Race 1 London to Brest

Race 1; London to Brest, approx 380 nm, 2/3 days.
After high emotions of leaving London and they were high and mixed, we motored down the Thames to anchor for the evening at Queensborough.
Race start was scheduled for 9:30 off Southend pier Monday morning so an early rise was needed to get across the estuary and ensure everything was prepared, along with checking out the start line and wind conditions. Clearly spinnakers were going to be needed from the off, although this would turn into a beat as we approached the Dover straights.
After a good start we had an issue with our primary winches that meant we had to sail under staysail alone for around 4 hours whilst the drive mechanism was stripped down and fixed allowing us to rehoist the Yankee and get back up to full speed. This cost us a few places and we lost a lot of the early ground we had made on the majority of the fleet. The early beat and stronger than expected winds meant a few of the crew, I included, suffered mild bowts of sea sickness. Hats off to the mothers who managed to produce food for 20 throughout the day besides both of them suffering badly from this malady.
I find the first 2 days on watches very tiring and am often lacking in energy whilst the body cycle adjusts to the new pattern. But once over it the energy levels kick back in. This is helped by excellent grub on board; our vitcuallers have done a fantastic job! 
Over the next 2 days consistent sailing brought us eventually to the head of the fleet, although we know we have a 6 hour penalty due to encroaching on the TSS.
A key tactical decision was made to go for the Alderney Race and pick up the strong tidal streams through there to sweep us down past the Channel Islands. This proved to be a good choice until we fell into a wind hole south of Alderney in thick fog, but crucially we still held the lead…. just!
With the light and fickle winds the race office shortened the race so that we could meet our arrival time in Brest and so finished the race at 3pm on Wednesday; at which point we had slipped back to 2nd , just 2 miles behind the winners, Jamaica.
It was engines on then and full speed to Brest and straight into a real pea souper of a fog! Sailing in fog gives all sailors the willies and to make matters worse we discovered our radar was duff. So with fog horn sounding every 2 minutes we posted lookouts (or rather listeners) on the bow and mast for the night. 
Upon arrival in Brest we were met by a crate of beers and some gifts from the city and to be told that by the race office that due to our encroachment into the TSS (traffic separation scheme) near Dover we had been given a 9 hour penalty thus demoting us to 12th and last place for the race! 
Later that evening was the bitter sweet prize presentation, along with a mayoral reception in the city hall.  Listening to us being announced in 12th place when we crossed the line 2nd was difficult in the least, but we managed to drown out sorrows a little.
Now it’s back to preparing the boat for the forthcoming Atlantic crossing! There are a number of key jobs still to be done to get the board ready for this.

3 Comments to "Race 1 London to Brest"

  1. Peter Wilcock says:

    Thanks for taking the time to blog Neil. Carole and I followed the race all the way over and share everybody’s disappointment at being relegated to last place. The important thing is that you clearly sailed well and made some good tactical choices which augurs well for the future. I am really looking forward to joining you in Rio. Really pleased to read your comment about the victualling after all Richard’s planning and the hard work packing everything. Congratulations to everybody on the boat and have a great and safe Atlantic crossing. Hold fast, Peter.

  2. Sarah Bell says:

    So good to read your blog after tracking you from London to France – kids keep asking to ”check the map!”.
    Shame about the penalty but really well done on the excellent progress, something to build on for the next leg.
    Take lots of care & will look forward to the next blog.
    Love The Bells xxxx Hold fast!

  3. Tim Wolfe says:

    Hi Neil, sounds like apart from the TSS that you had a great first race and you also found bits of the boat wanting that you can get sorted out. Pea soup fog without a radar doesn’t sound good. Enjoy the beer and get ready for the start of this fantastic adventure. Remember its a marathon not a sprint. Look forward to keeping in touch. Take care. Tim & Suzanne

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