Things I learnt from the Cervantes race

Well it’s Friday night, and I’ve recovered from the 36 or so sleepless hours that was the Cervantes Trophy race onboard Inseyandra, so I figured I’d put down some thoughts about the thrills and challenges of the experience.

1. Sailing offshore is no more difficult than coastal sailing. As I always say, the difficult parts of sailing are the first and last metres of it, not the bit in between, and the boat doesn’t behave any differently because it is out of sight of land. Unlike, say, a beat round Lavernock with Karisma, Inseyandra spent hour after hour on port tack crossing the channel, which allows the crew to settle into a rhythm and, well, just sail the boat. However:

2. Helming offshore is much more difficult than taking the helm inshore. I was surprised by how much more difficult it was to steer a course without visual references. This applied particularly at night, and particularly when going to windward. Helming off the wind I was able to pick up a groove which led to some decent boat speed, and I think this is easier to do when you’re sailing free to your waypoint. When you’re beating to it- ie trying to make best course to windward- the helmsman becomes a slave to a narrow VMG groove, and boat speed is a less important factor. My first stint of after dark helming was into a F6 wind and lashing rain on a night without marks, and keeping the VMG up was difficult and knowing what to do at first confusing. That was the most challenging bit of sailing yet, and somewhere I can find room for improvement.

3. I was tired but not exhausted, which I think is a pretty good result. I basically didn’t sleep from Friday morning to Monday evening. I was probably too interested in what was going on to sleep much underway anyhow (although the autohelm going haywire in the privacy of it’s locker, immediately behind my bunk, didn’t help). It was pretty easy to get onto the 4 on, 4 off watch pattern- overall the short snatches of rest and long periods of active concentration reminded me of days and nights spent picking coring and casing points in my days as an oil rig geologist.

4. I was not seasick and never felt as though I would be. Thankfully. Although they say the world divides into those who have and those who have not been seasick yet, I think that’s one thing I don’t have to worry about in this campaign unless the sea state is really up.

5. I am sailing with some brilliant people. The crew is really starting to gel and everyone gets on really well. Every person brings something positive to the experience and we have great teamwork. This will stand us in good stead in the campaign.

6. Inseyandra is the right choice of boat and Solent Sail are the right choice of people to do this with. The boat is strong, safe and reassuring. Martin and Gordon, the skippers, are racing the boat and not the fleet, so it’s corinthian, shout-free and friendly racing. We’re all there to sail offshore and enjoy it, to challenge ourselves in that way, not to be hanging off the rail and screaming about starboard. And that’s just how I wanted it. We might take the outboard motor off the tafftail for the next race though- that’ll really be the gloves coming off.

7. I can’t wait to get out there again. We have a previously-booked family holiday when Inseyandra will enter the myth of Malham race, so I can only wish the rest of the guys good luck for that one. But I’ll be back and raring to go for the De Guingand Bowl on 5th June, that’s for sure.

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