Star Dancer - Overall Class 3 Winner and Leg 2 Class 3 Winner!

Rob Packham
Mon 2 Jul 2007 18:40
Class 3 Winner
Star Dancer is Overall Class 3 winner and Leg 2 Class 3 winner in the AZAB provisional results list.   We came 11th in the fleet overall list out of 51 starters.
We won the Overall Class 3  by 3 hours in a corrected time  of 15days, 16hours, 41minutes and 44seconds.    (taking account of our IRC endorsed Handicap - .939)
Our elapsed time for both legs was 16days, 17hours and 10minutes and we are thrilled with that.   When we set out we reckoned that 20 days at sea would be going well.
The AZAB has been a big project personally but enormous fun to do.   Like anything it would not be possible without the help and support from many people.  Here are a few of them. 
The Boat
Star Dancer - our beautiful Southerly 110 - was the real star of the show.  A big thank you to Northshore for a great boat.
In strong wind conditions she went superbly throughout and proved a real seaboat in the big blow we experienced on the leg out to Ponta Delgada.
She surprised a good number of people with her speed and sea-going ability in the heavy sea conditions.
The Sails
Peter Sanders of Sanders Sails, Lymington made all the sails.   The main and genoa were just right for the job, giving us good speed whilst strong in the storm where we had 12 hours of 35/50kts of wind (max 61.3 recorded!)
The most beautiful sail is out BIG red and gold spinnaker.  She drove us along for many hours including two 30 hour spinnaker runs on the return leg.  Many thanks to Peter Sanders.
Third Crew
Our third crew member deserves a mention.  The Raymarine autopilot (ST6001) took care of all the hard work and we only seriously took over in the big blow when we found we could anticipate the big waves and needed to helm proactively to guard against a gybe.   Mr Autopilot was on watch for most of the 16 days at sea!
Weather information is important to put the boat in the right position.   A master class from Chris Tibbs before the race - he of RYA Weatherbook fame, and a resident here on the Isle of Wight - was invaluable.   Many thanks Chris.
Our satellite phone allowed us to download synoptic charts as well as GRIB files of weather information to put into our laptop based MAXSEA software.   The variable and changing weather on the outleg had us keeping pretty much to the rhumb line but the return leg saw us heading north of the rhumb by over 60 miles and allowed us to take big advantage of the strong northwest winds we experienced for the last 3 days of the race.   Just as well really because after the first night we were pretty much at the back of the fleet!  Thanks to Mademoiselle GRIB!
Communications were excellent - satphone and software supplied by Ed Wildgoose of   The Iridium phone never missed a beat and in addition to the important weather information it gave us the opportunity to stay in email touch with our friends and family as well as the occasional chat.   The Webdiary is part of the mailasail package and has been great fun and allowed us to keep friends across the world informed of our progress.   Thanks Ed.
The Crew  
I met Robert Hooykaas on the Cape Town to Boston leg of the Global Challenge in 2005 - Robert sailed the whole race on Stelmar.   Peggy (Robert's wife) and Jenny had 6 days in Boston waiting for us and a friendship was formed.   Robert is a great seaman, a brilliant helm and Mr Cool under pressure.   We experienced the storm together with big seas - Robert's calmness was a real comfort as the wind got up into the 50's and waves built during the afternoon.   When he went home to Holland after the first leg we had had great fun, sailed well to 2nd in Class 3 and experienced some very special sailing time together.   To my good friend - thank you Robert. 
John Crabtree OBE, my brother-in-law sailed the return leg, breaking away from his busy life and young family to join in the adventure we had dreamed about and planned some years ago.   I say OBE because he was awarded it in the birthday honours during the race for his work with the charity SENSE - supporting deaf-blind people.   Over recent years he has raised well over £2million for SENSE which is an amazing achievement.    And what a special crewmate, a great navigator and no mean cook.   He came on board recovering from a knee injury - ligaments etc - and was in frequent pain as the knee stiffened.   We had a great time together and agreed what a unique and special experience it is sailing a race of 1250 miles over 8 days with one other person - difficult for others to understand the up and downs, the tiredness and the joy of sailing into Falmouth in the middle of a beautiful moonlit night - and the special thrill of a great race result.   John - you are a great man and a great mate - thanks.
The Sailor's wives
Big thank-you to Peggy, Diana and Jenny for allowing us to live our dreams.   We were out there sailing, enjoying the thrill of the sea and the race while you were keeping it going at home and thinking of that little boat out there in the big Atlantic - all alone in the middle of the night.   Thanks. 
The Royal Cornwall Yacht Club and the Clube Naval de Ponta Delgada
The AZAB has a great reputation and we experienced tremendous friendship and support from the Royal Cornwall and the AZAB Race Committee.   Very special thanks go to Anne Thomas for all the organising and support.   What a task David and his team undertook in Race Control.  Always there and co-ordinating the response to any incident as well as the daily position reports and website updates - a big thanks.
The Clube Naval de Ponta Delgada were generous hosts in the Azores.   They met each boat, whatever time of day or night,  and saw them across the finish line.  A very special sailing club.
Jenny and I are now back on the Isle of Wight and Star Dancer awaits in Falmouth for the weather to pick up a bit for a delivery trip home to Yarmouth.   Our friends in Ruffian - Peter and Emma are headed back to Scarborough and Alan and Marilou of Montaraz have to get to Oban in Scotland.  We met so many good people during the Race. 
We all plan to meet up at the Royal Southampton Yacht Club on the 15th September (Southampton Boat Show time) for the prize giving and AZAB 2007 reunion.
And to you the reader(s) thanks for the support - we could feel it on the wind and that makes a big difference in the middle of a dark night in a rough sea.
Rob Packham