#1 2011-09-24 20:15:27

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KIPPER OF LONDON's 2010 Shetland Round Britain & Ireland Race (V34)

KIPPER OF LONDON'S 2010 Shetland Round Britain & Ireland Race
By John Corden

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#2 2011-09-25 08:03:05

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Re: KIPPER OF LONDON's 2010 Shetland Round Britain & Ireland Race (V34)

Plans, preparations and sailing Lymington to Plymouth

2010-04-30 22:05:00 - Sailblog - Lymington - John

Welcome to Kipper Sailing's new blog.

I've moved my blog off my web-site, to Sailblogs, in order to facilitate posting blog updates using Sailmail via Kipper's new radio modem and SSB transceiver during the 2010 Round Britain and Ireland Race, which starts on June 6th. This way we will hopefully be able to update all out followers...... OK the few people who are sad enough to want to keep tabs on the progress of two fools, stupid enough to believe that an out and out cruising yacht like Kipper has a place in the race...... on a daily basis as we follow the pros around The British Isles.

Seriously though, this race is a bit of a challenge. To quote the organisers: "Started by the Royal Western in 1966, the Round Britain and Ireland is one of the International classics of short-handed sailing, and over the years has attracted the great names. The course is clockwise around all of Great Britain & Ireland, and there are compulsory stops of 48 hours at Kinsale, Barra, Lerwick and Lowestoft where the hospitality is legendary. It is always a terrific test of endurance and seamanship, and not for the faint hearted."

My Co-skipper is John Nash, a highly experienced professional Yachtmaster, with tens of thousands of sea-miles under his boots, including a race around The World. So, I'll be able to sleep sound in my bunk when he's on watch.

We have 28 days to finish, including the 4, 48hour stopovers. It's approximately 2,000 miles by the rumb line but we expect to sail 2,500 through the water, which means 125 miles a day for 20 days actual sailing, equals an average of 5.2kts. No problem if there's even a modest amount of wind all the time but if, for example, we had 5 days of very light airs and averaged only 60 miles on each of these days, then our average for the rest of the time shoots up to 6.11kts, which would be a real challenge in Kipper, especially if there's a lot of upwind sailing. And, of course, because I start my next course on July 12th and have to get Kipper back home from the finish in Plymouth, we don't have much leeway. That said, in most previous races, even slower boats than Kipper managed to finish in the time-limit so, unless a dirty great high pressure with no gradient wind in it, settles over The British Isles for the duration of the race, we should be OKish. Of course, whilst June is statistically the least gale ridden month, it's still high-likely, perhaps even certain, that we'll have at least one big blow to contend with.

The good news is that, whereas the pros will be sailing faster boats, with few creature comforts, we'll be relatively comfortable on Kipper, enjoying warm dry accommodation and good food. None of this freeze dried grunge for us. We're loading up with rib-eye steaks.

More on our preparations over the next few days.

2010-05-01 12:06:00 - Sailblog - Lymington - John

Ok. Let's see if the new technology works.

If this entry lands up in my blog, then I can blog via any email client, including my special Sailmail client on my onboard PC, which works through my radio modem, into my SSB transceiver, though the airways, into a SSB receiver in Belgium, into their radio modem, into their computer and onwards into the Internet and Sailblogs.

Hmmmm. Hear goes!

2010-05-16 07:36:00 - Not Long Now - Lymington - John

The race starts on June 6th and we have to be in Plymouth by the previous Thursday, so we're planning to depart Lymington in the late afternoon or early evening of Tuesday the 1st. That's not long! Fortunately, because Kipper is kept very “up together” in order to fulfil her work, there's been less boat preparation that might be the case for some crew. Even so, we started with a long list of jobs, which I've been slowly whittled down over the last few weeks and, by the end of tomorrow we'll hopefully be 99% ready. Which is just as well really 'cos I'm teaching for 14 straight days, starting on Sunday night, which means there'll be very little time left before we go. The only remaining jobs are to get our sail-numbers stuck onto Kipper's hull and to buy the food and drink. As regards the former of these tasks, I tried to do it yesterday, using stick-on lettering provided by a local sign-writer. What a cock-up. I worked right to left, got the L down fine, the 7 OK, the 6 down OKish, the 4 down in pretty poor style and tore the 1.

John (Nash) has been busily correcting paper charts, in order that we have bang up-to-date information, which is especially important for the North Sea legs (Lerwick to Lowestoft) and round the corner into The Channel, because of all the oil rigs and the rapidly growing number of wind farms. Incidentally our, supposedly bang-up-to- date Navionics Gold charts, clearly aren't. I've already identified instances where changes notified in 2009 Notices to Mariners have not found there way onto the electronic chart. And, after searching everywhere on the charts, delving deep into the menus, I can't find any statement indicating the date of the last correction or the source data. This simply isn't acceptable and I'll be expressing my opinions in letters to the yachting press.

2010-05-23 09:26:00 - Electronic Charts - Lymington - John

My letter to Yachting World.

As a Yachtmaster Instructor I teach my students to check the Edition Number of their paper charts and the last correction by Admiralty Notices to Mariners reference number. They can then go online to the UKHO web-site and enter their chart catalogue-number to pull up later Notices to Mariners to see if there are any important corrections, for example, if the characteristics of a navigation buoy have changed.

As a competitor in this year's 2-handed Round Britain and Ireland Race, it is crucially important for us to have bang-up-to-date corrections, especially for the North Sea legs, where the position of sandbanks, oil and gas production facilities and the growing number of operating and nascent wind-farms is regularly evolving. My co-skipper has spent many hours carefully correcting a large number of paper charts.

I also have the very latest, 2010, release of one of the most popular digital charts of the British Isles on my chart-plotter. To my surprise I discovered that there are obviously 2009 Notices to Mariners that have not been applied to the digital chart. OK, I accept that every chart is out-of-date the moment it is published and expect to have to make my own corrections by way of waypoints, using a distinctive icon, such as a skull, and accompanying comments, however I was surprised to discover that there is no way to establish the last correction date for this new digital chart. So I have no idea how far back I need to go in Notices to Mariners in order to be sure that I've taken account of all material changes.

My local chart agent was unable to help, so I contacted the chart publisher, expecting a succinct answer to a simple question: "What is the latest Notice to Mariners incorporated into your chart?"; Unfortunately I didn't get an acceptable answer. What I heard was that: "We take corrections form a wide number of sources and have a very large number of charts to update so we cannot confirm the latest correction for any of our charts."; I was also reminded that "Electronic charts are an aid to navigation and must be used in conjunction with properly corrected paper charts in order to ensure safe navigation.";

So where do I go from here? Clearly not all 2009 Notices to Mariners are incorporated into my chart but what about 2008. How far back do I have to go?

I also know that my current electronic chart provider is not unique in this respect. As far as I'm aware all the current publishers of "leisure"; charts are the same. As a professional instructor and "power user"; of electronic charts I find this situation wholly unacceptable for a number of reasons: 1. It is unethical and irresponsible to sell a new version of a chart which fails to incorporate Notices to Mariners that were published months ago. 2. It would not be hard for publishers to notify customers of the correction "status"; of their charts and I suspect that they don't for commercial rather than practical reasons. 3. The technology clearly exists to update charts online, yet, as far as I can ascertain, none of the publishers of leisure charts offer this service.

So, to be safe, a navigator needs to consult both electronic and paper charts when passage or pilotage planning. How does this fit with the emerging trend for yacht builders to diminish provision of an adequate chart-table? And how many skippers are naively navigating around their plotter in the mistaken belief that it represents an accurate picture?

2010-05-30 01:15:00 - Wind? - Lymington - John

Yesterday brought the first decent blow for weeks, with a gale predicted and F6-7 in the western Solent during the afternoon. Unfortunately though the prospects for the coming week and into the first few days of the race don't look very good. Aside from a small area of low pressure which will pass over the southern UK on Tuesday dampening our final departure preparations and possibly bringing some fog, an area of high pressure is forecast to establish itself over the UK for the foreseeable future. The forecasters are predicting very light winds, with only the hope of slight sea breezes during the afternoon. This is not what we need!

2010-06-01 02:07:00 - Leaving Lymington - Lymington - John

Busy day yesterday, loading 6 weeks stores, we're not going to go hungry or thirsty, that's for sure. And, just to make sure, we've loaded fishing gear too. I know you're supposed to concentrate on the racing but the thought of fresh Mackerel fillets for breakfast is just to hard to ignore.

The good news is that the weather prospects for the end of this week are fantastic and there might even be wind for the start. Even better the long-range forecast for our leg across the Irish Sea from The Scillies to Kinsale might be a beam reach in 15-20kts. JUST what Kipper needs. Of course, forecasts more than about 48 hours out are, pretty much, a work of fiction, so anything might happen.

The bad news is that we depart Lymington this afternoon and today's forecast is truly horrible. Light winds, heavy rain and the possibility of fog. We're hoping to get past Portland by the time the tide starts setting East but, if it's touch and go or if we're too soggy we might wait out a tide in Portland, Weymouth or even Lulworth Cove.

2010-06-05 10:56:00 - Spinnaker Wraps and Sign-writers - Plymouth - John

Now in Plymouth waiting for the off. Our sail down from Dartmouth was not uneventful. We left at 0430 to catch the tide around Start Point and, once we had rounded, the wind piped up from the East so we thought we'd set the spinnaker. Of course, we already had the mainsail up as, when motoring in light winds, the mainsail steadies the boat, but we didn't bother unfurling the yankee before hoisting the spinnaker. Big mistake.

When short-handed, one person hoists the spinnaker, as fast as they can, at the mast, whilst the other stands by the sheet, ready to sheet-on the moment the mast man shouts "made". You can't do it too soon, otherwise the mast man can't complete the hoist but, in this case, I left it a little too late and, without the yankee set, the spinnaker promptly wrapped itself about six times around the forestay. Lesson learned. Never try to hoist the spinnaker without a headsail set.

The only way out was to climb to the masthead, detach the spinnaker halyard then descend the forestay unwrapping the spinnaker on the way down. Not easy underway and it took a fair while. Once we'd done this, sorted out the mess and re-hoisted we had a cracking sail into Plymouth, arriving at around 0930.

Apart from chatting to all the other competitors and some heavy lifting in the bar, we've be occupying ourselves since with the never-ending list of small jobs on the boat. We've stripped and serviced the Hydrovane self- steering, fitted a new gooseneck, wired in a spotlight, checked over the engine and applied sail numbers to our hull. This last item was a complete nightmare.

I had ordered stick on numbers from a company near Lymington and originally tried to apply them single-handed about a fortnight ago. Well I made a complete mess of it. I just couldn't get them to lay flat and ended up tearing the number one. So I took them all off and arranged for the sign-writer to fit them on Tuesday morning, just before we left Lymington. Unfortunately, at the appointed hour, it was pissing with rain, so the sign-write didn't turn up. Not only did he fail to arrive but he didn't call either and, when I chased him on the phone, he denied even agreeing a specific time. Well he did. Anyway, I arranged for Annie to collect them with the idea that she'd apply them in Plymouth.

Now Annie is quite good at that sort of thing, so I didn't anticipate any problems but I reckoned without the difficulty of doing the job from a rubber dinghy alongside. To say it was a swine would be decidedly unfair to pigs. And the finished job looked a bit shabby. Not at all up to Kipper standards. But that's not the worst of it. "Why are your numbers on the hull different to those on your sprayhood?"; asked our neighbour? Shoot!, Flip! The sign-writer had transposed two of the digits and, yes, it was his mistake 'cos I went back and checked my email. Not happy.

At this point it was 1630 on a Friday afternoon. God knows what we were going to do. I decided to go cap-in-hand to the race organisers and plead incompetence. Mind you I was already on a sticky wicket 'cos they'd previously agreed to allow us to race with different numbers on our mainsail and spinnaker, but that's another story.

So I told Peter Taylor, the excellent and charming Race Director. He was immediately sympathetic and dropped everything to personally drive me to a local sign-writer and to plead on my behalf for a rush job, just as the guy was leaving for the weekend. 10 minutes later I was on my way back to Kipper with 2 new sets of numbers and only £10 lighter in the wallet (whereas the originals cost over £40). Even better, the sign-writer advised us to apply the numbers after wetting the hull with water and washing-up liquid. And "boy"; did that work. They were on, wrinkle and bubble free before you could say "Fairy Liquid".

This morning saw us attend the, two hour long, race briefing. The highlight of which was the race officer letting off a canon, without any warning, just to make sure we all knew what one sounds like!

The current weather forecast for our start and the remainder of tomorrow afternoon is for F3-4 Westerlies, backing Southerly overnight. Then a small weather system is forecast to move into the Irish Sea, bringing light cyclonic winds to the rumb line between The Scillies and Kinsale. We've got a strategy but if I told you I'd have to shoot you.

2010-06-06 03:47:00 - Final Countdown - Plymouth - John

Just a couple of hours to go. It looks like we're going to have wind for the first leg to Kinsale, except that the forecast low has slowed a little and we might run out of the necessary close to the finish. It's all forecast to go light and fluffy on Monday evening, meaning that the faster boats might get in but the slower ones won't, creating an early split in the fleet, which would be a shame. However it's a long race and the swings and roundabouts will surely impact all classes at some time.

Kipper is in Class 4 (the slowest boats) along with 10 others: Home Run, Ruffian, Flair 2, Santana, Suroma, Summerbird, Knight's Challenge, Gratification, Resolute & Paradox. So look out on the tracker and results sites (http://www.rwyc.org/oceanic/RBI10) to see how we're doing against these close competitors. The highest rated boats are Ruffian and Home Run (both 0.95) and the lowest rated boats are Resolute, a Co32, and Gratification, a GK29 (both 0.87). Kipper rates .902. This means that, if for example leg one was to take Kipper 60 hours, we'd need to beat Resolute and Gratification into Kinsale by about 2hours and 12 minutes to beat them on handicap. And we'd need to be no more than 3 hours and 8 minutes behind Ruffian and Home Run in order to beat them. We'll see.

As for the other Classes, the multihulls will be sailing much, much faster than us. Possibly taking around half the time we do and the fastest monohulls won't be far behind them. This means that the fleet will spread itself right round Great Britain after a couple of weeks and the front of the fleet will end up sailing in completely different weather to the back. Making winning overall a bit of a lottery.

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#3 2011-09-25 08:06:42

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Re: KIPPER OF LONDON's 2010 Shetland Round Britain & Ireland Race (V34)

The first leg, Plymouth to Kinsale

2010-06-06 15:43:00 - Waiting for the wind to back - 15 miles SSE of The Lizard - John

We're about 15 miles SSE of The Lizard and it's starting to get dark. Wind is still, pretty much due West F5 and the sea has been quite lumpy but, now the tide has slackened off, it's a bit quieter. We've got one reef in the mainsail and we're plugging along at around 5.8kts with good VMG. Knight's Challenge and Gratification are both just up to windward of us and, we're slowly reeling them in. Earlier, when it was blowing a bit harder we were doing better but as the wind has moderated slightly they're pointing higher than us. No sign of the forecast backing wind and we're wondering how much further to go left.

It's been a bit too lumpy and we're too far heeled to make cooking easy so we're living on Emma's fruit cake and tins of sardines in chilli oil.

2010-06-07 13:05:00 - Cottage Pie Disaster - 60 miles SE of Kinsale - John

The wind eventually backed Southerly and we had an easy beam reach to The Bishop Rock, SW of The Scillies, rounding at approximately 0830 on a very grey morning. Resolute, Knight's Challenge, Gratification and Summerbird were all between 3 and 6 miles astern and we reckon we were saving our time on them.

The rhumb line to our waypoint off Kinsale was approximately 320 degrees but we first had to steer slightly to starboard of that to avoid crossing a traffic separation zone at shallow angle. We tracked another boat on AIS which ignored the IRPCS which stipulate that we should cross with our ship's head perpendicular to the lanes, saving themselves a couple of miles, and wonder whether we could protest them as the Sailing Instructions make it clear that we are racing under the IRPCS and not the Racing Rules of Sailing. We won't of course but I might have a quiet word with the Race Director (no names no pack drill) in case he'd wish to make policy statement.

With the wind at approximately 18kts, we hoisted the spinnaker and set off on a run at 8kts plus, rapidly dropping following boats astern. The wind then proceeded to build until we put our sensible hats on at 28kts, gusting a bit more and dropped it in favour of a boomed out yankee. Just as well we did, because the wind built even more to 30-35kts and we had some thrilling surfing with Nasher hitting a top speed of 11.3kts! We were averaging over 9kts! We had to steer by hand, rather than autopilot for fear of burning out the autopilot drive unit. It was bloomin' hard work.

Whilst sailing at speed with a gently roll on I tried to extract a cottage pie from the fridge-freezer. It was right down at the far corner and unfrozen. I couldn't get two hands to it, so tried to lift it with one. Big mistake! Cottage pie all over everything in the fridge. Loud expletives. It took the two of us a good half hour to clean up. We scraped the pie off everything, put it back in its foil dish and shoved it in the oven. It still tasted pretty good.

The wind gradually dropped, it stopped raining and we re-hoisted the spinnaker but, within an hour, the wind had veered and we were making a course 30 degrees to starboard of the rhumb line, so down it came again. We're now beam reaching straight towards our waypoint off Kinsale under main, yankee and staysail, making just over 6kts in 9-10kts of breeze. It's another 65 or so miles to Kinsale so, if this wind holds, we expect to be there around 0500. That's if the wind holds. We're going to be sailing though the centre of a low and the wind is forecast as "cyclonic", which means that it could do almost anything. The faster boats will be arriving now, so they'll undoubtedly avoid this, giving them a big advantage. Still, as I said in an earlier blog, "Swings and roundabouts".

2010-06-08 02:49:00 - Becalmed - 60 miles SE of Kinsale - John

Becalmed 15 miles from the finish in Kinsale. The leading boats will have got in 12hrs ago. Before the wind fell away.

2010-06-08 10:12:00 - Still, beclamed - 5 miles SE of Kinsale - John

We've now been, pretty much, continuously becalmed for over 12 hours. Boats that managed to finish before the wind fell out of the sky will have a huge lead, especially as strong NE winds are forecast for their re-start.

Over the last 5 hours we've inched 6 miles closer to the finish. At one time we tried the kite but it just kept trying to wrap itself around the forestay.

On the brighter side, just enjoyed hot, roast chicken baguettes.

2010-06-09 04:08:00 - It's Ireland and it's raining - Kinsale - John

We eventually finished the Plymouth Kinsale leg at 1736 (Tuesday) giving us an elapsed time of 2 days, 5 hours and 26 minutes and an average SOG of 4.38kts, which is pretty miserable considering that, at one stage, we were clocking 9, 10, 11kts. Still, consider the plight of Gratifikation, the GK29, they're still 2 miles from the finish!

The first boats got in at around 1900 on Monday, so nearly 20hrs ahead of us and the first boat in our class finished at around 0800 on Tuesday, 9.5hrs ahead of us. As far as I can tell, and the up-to-date results aren't yet available on the RWYC web-site, we will be 6th out of 10 in our class, which we're not too disappointed with, because we beat all the other boats of a similar rating.

We SSS'd as soon as we got alongside then went to the reception at the Kinsale YC, where we sampled our first few pints of Murphys before repairing to a very pleasant restaurant for dinner. Excellent Monkfish and more Murphys. Before an early night.

Just a few small jobs to do today then plenty of R&R.

2010-06-10 04:56:00 - New RB&I Race Web-Site - Kinsale - John

After many complaints from competitors and those following the race, the RWYC has mercifully contracted with web professionals to launch an all new web-site. See: www.rbandi.com

The first boats started last night and have enjoyed a strong NE wind allowing them to power up the SW coast of Ireland. Unfortunately, however, it's forecast to back northerly by the time we get to the corner. Ah well!

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#4 2011-09-25 08:12:54

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Re: KIPPER OF LONDON's 2010 Shetland Round Britain & Ireland Race (V34)

The second leg, Kinsale to Barra

2010-06-10 14:07:00 - On our way again - SE of Galley Head, - Southern Ireland - John

After a very pleasant 48hrs in Kinsale we're on our way again, beam reaching on a course of 256 degrees along the south coast of Ireland towards the infamous Fastnet Rock, currently 31 miles distant. When we get there we'll harden up onto the wind and head on out into the wide Atlantic Ocean.

Whilst weather forecast more than 48hrs out are notoriously inaccurate, it seems possible that the northerly wind predicted for the next few days will eventually back NW, so it should pay us to head that way, expecting to get gradually headed and then to tack back in towards Barra, perhaps on Sunday. Here's hoping.

We left the dock at about 1630 ready for our re-start at 17:36:25 and experimented with the self-steering on the way down to the start line. Whilst we were in Kinsale we modified the drum on the wheel, which had been slipping, but we still can't get it to work very well. Here's hoping that the autopilot holds out. We're steering as much as possible by hand in order to avoid burning it out.

We hoisted out spinnaker just after crossing the start line. The course down to round Old Head of Kinsale was, ever so slightly port gybe but we decided to risk running by the lee in order to avoid the need to gybe when we reached the headland. Because we're a cutter, with a fixed inner forestay and only one spinnaker pole, the only practical way to gybe is to drop the spinnaker, so this seemed a good plan. Unfortunately though, as we sailed away from the shore, the wind strength increased markedly and we had difficulty keeping the leeward leech of the kit from collapsing as we ran about 15 degrees by the lee, and we were rolling and yawing quite badly. We managed to stabilise things a bit by strapping the main right into the centre of the boat but eventually we ended up gybe broaching and had to take the spinnaker down and sort out the mess. We then sailed relatively slowly down to the headland before coming up onto a broad, then beam reach and setting course for the Fastnet.

It's now a glorious evening and it's champagne sailing in 15-20kts of wind and flat water.

2010-06-11 04:03:00 - Have we upset the Wing Gods? - 24m WSW of The Bull SW Ireland - John

The faster boats, that started earlier than us enjoyed brisk NE winds for their first 12 hours, giving them a fast spinnaker reach down to the Fastnet Rock and enabling them to head up and make course direct to pass offshore of the Dingle Peninsula. They're now probably enjoying a fast leg up the west of Ireland, without necessity to tack much. Long making tacks on port into the coast and short legs out.

No such luck for us. Over the last 15 hours the wind has slowly backed NW and the 70 mile leg from The Fastnet, round The Bull and up to Dingle is a dead beat. The best VMG we can make is 3.5 to 4.0 kts, so what might have taken us around 12 hours, will now take more like 20 and we're falling behind schedule. Presently we're heading out into The Atlantic on starboard tack making a COG of around 270 with a SOG of 6.3kts. We know that the wind will back more at some stage and there seems to be more wind away from the coast, so this seems our best option. We plan to tack in about another 3hrs. The wind is F6 and we're sailing with 2 reefs in the main, staysail and partly furled yankee. The waves are quite big but gentle on us compared to a typical Channel chop. Kipper is in her element and we're enjoying ourselves and managing plenty of sleep.

2010-06-12 03:15:00 - Slow progress, toys out of the pram, microwaves and DOLPHINS - 23 miles west of the River Shannon - John

Only 42 miles made good in the last 16 hours. The problem, up until now, hasn't been wind strength, we had up to F6 overnight, but direction. Last night's shipping forecast, valid from 1800, gave NW 5-6 backing SW 4-5 later (i.e. between 0600 and 1800 today). So we sailed slightly west of the rhumb line and then tacked onto a heading of around 040, which would have taken us up toward the Aran Islands by lunch time. The wind then proceeded to veer NNE and drop. At one stage the best COG we could make was 070. We're now back on starboard tack making 290 COG, which gives us a miserable VMG to our next waypoint, which is 97 miles due North off Mullet.

If we believe the latest forecast, the wind will back Southerly 4-5 in the next 12 hours ;-) and then veer Westerly 5-7 later, which should speed things up considerably.

We've got around 300 miles to go, so if (big if) the wind does what's forecast we should be in to Barra sometime on Monday.

It's often the case that the 2nd night at sea is the hardest. This was certainly true last night. Whereas during the first night you're well rested and can due virtually without sleep, by the time the second night comes along you're knackered and not yet into a proper, watch-keeping sleep pattern. We both struggled to stay awake and it's been bloomin cold too. I'm wearing my full Musto 3-layer system (aka as my "fluffy bunny suit";) and was still only just warm enough .It's mid-Summer for God's sake!

During a tack in the small hours we got the yankee sheet trapped under the jockey pole. Then, when we tried to tack back to clear it, the other sheet snagged. We furled the yankee, freed the trapped sheet and untangled the snagged sheet. Then lost the tail of the other one then unfurled the yankee, tacked and got a riding turn on the winch. We're running out of toys.

The microwave has been a real boon. Proper cooking wasn't really feasible in quite rough conditions last night, but a bag of Uncle Ben's instant, microwave rice, topped off with a can of sardines in chilli oil, made a tasty meal. It's also great for instant porridge.

Now the best bit. We enjoyed the company of a beautiful pod of around 8 dolphins for almost an hour this morning. I would have tried to take photos but I could tear my eyes off them log enough to go and get my camera and, anyway, I know from past experience that they're almost impossible to photograph.

2010-06-12 14:27:00 - 26 miles NE of The Aran Islands - 23 miles west of the River Shannon - John

At last we're crackin' along, actually going in the direction we need to do making 7.2kts over the ground. We should make it to the corner by around 0400 at this rate, which'll work quite well as we'll then be able to steer off to a course of around 035 and it's (only) another 170 miles to Castle Bay. The only thing is that the winds are forecast to start veering NE sometime tomorrow, making it a dead beat into a dying wind. Aaaaaaagh! Maybe we'll be in on Tuesday?

We're both feeling quite rested and the motion is really comfortable, so we're planning jacket spuds and curry for supper. Possibly followed by bananas and custard. Lunch was a treat too, bacon, eggs, black pudding and white pudding. Why don't they sell such good pudding in England?

We've no idea where our close competition is. Although all boats are on, active AIS, we know that the weak Class B signal only reaches about 6 miles, so all we know is they're more than 6 miles away. We just hope they've had as difficult a time of it as we have over the last 24 hours. And we wonder if the faster boats have already started to arrive in Castle Bay? Some of them have been racing for 3 days now, so they could well be. One thing's for sure, the fleet is already well spread out.

2010-06-13 00:42:00 - Bowling Along - 54 21N 010 26W (13M WNW of Mullet)- John

At long last we've turned the corner and are heading NE towards Barra, 171 miles distant. We're actually sailing about 14 degrees high of the rhumb line in anticipation of the wind veering NW or even N later and will review the situation when we've downloaded this morning's GRIB files (weather).

The wind built gradually during the night and is now W 5-6 and we're bowling along on reach under one reef at 7kts but against a weak tide giving 6.5kts SOG. GPS says 26hrs to the bottom tip of Barra, so say 29hrs total but the wind god's are almost certain to frustrate this and I'd guess more like 36hrs, meaning that we'll finish late afternoon or early evening on Monday.

We SSS'd as soon as we got alongside then went to the reception at the Kinsale YC, where we sampled our first few pints of Murphys before repairing to a very pleasant restaurant for dinner. Excellent Monkfish and more Murphys. Before an early night.

Unlike the first and 2nd nights we stood 4 hour watches. I did 2200 to 0200 and Nasher did 0200 to 0600. This allowed us a "proper"; sleep and we're both feeling pretty good, especially after porridge.

2010-06-14 06:48:00 - It's a beautiful day but....... - 25 miles downwind of the finish in Barra - John

It's a beautiful day. Brilliant blue skies, sapphire sea and F4 winds. That's the good news. The bad news is that the wind is NNE and guess where Barra is? It's also bloomin' freezing. Since we've been, pretty much, beating to windward for the last 4 days, everything is just slightly damp and even my Musto 3-layer system was failing to keep out the cold earlier. Big thanks to daughter Emma for the seal skin gloves though. They're great! It's OK down below though, 'cos we've been running the heater. Kipper is also a very dry boat and, although she is a little damp below, this is only due to the water we keep bringing below on our oilskins.

Somehow I managed to get my boots full of water too. It's all very well having the, best that money can buy, Gortex lined, leather Dubarry boots but, if the water goes in over the top, you're screwed. If you change your socks the new ones just get wet. I've been trying to dry them in front of the heater outlet.

Roughly 25 miles to the finish. We've been heading NNW for the last couple of hours, anticipating that the wind will back later and have just tacked onto port. The GPS tell us that our VMG to the finish is 4.8kts, so that'd give a finish time of around 1800. If the wind does back, we might be there a little sooner, except that it's possible that the wind will drop when it backs. So the best we can hope is to be in before dark, which is around 2300 in these parts.

2010-06-15 10:55:47 - Barra - Castle Bay Barra - John

Arrived in Barra yesterday evening. Just as a whole bunch of Class 1 boats were leaving on Leg 3 to Lerwick.

Again, this was a leg where the rich got richer and the poor got poorer but, never mind, we wouldn't mind betting the we were the only boat to catch a fish (yes "a" fish) one solitary mackerel. Still it allowed me to practice my newly learned filleting skills as we enjoyed it in a sandwich for breakfast.

As soon as we arrived we pumped up the dinghy and paddled ashore to the Castle Bay Hotel for a few pints and malt whisky chasers. Slept really well after that, waking at around 0830 to help one of the other boats, hanging on our mooring to leave.

Spent the morning doing small jobs on Kipper, the longest of which was re-attaching the cunningham. Fortunately, just before leaving Lymington, I'd purchased a Stewart Easystitcher. Fantastic bit of kit. It still took 3hrs but I'd never of managed without.

Now ashore for our first shower in 5 days........

We re-start on Wednesday night.

2010-06-16 04:02:00 - RNLI to the rescue - Barra - John

After a pretty heavy session in the bar last night we were assisted back to the boat by the RNLI..... I'm not to bad this morning but Nasher looks and sounds dreadful.

2010-06-16 12:01:00 - Best Curry Outside India - Barra - John

Neither of us were especially early rising this morning and Nasher was definitely the worse for wear.

The first job was to fill up with water. We shouldn't have really needed to but there was a small leak in our starboard tank, at the top, where the inlet pipe joins and, with the boat bouncing around on the last leg, the water had pumped itself out and into the bilge. We think we've fixed it but will attempt a better repair in Lerwick. Even if it does leak, we're not going to die of thirst. The, slightly smaller port tank is OK and we've got lots of bottled water.

We had to fill up on the ferry pier, which has nasty steel edged piles and there aren't any fender boards, so we had to be careful with the fenders in order to protect Kipper's topsides. Then we moved back out into the bay, to share a mooring with Summer Bird, a beautiful Warrior 40. I'd love one of them but, dream on. They were struggling to fix their autopilot. The ram had detached from the quadrant and they hadn't got the necessary spanners. Fortunately Kipper's extensive tool kit was up to the task and I spent an hour or so with my head under their cockpit putting it back together for them. They've promised beers in Lerwick.

We then went ashore for lunch and found an absolutely fantastic little, family run, café restaurant near the post-office. Mum is of Italian stock, Dad Indian and they had a mouth-watering selection of Indian and Italian dishes. Sons and daughters wait at table. Actually, that's not quite true. Daughters wait at table. Sons seem to mainly loaf around. Anyway, I had today's special vegetarian curry with naan bread and it was truly delicious. Definitely the best curry I've had outside India (sorry Annie). Nasher had a ginormous plate of spaghetti carbonara. It defeated him but I think he was still feeling a bit off colour.

Then, whilst Nasher retired to Kipper for a siesta, I set off to walk around the bay and across the causeway to Vatersay, which has beautiful white sand beaches, but it was a lot further than I had reckoned and I had to turn back in order to go to the Co-op for supplies. I managed to buy a cheap, really cheap, pretty crap watch because I've broken the strap on my faithful, old Sieko. I hope to get it repaired in Lerwick.

Before we came to Barra, we had been warned, by race veterans, that the shop here was completely useless and some had even gone to the trouble of shipping food here ahead of them. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Co-op is reasonably large and very well stocked. There's another grocery store, bank, post-office and a hardware shop.

We re-start at 2043 tonight. The leg to Lerwick is around 470 miles and, looking at the GRIB (weather) files we downloaded this morning, we're likely to suffer a couple of spells of light winds, so we're estimating that it's going to take us 5 days, meaning that we'll arrive sometime on Sunday evening. Once again the faster boats that started 2 and half days ago have enjoyed much better winds. We were watching our friends', in Ding Dong, progress on the tracker, yesterday afternoon, and we could see them reaching at 10kts whereas, when we're in the same area, we'll be lucky to be doing 5. Ah well.

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#5 2011-09-25 08:17:43

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Re: KIPPER OF LONDON's 2010 Shetland Round Britain & Ireland Race (V34)

The third leg, Barra to Lerwick

2010-06-17 05:52:00 - Toys out of the pram - 32 Miles SE of St Kilda - John

We left our mooring at around 2000 and motored slowly out to the start, passing a solitary seal on the way. Not a lot of wind and it was coming directly from where we needed to go, retracing our inward route, 11 miles SSW to Barra Head. We had the starting line marked on our chart-plotter and crossed the line bang on time at 20:43:13, making around 3kts on starboard tack.

The leg down to the point was really slow, tacking against a weak tide, the 11 miles took us nearly 5 hours. We couldn't help remembering that, when we'd sailed in the other way, on Tuesday evening we'd passed faster boats on their way out, broad reaching under the spinnakers at 8-10kts.

We tried cutting the corner, close under the towering cliffs, topped by a powerful lighthouse, which was almost totally obscured by thick, low cloud. But, as we closed the shore, the wind dropped right off and we got stuck in a nasty chop, killing all our boat-speed and, at one stage, we got stuck in irons. The only option was to tack offshore, seeking more wind and calmer water. Fortunately the tide was with us, if it had been against us, we'd have been stuck there for ages. It was slow progress but we were eventually able to set course for our waypoint just west of St Kilda, 70 miles away.

Although the wind was well aft, it was only 6kts and the sea still very choppy, so we delayed hoisting the spinnaker, fearing a wrap, and finally hoisted it at around 0330 but it wouldn't settle down and we had a frustrating hour or so before the chop eased and the wind increased slightly. At one stage we were making nearly 6kts but the wind then dropped to around 10kts and our speed dropped to around 5kts.

Then it all went to Hell. It was 0745 and I'd had my head down for about an hour when John woke me to say that we had to get the kite down. To my consternation when I came on deck we were heading NE! In fact, in order to get the kite down we normally sail dead downwind and, at one stage we were heading East. Anybody watching the tracker must have really wondered if we'd been at the wine. The wind had veered 135 degrees NE. We got the kite down and tacked. St Kilda is now 32 miles directly upwind. The wind is 4kts and we're making 1.4kts. The worst bit, the wind is forecast to go NE later. If that happens it'll be a 300 mile dead beat from St Kilda to Muckle Flugga at the Northern tip of The Shetlands. It's not just toys that are going to be thrown out of the pram.

2010-06-18 01:28:00 - Beating again - 23 miles NE of St Kilda - John

We finally rounded St Kilda at 0135 after, after a very frustrating few hours. We knew the wind was going to veer more Northerly, so we wanted to be on the right hand side of the course but, every time we went that way, the wind dropped off under the lee of the island, which has huge towering cliffs. Then, when we tacked back out again we'd get lifted, so we couldn't tack for the corner.

St Kilda is a very forbidding place. Now apparently uninhabited, apart from some military personnel doing God knows what.

Our rhumb-line course from St Kilda to Sula Sgier, a small and impossibly remote island, 45 miles NW of Cape Wrath, is 044 and, to our enormous frustration, we can only make about 055. At this rate we're going to beat all the way round. Our spinnaker has only seen about 6 hours use, at most in 8 days sailing so far. Not a good investment.

I remember a friend telling me that he once beat all the way round this same course. Aaaah!

We seem to have failed in our attempt to fix the leak in the starboard water tank and are now on rations however the Barra water tastes so disgustingly chemically, that we prefer the bottled water for tea anyway. We're also watching the diesel situation carefully as, what with the fridge and the autopilot, we're running the generator 4 hours a day.

Caught 5 Mackerel yesterday afternoon and had them filleted and fried in brown bread and butter sandwiches. Absolutely delicious. Took long watches last night, so we both got a 5 hour stretch in the sack. Cold enough for gloves and my, cover the ears and neck hat. Thanks Sarah.

2010-06-18 10:31:00 - Motion starting to take its toll - 52M WNW of Butt of Lewis - John

Being continually headed, we eventually had to tack in order to pass outside the Farn Islands and decided to keep going that way in order to sail towards an expected shift to the left. We couldn't make more than about 340 and it was very de-motivating to see the distance to our next waypoint actually increasing, albeit very slowly. Those with racier boats will perhaps be puzzled by this but need to understand that Kipper tacks through about 110 degrees. Eventually we judged that we'd gone far enough and tacked back onto port at 1240. At first we couldn't make the waypoint (Sula Sgier) but, whilst I've had my head down for the last 4 hours, the wind has slowly backed and we're just (just) laying it. We're making a good 6.5kts, hard on the wind. Time for a reef when I finish this blog.

You will remember that I said that we'd lost all the water out of our starboard tank. Well the port one has gone too. So we really are on rations. We've got 21L of bottled water and some orange juice. Not too bad. It can't take us more than another 5 days to get to Lerwick (can it?). We're pretty sure that the problem is caused by continually pounding to windward and the water in the flexible tanks surging, causing the seals to weaken. In a similar vein, due to the continuous motion, both (diesel) cooker exhausts have fractured and we repaired them earlier. We're now keeping the cooker swung back on its gimbals when not in use.

We also seem to have some sort of problem with our domestic batteries, the ones that do everything but start the engine and generator. They have a combined capacity of 220AH but we're only getting about 40AH before the voltage drops below 11.5V and the autopilot starts complaining. We start the generator, which can charge at over 100A but it thinks they're almost full and drops the charge voltage too soon. Maybe they're knackered? Maybe there's something wrong with the voltage regulator in the generator? Nothing we can do about it until we get to Lerwick.

Lastly there's a horrible smell coming from somewhere around the galley that we can't trace.

2010-06-19 05:47:00 - Spilt Milk - 160 miles SW of Muckle Flugga - John

At last we're making good progress towards Muckle Flugga (Northern extremity of The Shetlands). The wind has gone NW and is blowing around 18kts. We're making 7. Over the next 24 hours the wind is forecast to back more and drop off slightly, then there's the possibility of some very light winds for a while at around lunch time tomorrow, by which time we'll still be W of Muckle Flugga. They then gradually build to F3, hopefully getting us round the corner efficiently (there are very strong tides) and down south to Lerwick, another 60 miles or so. ETA still some time on Monday.

It looks like Resolute, Knight's Challenge and Summer Bird are having a worse time of it than we are. We've been consistently making SOG >5 and in more or less the right direction. It's a long way to Lerwick though and, actually, we'd quite like them to arrive not too long after us so's we've got someone to socialise with. Most of the other boats will be long-gone by the time we get there, hopefully sometime on Monday.

We are getting slightly concerned about our chances of finishing by the 4th. If we finish this leg on Monday, that leaves us about 8 days sailing time and 4 days in port. The Lerwick to Lowestoft leg is 475M and another 320 to Plymouth, which means that we'll have to average 4.14 over the ground. So far we've averaged about 4.0. I planned on 4.2.

Bit of a disaster earlier this morning. Whist preparing porridge, I managed to drop an open, almost full 2L bottle of milk. About half of it spread itself around the galley and chart table. I cleaned it up as best I could but it has made its way under the floor boards etc. and will add as certain something to the general miasma of the cabin over the next few days. We'll have to take the floor boards up in Lerwick.

We've passed close by a couple of fishing vessels and a tanker, apparently bound for somewhere called Sunudalosa overtook us down out starboard side about a mile off, heading to pass just south of The Shetlands.

It's been bloomin' cold. I've got my full 3-layer system on plus an extra fleece and that's only just enough. Hopefully the temperature will rise slightly as the wind backs.

2010-06-20 03:02:00 - The 60th Parallel - 22 miles SW of Muckle Flugga - John

Just before 2030 last night we finally crossed the 60th parallel (latitude 60 degrees north), For the non-navigators amongst you, position is defined by latitude and longitude, where latitude is angular distance north or south of the equator (zero to 90 degrees north of south) and longitude is angular distance east or west of the Greenwich meridian (zero to 180 degrees east or west). Each degree of latitude or longitude is divided in 60 minutes. I minute of latitude is one Nautical Mile. Got that?

The vast majority of the British Isles lie between 50 and 60 degrees north. The Bishop Rock, at the far southwest extremity of The Scilly Isles is at about latitude 49 degrees 50 minutes north and Muckle Flugga, at the far north of The Shetland Isles is at about 60 degrees and 51 minutes north. Muckle Flugga is therefore, almost exactly, 600 miles north of The Bishop Rock.

To give you some idea how far north that is, Cape Farewell, at the southern end of Greenland is at 59 degrees 36 minutes north. Fortunately for us in Great Britain, The Gulf Stream means that our climate is much more temperate that it would otherwise be. We are, for example, well north of Ottawa, which most people don't realise, is the coldest capital city on Earth (not Moscow). I've been there when it's been minus 40.

Some pessimistic climatologists suggest that it's not inconceivable that, due to global warming, The Gulf Stream could switch off, just like that, leading to a very rapid deterioration of our climate to sub-Arctic conditions. That'd precipitate a multi-trillion devaluation in UK real estate prices, wouldn't it?

This far north, and at mid-summer, it doesn't really get dark. It's still fully light beyond 2300 and fully light by 0400, with just a few hours of twilight in between. Of course it's the exact opposite in mid-winter. Ugh!

Just 22 miles to Muckle Flugga and the, once we've turned the corner, another 60 miles into Lerwick. The wind is forecast to drop though, so we'll probably be in sometime between midnight and 0600.

Taking a look at the GRIB files another 48 hours out we see that the wind is forecast flippin' southerly when we will be leaving Lerwick bound for Lowestoft, nearly 500 miles further on. Yet again the wind gods are being exceptionally cruel to us. The faster boats had strong northerlies.

Looking forward to a few pints in Lerwick though!

2010-06-20 06:14:00 - A good 24 hours - 9 miles SW of Muckle Flugga - John

Now beam reaching at 3.6kts in 8kts of wind up the West coast of The Shetlands. Wind not quite far enough aft for the kite. ETA Muckle Flugga around 1400, just on slack water. We'll then carry a weak tide down to our next waypoint and on towards the finish another 60 miles on.

Looking back over the last day or so, we can see that, in the 24 hours to 0800 today we made 165 miles over the ground. Around 6.9kts. Not bad and it's helped our average back up.

2010-06-20 12:15:00 - Muckle Flugga - East of The Shetlands, 45 miles north of Lerwick - John

We finally rounded Muckle Flugga at 1435.

Earlier this morning the wind dropped to around 6 knots and progress since has been painfully slow. We hoisted the spinnaker but, with a sloppy sea, it was almost impossible to set dead downwind and we had to keep reaching up, so, in the end, we dropped it in favour of a boomed out yankee, which allowed us to point directly at our waypoint and gave a slightly better VMG. Fortunately the tide was with us around the headland. Just about the only lucky break we've had so far. We're now beam reaching slowly down the east coast of The Shetlands. Lerwick is about 45 miles distant, so, unless the wind pipes up, we'll be arriving early tomorrow morning. Can almost smell the beer.

Had a Baby Wipe bath earlier. I was beginning to stink. Mackerel line out. Fingers crossed for a fish supper.

2010-06-21 07:57:00 - We missed the excitement - Lerwick - John

Finished at Lerwick at 03:26:12. The line is right by the dock so we were alongside within 5 minutes. Then a few glasses of wine, to help us sleep, it was broad daylight, and the slumber until 0900.

Ian and Rene Fraser are our host family and they picked us up at 1000. Back to their place for, much needed showers and to leave our laundry. Open bag and retreat 6 paces. Then a quick tour around the bay before back onboard for lunch and a long list of minor jobs.

Sounds like we missed a lot of excitement over the weekend, and not just the midsummer parties. Apparently the wind was blowing 40kts, straight into the harbour and there was quite a lot of minor damage to race boats. We also hear that boats 24hrs ahead of us suffered fearsome conditions around Muckle Flugga, with winds reported to 50kts and very big seas. Maybe there are some advantages to our position towards the back of the fleet.

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#6 2011-09-25 08:25:25

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Re: KIPPER OF LONDON's 2010 Shetland Round Britain & Ireland Race (V34)

The fourth leg, Lerwick to Lowestoft

2010-06-23 05:22:00 - Thanks to our hosts, Ian and Rene Fraser - 16M NNE of Fair Isle - John

0245 is a stupid time to have to get up. A glance outside told us that: it was foggy; drizzling with rain and very little wind. Ugh! Venturing outside to top up the sea told me that it was bloomin' freezing too (although the water was quite warm). Double Ugh! Our start was at 0326 and we crossed the line and tacked down south out of the sound at about 3kts, watching the radar and AIS displays carefully.

At one stage the wind dropped to, virtually zero and I was not a happy bunny. It's nearly 500 miles to Lowestoft and the forecast is totally crap. At the moment the wind is SE4 but forecast to veer SW or even W within the next 24hrs. So that's not too bad. But then, around Friday, there's around 24hrs of calm, followed by southerly winds, up to about F5 for the foreseeable future. So it's going to be a dead beat (again) all the way. This really isn't funny. This leg could well take 6 days.

Whilst in Lerwick, we were admirably assisted by our host family, Ian and Rene Fraser. Rene willingly took on the unenviable task of our laundry. We felt quite guilty handing over two bulging bags of damp, smelly clothes and were highly impressed when they were returned smelling sweet, ironed and perfectly folded. Thanks Rene. Ian ferried us around, went to search out new O rings for the water tanks, took us to Co-op and gave us a guided tour of the island. He also regaled us with fascinating anecdotes from the race from years past. He's been fulfilling this valuable roll since the very beginnings. Thanks Ian.

We're now heading around 195 at 6kts, hoping to weather Fair Isle, 16 miles ahead. It looks OK at the moment but the tide is beginning to set strongly west and we might have to put in a short tack out to the east, which'd be a pain. Then it's on down towards Orkneys. We'll tack when the wind veers.

2010-06-24 02:56:00 - A frustrating 24hrs - 55 miles ENE of Duncansby Head - John

For those of you that don't know, Duncansby Head is the far NE corner of Scotland.

The last 24hrs have been slow and, at times, very frustrating. We only made 61 miles and, at times, there was insufficient wind to maintain steerage.

We passed Fair Isle about 4 miles off. Like St. Kilda, it's a forbidding looking place. No trees whatsoever and towering cliffs. It is however inhabited by a few hardy souls.

At one time we had to dodge a vessel, restricted in her ability to manoeuvre, owing to the fact that she was undertaking seismological survey work, towing a 3 mile long, sonar array and requesting an exclusion zone 3 miles ahead, 3 miles on both sides and 6 miles astern. That's a moving obstruction of 45 square miles. It wouldn't have been as bad if she didn't keep changing course. She had a ship escorting her and, at one stage they came haring over toward us to chase us off. I called them on the VHF and explained that we were racing and therefore really didn't want to be forced to use our engine and, at the same time had very little wind. They gave us the Lat Long of the tail buoy on the array and we agreed a course to keep us clear. They extended their gratitude. Interestingly the survey vessel is able to tow the array way off to the side. As much as 45 degrees. I wonder how they do that?

Before we left Lerwick, Ian Fraser presented us with 4 beautiful haddock fillets. They'd been caught only hours previously. We had one each in a sandwich for supper. Yum, yum, yum! The other 2 are in the freezer. Going to roast a chuck today.

Currently making 4.5kts at 148 degrees, which is a VMG of 4.2kts, ahead of our target to finish within the time limit, which expires at noon on Sunday July 4th. However the forecast for the next few days is light winds and headwinds. Sometimes together. ETA Lowestoft is now Tuesday.

2010-06-24 22:16:00 - All to play for over the next 24-48 hours - 60 miles east of Aberdeen - John

Since the start of this leg, just over 48hrs ago, we've covered 182 miles. That's and average SOG of only 3.8kts, but still just enough to enable us to finish within the time limit. The second 24hrs were much better than the first, sailing directly to our next waypoint off the north Norfolk coast, now 271 miles distant, at speeds ranging from 5 to 6.6kts. Sadly though, now, as forecast, the wind is dropping and we're facing a slow and probably very frustrating 24 hours. Earlier positions relayed by Emma, told us that the trailing boat in Class 3, 66 miles ahead of us, was totally becalmed at 2100. We're now halfway between our 2100 position and there and are hoping and praying that, by the time we get there, the centre of the high pressure will have moved sufficiently east to allow us some wind. Inevitably though it'll be on the nose and very light.

Tides are a bigger issue in the North Sea than they are up the west coast of the British Isles and we're moving towards Springs, so we'll need some careful strategies, especially as we near the latitude of The Wash. The tide obviously runs stronger inshore than offshore so, because we expect head winds and will be tacking, out tentative plan is to go in when the tide is with us and out when it's against us. But that's all probably 3 days hence.

We've had to dodge a couple of oil rigs but they've not prevented us from going where we want to go, so far. Further south, to the south and east of the Dogger Bank, the density is much higher and we'll have to plan carefully in order to avoid sailing further than we have to.

Right now we're reaching at 3kts under spinnaker. We put it up half an hour ago when the wind was well aft and continuing to veer. Of course, now it's up, the wind has swung back the other way and we're having to sail 30 degrees low of the course in order to keep it flying. We'll review the situation again in half an hour.

From the 2100 positions it looks like the following gaggle of Class 4 boats have closed the gap on us, so it's all to play for over the next 24-48 hours. The boats well ahead, off the north Norfolk coast are sailing into light headwinds and we can see that our mates on Ding Dong, who are in strong contention for overall IRC victory are beating down towards Dungeness in light SW winds. We wish them the very best of luck.

2010-06-25 15:47:00 - North Sea Car Park - 80 miles ESE of Dundee - John

Some of you might notice a correlation between the length of my blogs and the current conditions. When Kipper is heeling over 30 degrees and pounding to windward, it's awkward and very uncomfortable sitting at the keyboard. Well this is going to be one of the longer posts.

We're about 80 miles ESE of Dundee, ghosting along at 2kts on a course of 226 degrees. Our waypoint, off north Norfolk, is 225 miles at 159 degrees, so, you've got it, light headwinds. ETA Lowestoft is now Tuesday. We can, in theory still make the time-limit but we need to average 3.5kts VMG and right now it's only 0.5kts, so it's slipping away from us. There's little prospect of any substantial wind until Saturday afternoon. Then it's F3-4 headwinds which die off again on Monday night as we're closing north Norfolk where the tides are quite strong.

The last 24hrs have been up and down. 88 miles, which is a VMG of 3.66kts. For 2 hours we were totally becalmed, sea like a mirror. For a short while, in the early hours, we could make nearly 6kts, straight down the rhumb line. Most of the time we've been ghosting at 2-3kts. Earlier on this was straight down the line and with favourable tide, which flattered our VMG, but now we're 60 degrees off the line with adverse tide and we're going nowhere.

Emma's daily positions update, sent at 1443, tells us that the following boats were then only about 30 miles behind and sailing much faster than us. We started in Lerwick about 20hrs ahead of them so it all depends when they fall into the centre of the high pressure and lose their wind too. Whatever, they've closed the gap and I'd say that it was touch and go whether we were still saving our time on Resolute.

The good news is that it's getting much warmer. I shed my thermals for the first time since The Lizard and donned shorts and a T shirt for most of the afternoon.

Unfortunately, our delicious gift of fresh haddock has left the fridge reeking of fish. It's quite overpowering when you lift the lid. Nothing much we can do at sea but it's going to get a very thorough clean in Lowestoft. Both water tanks have emptied themselves, so we haven't found the problem yet and we're on water rations again. Fortunately we took on plenty of bottled water in Lerwick as a contingency.

The cooker continues to play up. It's still usable, thank God, but we have to nurse it along. I'm trying to contact the Wallas agent in Lowestoft to get them to attend to it there.

As I write, the wind has just died completely again and I've furled the yankee and lashed the helm.

It's a beautiful evening though.

2010-06-26 11:13:00 - F6 for now - 32m east of Blyth - John

Short blog today. The wind certainly got up. It's F6 on the nose and there's a nasty North Sea chop. We're on starboard tack and it's really hard to work the keyboard at this angle and with a jerky motion.

Actually, if this blog gets posted anytime in the near future it'll be a miracle. For the last 24hrs I've been unable to connect to the station in Belgium. Maybe I've exceeded my 90 mins per week quota but I've not had any warning. It could also be a quirk of radio propagation with my signal skipping over Belgium now we're nearer. Yesterday I used stations in The Red Sea and Nova Scotia but it's really slow and takes a ton of power. There's also only a very narrow window.

This wind will drop over the next 24hrs. It might veer SW or W because there's a low coming in over the north but, looking at the latest surface pressure charts, I suspect that we'll be too far south and, according to the latest inshore forecast, we're due another spell of light and variable winds from noon Sunday onwards. ETA Lowestoft still Tuesday but it's a guess.

Earlier we were called up on the VHF by one of my sailing school customers. He'd heard me asking Humber Coastguard for wind strength and direction at their HQ. Good to hear from you Graham and I wish you the best for next week.

2010-06-27 02:59:00 - 1946, 1966, 2010 - I don't think so - 12m NE of Flamborough Head - John

Around 2100 last night we sighted land for the first time since Fair Isle, 3 days ago. We were closing the Yorkshire coast in the vicinity of Whitby. Later when we were about 7 miles off, we saw a large thunderstorm over the shoreline and tacked back out to sea, not wanting to get caught in any squalls.

I got my head down at midnight and Nasher was kind to let me sleep through to around 0530, only awakening me briefly when he started the generator and it, almost immediately, cut out due to exhaust overheating. We guessed it might be impeller failure but, rather than trying to fix it in the dark, with the boat heeling over and bouncing around on the chop, we decided to leave it until light and used the main engine to recharge our batteries. This necessitated priming the seawater side of the system which develops an air lock if we sail hard on starboard tack for any length of time, due to a combination of the strainer being raised high above the inlet and the venturi effect.

Close into the shore, between Newcastle and The Humber, there's a lot of shipping tracking up and down the coast and we have to be much more diligent. Out west of Ireland and across the top of Scotland, we saw very few ships and, aside from a few fishing vessels, we didn't come particularly close to any. Now we're tracking several at a time by sight, AIS and, if the look like they're coming close, radar. The new HD Digital radar picks up targets really well but, with Kipper well heeled and bouncing around, MARPA is pretty much useless, so I've been plotting manually. Conveniently the Raymarine system has 2 sets of VRM/EBL lines, both of which can float, so I don't need to use a plotting sheet to calculate CPA etc. AIS also gives CPA but I've learned from experience that it's not wholly accurate in close quarters due to small delays in the system. You can often see that the radar target leads the AIS position. This isn't too bad at range and with Class A targets, but I've seen fast moving Class B targets half a mile ahead of their AIS position! Interestingly, despite the fact that we're "live"; on AIS, when the guard vessel protecting the survey ship off Fair Isle called us, he did do using the "old";, "sailing vessel in approximate position x y, this is z"; method, rather than calling us by name or call-sign, both of which he would have been able to determine from AIS. We also know, from monitoring competitors' AIS that Class B doesn't work over more than about 6 miles. All of which compounds my existing opinion that ORC have wasted everybody's money by mandating Class B AIS for Cat 2. Incidentally more and more fishing vessels are fitted with AIS but I don't know what their SOLAS obligations are. It'd be somewhat ironic if yachts racing under Cat 2 are mandated to use active AIS but FVs aren't.

Nasher replaced the generator's impeller before he turned in, so I'm going to reward him with a good long sleep. We'll also run 2 dog watches today so's the graveyard watch, between 0000 and 0400, switches back to me tonight. Dog watches are 2, rather than 4, hours, so you run 0-4-8-12-14-16-20-0, which serves to rotate the watches on a daily cycle.

Earlier this morning, close to the shoreline, I was briefly able to connect to the Internet, via my 3 dongle, for the first time since we departed Lerwick. Looking at the BBC web-site, I see that nothing much has changed and fully expect England to lose to the Krauts today. I'd love to be proved wrong though.

The wind is holding for now. Of course it's inevitably coming directly from where we want to go but at least we can make some progress, even if our VMG is totally crap, especially when the tide is against us. There's still the possibility that it might veer SW or W this evening but, if it does, it'll probably go light, so it's all much of a muchness really. ETA Lowestoft is still Tuesday but we harbour a sneaking hope that it might be Monday night.

We hear that the first boats have finished in Plymouth (bastards) but that most of the faster boats are strung out along The Channel. Drifting with the tide and then kedging when it turns against them. The Channel must be littered with toys.

2010-06-27 16:49:00 - Mula'd - 20 miles ENE of the entrance to the Humber - John

Spent the day tacking down the North Yorkshire coast, past places I've never been to, like Whitby and Filey. We'd heard that today was going to be the hottest day of the year so far and were pleased to find expected sea breezes adding to the SE gradient breeze close into the shore. Mind you, it might have been hot on land but it was still pretty chilly at sea. My shorts came out for a while, much to Nasher's amazement. I don't think he's sailed yet without his oilskin trousers and hat.

Once we got down to, just north of the, Humber Estuary we put a waypoint into the chartplotter on what, we call the "magic spot";. This is the spot, where according to the tidal atlas in Reeds, at approximately 4 hours before HW Dover, which is 0100 tomorrow morning the tide splits north and south and, if we can time it right, we'll catch an extra 3 hours of SE going tide. Whereas, if we miss it, we'll get mula'd by a NE stream. Too early to say yet.

Speaking of mula (or Muller, or however you spell it), it's fun speculating tomorrows headlines. "Mula'd"; or "Mullered"; are obvious choices. Or perhaps "Fab He Go"? I never warmed to the supercilious twat anyway.

Of course it's a shame England are out (again). There's little doubt that a good run would have been good for national morale and also for certain sections of the economy. But, on the other hand families and many employers would suffer, so it's probably swings and roundabouts.

This in turn takes me back to one of my, much earlier posts, I think I said that we needed some roundabouts. Well, we haven't sodin' had any. Bah!

New curry recipe. I tin Tesco Chicken Tikka, 1 tin Tesco Bombay Spuds, left over roast chicken. Microwave rice. It was bloomin' excellent. (Now a big fan of microwave rice.)

Around 90 miles to Lowestoft. VMG has been averaging about 3.5, so that still has us finishing sometime on Tuesday. We'd really rather not finish in the middle of the night as that mucks up the whole social side of the stopover. Any time from 0800 to 1800 would be fine.

Resolute's tracker stopped updating at 2200 on Saturday night. We wonder if they've bailed out to their home port of Scarborough. We wouldn't be surprised, they've already sailed all the way around and, with finishing within the time limit being a bit touch and go, I think that's what we'd do. Imagine sailing on, only to miss the limit and then having to sail all the way back?

We seem to be holding our own against Knight's Challenge and Summer Bird, although we've adopted a radically different strategy by going west into the coast. They've been tacking straight down the rhumb-line. Time will tell.

2010-06-28 02:38:00 - We've got it up! - 16 miles north of Cromer - John

We've got the spinnaker up, we've got the spinnaker up, we've got the spinnaker up, we've got the spinnaker up, we've got the spinnaker up, we've got the spinnaker up, we've got the spinnaker up, we've got the spinnaker up, we've got the spinnaker up, we've got the spinnaker up, we've got the spinnaker up, we've got the spinnaker up, we've got the spinnaker up, we've got the spinnaker up, we've got the spinnaker up, we've got the spinnaker up, we've got the spinnaker up, we've got the spinnaker up.

Total spinnaker hours to this point, about 8, over 1,555 miles and 16 days. Three of those are over the last 3 hours.

I bought this kite, 2ndhand, especially for the race. Together with sheets, guys and a jockey pole it has cost me over £150 per hour so far. Even worse, we'd have been better off with a non-spinnaker rating. Ah well.

Mind you, I've made worse investments. My pension fund for example, which, last time I looked, was worth somewhat less than the sum of all my contributions over 30 years. Kipper on the other hand has been a good investment, well that's what I kid myself, mainly because we bought her in January 2008 and, if I'd, instead, invested in shares, I'd be much worse off. And she helps me generate a living, of sorts.

The kite isn't perfect. It's a little too long in the foot. As a result the leech tends to collapse under the main and we get one of those infuriating scenarios where, if we sheet in to stop the luff collapsing, the leech collapses and visa versa. It's not too bad in a breeze but, in lights airs, it's a bit of a nightmare.

Anyway, it's an absolutely gorgeous morning. The sun had real heat in it by 0530 and we're now ghosting towards the north Norfolk shore which is 15 miles off our starboard bow. About 55 miles to Lowestoft but, right now our boat speed is only 2.2kts, although with the tide under us, we're making 4.3 over the ground. Of course the tide is going to turn and, when it does, we'll be lucky if we can make any progress at all. We might even have to drop the hook and wait out a tide.

Just coming up on a humongous conglomeration of tugs and a barge carrying an oil or gas rig. It might be at anchor, it might be underway making very, very slow progress against the tide. We'll see. Either way, we'll have to keep clear, although unlike the oil and gas rigs, it doesn't have an exclusion zone so we can pass quite close. If we're close enough, I take a few snaps.

Recipe of the day. Mix on bag of Tesco luxury mixed fruit with one bag of Tesco unsalted mixed nuts and raisins. Serve on its own or, for an extra special treat, combine a portion with a carton of Ambrosia rice-pudding. Food of the Gods.

2010-06-28 08:56:00 - Mullered - Becalmed 3 miles east of Cromer - John

Nearly 2 kts of tide against us and only 5kts of wind, dead astern. 36 miles to Lowestoft. Kedged in 15 meters of water. Unless we get more wind we're here until the tide turns in 3 hours.

Incidentally, in by blog last yesterday evening I used the (verb?) to be "Mula'd" or "Mullered". Having now managed to connect to the Interweb, I thought I'd check the spelling and derivation. The correct spelling is "Mullered". It came to public notice in the early 1990s, though it has certainly been around for much longer in the spoken language. Jonathon Green, in his Chambers Dictionary of Slang, suggests that one sense, to be badly beaten up, has been in UK prison slang since the 1950s.

In modern usage it has the two senses you give. When it refers to objects, it doesn't so much mean simply broken as extensively damaged or even totally destroyed ("At the end of a massive traffic queue there was a gorgeous Ferrari that had been absolutely mullered. Mullered I say. One side of the car had completely disappeared and one of the wheels was about 200 yards down the road." - in a BBC sports blog, 12 June 2008).

In sports it has a somewhat less catastrophic sense of being badly beaten, outclassed or outplayed by the other team ("Predictably, the scrum was mullered, the ball turned over and a Quins try was the result." - in the Irish Independent, 20 October 2008).

Where it comes from is disputed. Jonathon Green suggests it's a variant form of an older regional verb mull, to grind to powder, pulverise or crumble. He also notes that an alternative spelling is mullahed, suggesting some vaguely perceived Islamic connection, which the Oxford English Dictionary argues is a folk etymology.

I still think it's the perfect description of what happened to England last night.

And you thought you came to this blog to hear about 2 blokes sailing round Britain!

2010-06-28 11:29:00 - Anchor Up - Sailing 3 miles south east of Cromer - John

Flippin' Henry. That was hard work.

Sailing again but guess where the wind is coming from?

2010-06-29 04:57:00 - Exciting finish at Lowestoft - Lowestoft - John

We eventually finished at Lowestoft at 00:49 this morning after a thrilling beat, tacking in and out of the sandbanks, making 8kts over the ground. Well I found it thrilling anyway. Nasher was fast asleep and, when I gave him a shake, just after midnight to tell him it was his watch, it was amusing to see him sat staring at the chartplotter, not quite believing his eyes. When he turned in we'd been expecting a 0500 finish.

Of course we have it easy these days, compared to the early races. A good autopilot and chartplotter, backed up by radar means that one person can sail the boat and navigate simultaneously, even at speed in close pilotage. Always remembering that it's essential to verify your GPS position by other means and that, in places like this, where the sand banks shift around and the buoys are relocated continually, you can't just sail "off the screen"; but must validate the position of buoys. Radar simplifies this and we were able to take the corners really close.

We were surprised and delighted to be welcomed on the finish line by a rib load of Royal Norfolk and Suffolk members and, as it turned out, it was just as well they came out because when we tried to engage ahead propulsion from the engine, we got nothing. The prop isn't pitching in ahead (it does astern). We tried to sail into the narrow, and from seaward, very difficult to locate, entrance, under yankee alone but, as we closed the entrance, it became clear that the tide had turned and we we're being set rapidly north of the entrance and into the sea wall. Not a great situation as, with just the yankee up, we'd have struggled to tack and we hadn't room to leeward to gybe. It'd have been anchor down in double quick time.

Anyway the rib towed us in and alongside (big thank you) and we were invited into the clubhouse for beer (or tea which we declined), cheese and biscuits and fruit cake. We sat chatting for a while and then turned in at around 0230.

Up just before 0800 as there's a lot to do. We need to find out what's wrong with the prop, if necessary order a rushed replacement, get the cooker fixed, sort out the water tanks, clean the boat etc. etc. Hopefully there'll be some time for R&R later.

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#7 2011-09-25 08:38:18

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Re: KIPPER OF LONDON's 2010 Shetland Round Britain & Ireland Race (V34)

The fifth leg, Lowestoft to Plymouth

2010-07-01 04:13:00 - On our way again - 8 miles SSE of Lowestoft - John

We're glad to leave Lowestoft. The Royal Norfolk and Suffolk YC is extremely pleasant, with very welcoming members, but it's a gated oasis amongst a pretty grim town. Apart from a quick trip to Asda yesterday, we didn't venture out at all.

The astute amongst you might notice that we didn't start until around 0850 this morning, whereas we finished at 0050 Tuesday morning. This might look daft but the tide runs at 2.5kts north, south off Lowestoft and with very little wind overnight we decided to stay in the marina rather than anchoring outside. Of course this means that we've lost all our time against Resolute, Knight's Challenge and Summer Bird but SB rates higher than us and KC rates the same. Resolute rates a lot less and had already overtaken us on corrected time on the last leg. Hey Ho!

We now have a new propeller. Darlgow certainly offer excellent customer service. When we notified them of the problem on Tuesday morning, they immediately started manufacturing a new prop and then brought it up, all the way to Lowestoft, a 5 hour drive from their factory in Wareham, to fit it yesterday afternoon. They even paid for the lift. A big thank you to Chris in particular.

Our cooker is also mended. Most of you probably know that, very unusually, Kipper has a diesel cooker. When it works, it works very well indeed and, of course, not having gas on-board, relieves us of a major worry regarding safety. However it's a complex bit of kit, incorporating multiple fans and PCBs, one of which failed on the last leg and, whilst we could still use it, it wouldn't run through its proper cool-down cycle which risked cracking the ceramic hob. Anyway, the local agent visited Kipper and replaced the small stove control panel and associated PCB and it's now working fine. Fingers crossed.

It's approximately 320 miles to the finish in Plymouth. If we average the same VMG as we did on the last leg, this should take us 4 days, so finishing on Monday, however the English Channel is made up of a series of tidal gates (Dungeness, Beachy Head, St Catherine’s Point, Anvil Point, Portland & Start Point). And that's once we get round North Foreland and through The Dover Straights. It all depends on what happens at these points. Inevitably it's a dead beat to North Foreland and the winds are forecast to veer westerly later and to stay in the west for the foreseeable future, so it's going to be a beat all the way. The wind speeds vary between about 5kts and maybe 12kts on the English side of The Channel and, perhaps, 15kts on the French side. If we're lucky we'll be able to maintain positive VMG all the way but, frankly it's unlikely and we may well find ourselves having to anchor a number of times to wait out a tide. That's what happened to many of the faster boats and, of course, they can make ground over an adverse tide more easily than we can. So we're just going to suck it and see. Ultimately, if progress is too slow, we might be forced to bail out as both of us have business commitments that can't be put off.

2010-07-01 23:01:00 - That's Yacht Racing - Anchored 2 miles SE of North Foreland - John

We've been anchored since 0145. Resolute are anchored 1.2 miles north of us and Knight's Challenge and Summer Bird are sailing backwards and forwards, just north of them, going nowhere.

Things had been going reasonably well. Sure it was a dead beat from Lowestoft to North Foreland but there was always enough wind to make progress and, when the tide was against us, we tried to position ourselves either on or behind sand banks in order to minimise its adverse effect.

Early in the day, when we'd been sailing within AIS range of Resolute, we'd been sailing a few degrees lower but about half a knot faster, giving us a better VMG, and we slowly pulled away. Trying to put ourselves in the optimal position for the change to negative tide, we tacked off to the west and were rewarded with a 20 degree shift to the left, which meant that, when we tacked back, Resolute crossed 1.7 miles ahead of us. Later we sailed SSW along the length of one of the main sand bars, putting us in less tide than both Resolute and Summer Bird and we pulled some 4 miles ahead and maintained this with a fair tide. Then we got to North Foreland, the tide turned against us and the both caught us up again. That's yacht racing.

The tide turns back in our favour at about 0800; the wind is all over the shot and around 9kts but mainly south or SW, so we should be on our way around then.

2010-07-02 23:36:00 - Heavy Machine Guns - 10 miles SW of Beachy Head - John

Shortly after my last blog, the wind filled in from the south, I woke Nasher and, bleary eyed, he hauled the anchor (it was his turn). Whist we were getting it up, Knight's Challenge ghosted by and soon, all four of us back-enders were (enjoying) a close race, which went on all day.

When the tide was with us, we made good progress. When it turned foul, our VMG dropped. Of course the wind was, as has always been the case in this race, coming from precisely where we wanted to go and, with Kipper tacking through more than 90 degrees, this means that at times we see negative VMG, which is very disheartening. (For those who don't sail, negative VMG means that the next waypoint is getting further away.)

For "technical reasons";, which means I can't easily explain why, The Channel tides flood for 7 hours and ebbs for 5. Since the flood is against us, this means sailing against the tide for 7 out of every 12 hours. Of course, what goes up and all that, but, when you're beating to windward, westwards down The Channel, that's a lot of hours of not going anywhere much. The English shore is also a series of headlands. Going west from North Foreland, it's first Dover, then Dungeness, Beachy Head, St. Catherine’s Point, Anvil Point and St Alban’s Head, Portland and Start Point. The tide runs strongly around these, creating a series of "tidal gates". You either just make it round on a tide or, pretty much, park up for 6-7 hours, waiting for the tide to set fair. So far we've gone round the first three of these and we've parked at all three. We did however make about 75 miles on the rhumb line in the last 24 hours, so we're still on schedule for a Monday finish.

Right now we're 10 miles SW of Beachy Head, making 6kts over the ground on a SW'rly course in WNW 3, with the ebb tide building under us. The latest forecast has the wind W or NW for the next 24hrs, then backing SW F3, occasionally F5-7, so we're probably going to sail all the way over to the French coast before tacking back. ETA Plymouth still Monday. Knight's Challenge and Summer Bird are both around 5 miles south of us and, depending upon what the wind does, probably slightly behind. We don't know where Resolute are but they've been going really well and we suspect they're slightly ahead.

Whilst just round Dungeness, sailing close inshore, in a vain attempt to find a back eddy, we were visited by the range control vessel guarding the Lydd Firing Ranges. At the time we had very little wind and were, almost certainly going to have to, either: enter the range or tack off and go seriously backwards in the adverse tide. I think the chaps in the RCV had had a belly full of RB&I boats over the last week and, whilst they can't actually stop us from entering the range, the heavy machine gun fire was sufficient to have us breath a big sigh of relief when the wind backed and increased slightly, allowing us to tack away without losing too much ground.

Stores are running a bit low. When we victualed up in Lowestoft, we were feeling pretty negative and only provisioned for 2 days on the basis that we'd, almost certainly jack it in and day sail back to Lymington, using the engine to speed us on our way and calling in to Ramsgate and Brighton overnight. Now we're going for it. Our stock of tea is almost gone, I think we've got about 4 tea bags left, and the sweet and biscuit situation is looking pretty dire too. (Annie will think that this is a really good thing). Of course, we've got lots of healthy soup left.

2010-07-03 12:48:00 - Sardines Picante - 10 miles SE of St Catherine's Point - John

After an agonising night rounding Beachy Head the wind has slowly filled in and is now blowing a solid F5. I don't need to tell you what direction it's coming from though.

Initially we headed south at a rather shallow angle to the westbound traffic exiting the TSS but the visibility was excellent and we knew that, with our radar target enhancer and Class B AIS on, there was no excuse for shipping not to steer well clear of us, and it did.

We had decided to go south because there was more wind forecast on the French side of The Channel and we thought there was a chance that it'd back a bit. Both proved correct and we were gradually headed by an increasing breeze, until our VMG went negative and we tacked back towards the English coast. With tide against us we couldn't make more than about 1.5kts VMG but now it's turned and we're sailing on starboard tack about 10 miles ESE of St Catherine’s Point, we're making 8.3kts over the ground and a VMG of 5.2kts. By the time the tide turns foul, we should be west of The Isle of Wight, tucked into Christchurch or Bournemouth Bay, only a few miles from home. We'll then try to keep out of the worst of the adverse tide until it turns again and should be able to pass Portland at around 0500 on a fair tide, which will carry us well on our way to the next corner, which is Start Point, another 50 miles further on. Then it's only another 25 miles or so to the finish. We could even finish on Sunday night.

Earlier, whilst mid-Channel, I had to bear way 30 degrees for a short while to avoid a fishing vessel. Only as I went around it, did I see second and I went between them. Let's hope they weren't pair trawling!

At 1800 Resolute was about 8 miles SSE of us, Knight's Challenge 12 miles south and Summer Bird 9 miles ESE. So it's very close.

Today's recipe. Take one tin of Waitrose Sardines Picante (in olive oil with chiilies). Spread between 2 slices of wholemeal bread (no butter). Delicious and so, so healthy.

2010-07-04 03:39:00 - Snottie yottie with a plumy accent - 8 miles ENE of The Bill of Portland - John

In my last blog, I said:

" ..we should be west of The Isle of Wight, tucked into Christchurch or Bournemouth Bay, only a few miles from home. We'll then try to keep out of the worst of the adverse tide until it turns again ..";

We didn't make it by about a mile.

Firstly the tide turned foul, about an hour before all the predictions, and then the wind slowly dropped and veered. We might, just might have snuck round The Needles but, with the flood tide building, there was then a risk that we'd get sucked up The Needles Channel and into The Solent. I woke Nasher and we dropped the hook in about 24 meters of water. As, sometimes happens, the anchor chain jammed on the way out of the locker. It does this because, when we haul the anchor, the chain falls into the chain locker, into a conical pile and then, when we sail heeled, the pile collapses. A bit of vigorous pulling freed the chain but, with it off the windlass, the combined weight of the anchor and the chain already deployed was more than I wanted to risk grabbing hold of and we watched 40 meters of chain and about another 30 meters of warp disappear rapidly over the stem-head before it slowed and we were able to snub it on the winch. OK, so four times the depth of water and all that, so we weren't going to drag, but we knew it'd be a bastard to get up.

We lay at anchor for four hours watching Wave 'n Dave in Resolute tack backwards and forwards, going nowhere and, we thought, at one stage, being at risk of an unplanned visit to The Solent. Whilst we were lying there, Nasher on anchor watch, me fast asleep, a snottie yottie with a plumy accent, from another yacht, who didn't identify himself, called us on CH16. "I say wot, yacht entering The Needles Channel, did you know you've got your anchor light on?" It's a good job Nasher was on watch, otherwise I'd probably breached the rules prohibiting profane language over the air.

We, well I say we, actually Nasher (again), hauled anchor a 0430 and started ghosting as best we could in about 5kts of wind but, at least with the tide under us. Then the wind built to a good SW 4 and we just weathered Anvil Point. Had to make a short tack out to get round St Albans Head. We're now about 12 miles from the southern tip of Portland Bill. When we get there the tide is going to be strongly against us. We have no option but to try the inshore passage, which extends no more than a couple of cables (one cable = one tenth of a sea mile, say 200 meters) off the cliffs. It'll be touch and go.

On the subject of the tide turning foul. For the last few summers I've noted a distinct pattern where the tide in The Channel turns onto the flood about an hour earlier than predicted and runs stronger too. It's caught me out before, notably on a passage back from St Vaast last year, where we'd done a very careful course to steer calculation, which we continually updated, but found ourselves 10m SE of The Needles when the tide turned strongly against us. I can find no collaboration of my observations but wonder if the Gulf Stream in summer splits in two, one part going up the west coast of the British Isles and the other part up The Channel, creating an underlying persistent NE going stream. Given out tortuous west going progress and that of the faster boats who passed this way in similar conditions some while ago (OK, bloomin' ages ago), this would seem a possible explanation, especially as the water seems warmer than it might be.

We have no idea where our competitors are. Class B AIS only seems to have a range of about 6 miles at best and I can't get on The Internet. Earlier we could see Resolute about 5 miles to windward and, we know that, in the early hours Summer Bird was about 6 miles south of us and Knight's Challenge another 10 miles out. If they've got the same wind as us, then they're probably ahead. Let's hope they don't get round Portland and we don't!

Porridge for breakfast but I made a real mess of the microwave, which took some clearing up. The jam was making an excellent Penicillin culture, so we ditched it and stirred in marmalade instead. Not bad but not as good as jam.

A minor electrical gremlin means that I can't run the computer without the generator for the time being. I'll fix it later on. And the sink stinks. I'll pour some more bleach down it when I've done the washing up.

2010-07-04 15:51:00 - Humohhhhhh! - 5 miles east of Dartmouth - John

After 20 days sailing we're still within 20 or so miles of Resolute and Summer Bird. Knight's Challenge is further ahead. However things didn't go well for us in the early part of today. We got on the wrong side of a wind-shift, which put us behind and then we missed the tidal gate at Portland, whereas our competitors snuck through. Humphhhhh! ETA Plymouth some time tomorrow morning.

2010-07-05 01:59:00 - About another 8 miles to go 5 miles SE of the western entrance to Plymouth Sound - John

Not far to go now. We're 5 miles dead downwind of the western entrance to Plymouth Sound, then it's only a couple of miles to the finish. We suspect that Knight's Challenge will have finished by now and guess that Resolute must be very close to finishing. We almost caught them in the night but they just slipped past Start Point and Bolt Head before the tide built too adverse and we lost touch with them on the AIS. We did overtake Summer Bird though and they're now 3 miles back, dead downwind of us.

Given the tricks that the Wind Gods have played on us, all the way around, we're not prepared to give any ETA. We'll finish when we finish. And that won't be a moment too soon. We're both very weary and sick to death of beating to windward.

Once we've finished we'll let you all know on the blog and then, when the dust settles, we'll make give our thoughts, good and bad, on the whole experience. Just now I think it's going to be one that we'll look on with some satisfaction but few great memories.

2010-07-05 04:31:00 - That's that then. - Finished - John

Finished at 10:13:40.

More later.

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#8 2011-09-25 08:39:43

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Re: KIPPER OF LONDON's 2010 Shetland Round Britain & Ireland Race (V34)

Final thoughts on return to Lymington

2010-07-06 07:41:00 - Final thoughts on the race - On our way back to Lymington - John

Now it's all over, I've had time to reflect on the experience and to report on what worked and what didn't.

First, if you've been enjoying this blog, perhaps you'd consider making a small donation to our chosen charity, EducAid India, which is very special for me because two of its founders are my sister and brother-in-law, Joan & Bill Bond. After many years of service in charity work in India they decided to set EducAid India, in 2009, focussing principally on education and community development. The education of girls, not often readily available, is seen as particularly important. EducAid India at present operates in West Bengal and is assisted by the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Mission, which has many stations throughout the state. EducAid is very small and very focused. I know that virtually every penny donated goes direct to India and, even more importantly, is spent wisely and properly accounted for. Because this area of West Bengal is extraordinarily poor, donations go a long, long way. You can read about EducAid India at www.educaidindia.org Let me know by e-mail (john@kippersailing.co.uk) and send your donation direct to EducAid either: By cheque, payable to EducAid India, mailed to: Joan & Bill Bond, EducAid India 30 Fallows Road, Northleach, Gloucestershire, GL54 3QQ, UK. Please write "Kipper" on the back of the cheque. or by bank transfer to: Account: EducAid India; HSBC; Sort Code: 401725 Account: 31522000. Please use reference "Kipper/your name"

And so, to the race. Overall, I'd say that I feel a sense of satisfaction at having completed the course but, didn't enjoy the experience and have few good memories; it was much too much off a relentless upwind slog. We sailed for just under 21 days and, in all that time, only had the wind aft of the beam for around 8 hours and were hard on the wind all the rest of the time. The rhumb line distance, if you take all the corners pretty close, is 1,925 miles. We logged 2,468 miles at an average speed of 4.9kts but this equated down to only 3.83kts on the rhumb line. We had the spinnaker up 3 times. The first time was on the leg from Plymouth to Kinsale, running dead downwind, north from The Scillies in a wind that built to 30kts. This was the only thrilling sailing in the entire race, with Kipper maintaining 9kts and surfing to over 11. In fact we hit our top speed of 11.8kts after we'd chickened out and the wind peaked at 35kts, while we were running under full main and boomed out yankee. The second time we had it up was ghosting around Muckle Flugga, at the northern extremity of The Shetlands. There wasn't enough wind to keep it filling in a sloppy sea and, in the end, we took it down in favour of a boomed out yankee. The final time was for a very brief period off Cromer on the north Norfolk coast, before the wind died completely and we had to put the anchor down.

We did have one good day's run, of 170 miles, off the north coast of Scotland, towards Muckle Flugga, but even that was almost hard on the wind on port tack. Most days we were happy to make 80 miles. Kipper rarely exceeds an upwind VMG over 3.5kts, so 24*3.5=84.

The reason for all this is a very unlucky progression of high pressure systems over the UK. By contrast, boats at the front of the fleet enjoyed much fast downwind sailing and it was, for example, depressing to depart Lerwick into light headwinds when we knew that faster boats had left with a gale of wind behind. Our friends in Ding Dong, who won Class One, sailed down the Northern North Sea at speeds of up to 22kts and, of course because they were able to point straight down the rhumb line, that all translates into VMG. By contrast our VMG for the first 24 hours of that leg was only about 2.5kts.

Our slow progress also meant that we continually arrived at all the stopovers after Kinsale, long after the party, which was a bit depressing, however we enjoyed the company of the skippers and co-skippers from other slower boats and were brilliantly looked after in Lerwick by Ian and Rene Fraser and at Lowestoft by the flag officers and members of the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club.

Aside from problems with our water tanks, batteries, cooker and propeller, reported in earlier blogs, Kipper performed brilliantly. She is so easy to sail, inspires great confidence and is really, dry and really comfortable in even the most unpleasant seas. Yes, we'd have undoubtedly done much better if she was equipped with new, much flatter, sails, that would have enabled us to point higher than 55 degrees to the wind and reduce leeway, which meant that our true tacking angle wasn't much better than 120 degrees. But we knew this before we started as Kipper was optimised by the previous owner of downwind sailing in The Trade Winds. Had we had what we'd hoped for, which was a predominance of reaching, we'd have enjoyed ourselves much more, taken significantly less time and might have even done better in the race. Yes. I suppose with 20:20 hindsight, we were a bit naive, thinking we might be, even remotely competitive in an out and out cruising boat but had the shit really hit the fan and, or we been dealt more reaching conditions, it might have been different.

The new radio modem in conjunction with the HF SSB transceiver worked brilliantly, enabling us to keep in touch with our loved ones, blog, receive reports on competitors' positions and download GRIB (weather) files throughout the race. We'd definitely recommend this to others, in favour of a satellite phone. OK the capital outlay is more and you don't have voice comms, not that they're really necessary, but it is very reliable and very cheap to use.

The new chartplotter, HD digital radar and Class B (active) AIS, performed very well, although we still question the need for active AIS. We were however less impressed with the associated Navionics charts, which are difficult to use for long-distance passage planning, lacked detail, compared to large-scale paper charts, in some of the more out of the way places and were well out of date, despite being the very latest, 2010 release.

George, our third hand, worked tirelessly. We didn't really hand steer at all. We did however use a lot of power with this, the fridge-freezer, 12"; chartplotter, Class B AIS and VHF running continuously and the PC, SSB and radio modem running from time to time. We ran the generator for 30 minutes every 4 hours and learnt that a generator isn't a particularly good way to charge batteries. The problem is that it can only pump in high (around 80 amps) current for a relatively short time (about 20 minutes) and then reverts down to a lower current (20 amps). Which means that, running the generator for, say an hour, only puts in about 45 amp hours. And because it eventually drops down to less than 5 amps, you'd need to run the generator for hours and hours in order to fully charge the 2, 110AH domestic batteries. Hence the need to charge every 4 hours. Before I do another long passage, I'll invest in some solar panels to maintain a trickle charge.

Our victualling worked very well, based on a balance of non-perishables in packets and tins, together with fresh food purchased at each of the stopovers. Emma's fruit cakes and flapjacks sustained us until Lerwick and we wished we'd persuaded her to bake more. Roast chickens perked up the tinned curries, Waitrose Sardines in chilli or lemon oil, made a tasty snack and Uncle Bens microwave rice is a real winner. We also caught several mackerel, although towing the line slowed us down a bit, and there's absolutely nothing like a fresh Mackerel fillet sandwich in brown bread with real butter.

Up around the north of Scotland, especially on our way out to The Shetlands, it was bloomin' cold. I was only just warm enough I my Musto 3-layers system and 4 seasons sleeping bag, sometimes both at the same time. Nasher got very cold at times. He's done most of his sailing in warmer climes. We ran the heater from time to time to boost our morale.

I thought that Nasher and I worked very well as a team. As far as I was concerned anyway, I thought we got on pretty well, which is pretty good as we only came together as a team for this race, and each supported the other when, inevitably one gets a little downhearted. He certainly fulfilled my most important criteria, which was that I could sleep soundly in my bunk when he was on watch, secure in the certain knowledge that, not only were we safe but that he was making an excellent job of keeping up the pace.

So in summary. Did I enjoy it? No. Would I do it again? Not unless somebody paid me. Would I do anything different? With 20:20 hindsight, I wouldn't have wasted my money on a spinnaker and spinnaker gear that we hardly used but, then, it could have been the other way around. Oh, and maybe delaying our start from Lowestoft by 8 hours, so that we could enjoy a good night's sleep and an excellent port wine breakfast, in company with the other back markers, cost us a couple of place but, hey ho!

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