Lessons learned and records set in the Bay of Biscay

Steve Powell
Wed 3 Sep 2008 11:45

Before I get into The Bay of Biscay I must apologise for what might have seemed odd in the last blog. It seems that somewhere between writing it and sending it a whole middle section went missing! I have no idea what was in it so I can’t send it again which is probably a good thing. But if you observant types noticed a certain lack of flow, that will explain it for you.

We are now a few days out from the Biscay and I can afford to look back with a certain calm, been there done it, next challenge please, attitude.  In many ways it wasn’t half as terrifying as it could have been. I think we were mostly lucky and chose a pretty good weather window. The first 12 hours saw no wind at all so we kept heading south hunting for wind. The forecast promised a NE wind soon filling from South, which is the best we could of hoped for.

As soon as we got some wind we put the Parasailor (spinnaker)  up, no main, and she really started to sail. (Sorry to you none nautical types but I really have to talk a little sailor talk here because it’s important to some people.) We were cracking along, auto pilot on, having dinner at the table, doing a steady 9kts on the rum line for Cape Finnistere. No trimming, nothing! At this point Lucie pipes up that she was a little disappointed as she had been dreading Biscay for months and ‘it’s a bit easy.’  She almost wanted bad weather just to ‘see what its like’.  Talk about ‘out of the mouths of babes’. We made her suffer for those words later.

Josh and I decided that as the forecast was a steady 18-20kts for the next 24-36 hours we should try running with the Parasailor up all night as this was our plan for the Atlantic Race. We should see how  it goes.

Well this is the last known photo of our beloved Parasailor (that’s the red sail for those that don’t know)  who departed this world somewhere in the middle of the Bay of Biscay at about 4 in the morning.  I can remember thinking as I was going off watch that evening the problem with this Parasailor is that it’s so stable it’s going to make us a little complacent if we’re not careful.

Well I was and it came back and bit me in the arse...  To cut a long story etc,. The wind built all night to a point where we couldn’t get the spinnaker down because of wind and sea conditions. Then we got hit by a big gust, which broached us and in trying to recover we blew the spinnaker out at the head. So we had 283 sq meters of sail, sheets, guys (ropes) and sock all over the placed. Most of it over the side.  Given the conditions pitch black with a F7 ‘up our chuff’ we had very few options but to get all hands on deck and start cutting.  We managed to save all the sheets and guys, the sock and the carbon feeder and just about enough sail for pirate outfits at the next fancy dress party. The rest was floating away in the Bay.

Then followed the most exhilarating 24 hours of sailing I have ever experienced with big Atlantic swells coming in from the west clashing with a F7 coming in from the North East. We set records and survived. Thanks to a great crew who didn’t hesitate for a moment when things got a little tough.

UHURU’s new top speed record under white sails, 15.6kts. This is actual boat speed our speed over ground was over 16.5kts.

The next day we checked our Maximum Wind recorded. 49.3 kts. Well it impressed me!! Well done Lucie you got your wish

Lucie bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘The morning after the night before’.

By the time we rounded Cape Finnistere we were all much relieved and very very tired


 Cape Finnistere as we came in late Wednesday evening, a full 12 hours ahead of schedule.

Sorry that this blog has been mainly nautical, but it was that kind of week. Other things happened, we saw whales, had dozens and dozens of dolphins escort us, bonded with a tiny bird that spent about four hours with us resting onboard after the storm. Feeding from our hands. (Peter you’ll know what kind of bird this is)

and Will and Josh invented a new sport for when you have no surf.....

We have now left JP in Porto. We had a great week JP and thanks for your help. We’re heading south for Cadiz should be there in 3 days which is when I can send this.

Good night all

31st August 2008


Another bloody sunset!!!!!