the spinny exploded into tatters. Others were having similar problems, but
then we had some storing up as well.
Rebel just had too much sail up. The genniker is OK upto about 15/18 knts we
were getting 25/30 over the deck. Then came the ineviteable gust.
A cat doesn't round up into the wind when overpressed, ( broaching) it
accelerates and compresses the downwind hull. If your bottom is clean ( mine
always is chaps ) Then the theory is that she flies forward, you steer a
little downwind to ease the pressure and outrun the gust. If you get it
wrong then you free the sail very quickly, all hell breaks loose but you
should stay upright. If however you accelerate into the back of the next
wave you can bury that lee hull and trip head over heels. Then came the
We flew but the lee hull was half way compressed when I looked back quickly
we had began to loose one of the wakes. We had began to lift a hull. All too
hairy but if the gust just eased... then the steering went light and the
boat stopped moving with the waves and just tore through at one level. This
is probably surfing or planing. The very edge of sensible. but we were
doing 13.5 knts and we were racing.
During skippers litle talk I had allocated each crew member a winch and a
rope. all ropes were in hand and nothing was tied off. No one spoke. We
carried on for perhaps 10 seconds like this, utterly in awe of the speed. To
windward I could see another gust coming. I shouted to Marky Mark next to
me, such was the noise to ease the genniker right now!! out, out out. In the
time that it took to do it, which was seconds, we accelerated even faster,
but my steering had gone very light and spray was everywhere. As the gust
hit we slowed with the eased sail. We all shouted alive with the moment.
But it was time to get the sail in. We rolled out the genoa to blanket the
genniker then rolled the genniker in. Under full main and genoa we still
made 12 knts and it was so clear that the boat was badly over pressed
before. Charlie was agog at the whole thing and as impressed as I was at how
we had worked like a race crew so well. We all screamed about speed and
spray and flying hulls and all manner of jibberish and nonsense as the
adrenaline worked its way though everyone.
In the fleet behind us that series of gusts caused a lot of damage, there
were many ripped sails some fittings burst and many a crew was rent
asunder. Pressure form all quarters.
Strictly speaking we stil had too much sail up but so much less than before
that it seemed OK. as we headed up to the finish line and came hard on the
wind, we had 35 knts steady over the sails and not a reef in sight.It was
fine until we had to tack. Once the wind came off the sails they screamed
with the noise and the top 1/8th of the mast vibrated fit to break. When
the wind filled the new tack, Rebel lurched as the load came on, then just
flew. She was the proverbial, "Bat out of hell" Charlie was on the Starb'd
primary winch and the first time we tacked he didn't get the sheet in quick
enough. My God the sail went beserk and we nearly missed going about. A
serious situation in those conditions. Mark backed us quickly, the bows
kept moving and all was OK. 3 or 4 tacks got us to the finish and we
scorched home the winners!!
I think that day and those last few hours will stay with us all for ever,
never have I sailed so hard and never been so in the grip of the Devil. But
dear me we went "Berserk and to the hilt" I must say I loved it.
That was the last sail, last race and end of Rally Portugal. We stayed in
the marina for the next few days, getting the boat sorted , organising
on-going repairs and generally relaxing awaiting the flights home. We flew
out 28th June back to home.
Once in UK there were things to organise for the next leg, (this leg) and
business to attend to. I was back inb Moscow within the week and off on the
other race for all I am worth.
Suddenly it was time to fly back to Lagos and within the blink of an eye I
am here again writing my belated log. The guys aboard have kept you updated
to this point and for that some may receive, "Skippers benevolence" Always a
blessing for the crew.
I am off watch in 30 mins and plan to have a shower. I think I will wash all
those awkard bits that one so seldom has time for in the hurly-burly of
life. Mmmm yes, good plan.
If all goes well we should reach Porto Santo mid morning tomorrow, but there
is still 89.45 miles to go. It is so strange. When we view the trip on the
chart plotter we are nearly there so we all naturaly feel good and relax,
but then when taken in context, we have about the same distance to go as
from Harwich to Ostend, the whole North Sea. Tell me dear reader who is
relaxed at the beginning of that!
So I am up to date, spent far too long on the last race in Portugal but it
was/ is a graphic memory that for me at least is what I will take with me
from that trip. I am Skipper, this is my log so I will write what I want.
I can defend myself in so much as ancient map makers always drew the
headlands in much more detail and in a larger scale than the bays, because
they were the important views that the skippers following would need to note
in order to navigate safely. So if I spent too much time on the important
bits. I am in good company.
Thanks for reading speak soon Tim xx