#1 2016-04-27 22:05:27

Registered: 2004-03-23
Posts: 122

Jester Challenge 2016

The time is again approaching.   Many months of planning have now culminated in Francesca hiding most of her anti-fouling well below the surface of the water, and still a little more weight to take on.   She is ready to sail, and will need to do so if Plymouth is to be fetched from Gillingham in time for the shotgun start on the 15th May.   She looks forward to meeting the two other Victorias taking part in the challenge, and hopes that their waterlines are equally awash.   Me? - not particularly looking forward to several long days of trying to bash into a westerly wind trying to get down Channel.   The first part of the challenge - preparing - is just about over, and the second part (getting to the start line on time) will start on Monday, and the forecasts, though not disastrous, are not particularly helpful either.

For those who wish to see how Francesca and I are faring, then this website will have our fully tracked trip (assuming these electronic gadget things work): https://share.delorme.com/JonathanHopper

If anybody is about somewhere along the south coast, and can see us on the website, please feel free to knock on the hatch.

Last time, much of the fleet could be viewed on www.Oceanracetrack.com but as yet I am unaware as to whether this will run on this occasion.

For those who would love to take part in the challenge, but find themselves too busy/committed/scared/warm etc to make it to the Plymouth in 2 weeks, then you may like to race us from the comfort of their own homes.   An online sailing race provider will be shadowing the race, and you can also take part in a Twister 28.   If you go to www.sailonline.org and register (it is FREE and safe), then in due course the race will come up on the menu (usually a few days beforehand so you can get to do some practice), and then start at the same time as us.   Some of our boats may even be overlaid on the course.   The electronic boats seem not to heave to very well - they just keep going, so they should reach our destination before the real fleet.



#2 2016-04-28 06:33:46

Committee Member
Registered: 2003-11-23
Posts: 167

Re: Jester Challenge 2016

From all at the Victoria Shadow Association all the very best of luck, good fortune, and fair winds on the Jester Challenge this year. I know that Colin Reid in TUI (Victoria 30) will be on the start line with you, and I suspect either Simon Fayers in SHEBECA (Frances 26) or Guy Willing in BLUEGRASS (Frances 26) will be the third competitor.  If you need any support as you pass the River Hamble and the Isle of Wight please let me know.


#3 2016-10-16 21:15:30

Registered: 2004-03-23
Posts: 122

Re: Jester Challenge 2016

Not wishing to write up the full trip this time, a few notes however might be of interest to some.

'Francesca' was well prepared for the trip.   Since the last Jester the cooking/eating arrangements were somewhat better; new lee cloth for better chance of sleep; insulation installed on the hull behind the wooden cladding; new staysail; new Featherstream propellor; various instrument upgrades; installed permanent 3rd reef lines, as well as all the usual maintenance issues (eg new bottom rudder gudgeon; new stern gland).  Some water had collected in Francesca's bilges during the previous season - spray could be seen from the stern gland, hence the change.

The trip down to Plymouth  started in fresh SW conditions.  Off the north Kent coast, off the wind, I tried as many sail combinations as possible to make sure everything still worked.   Finally, with triple reef main and reefed staysail in just a F5 she flew along at 5.5kn.   After a brief stop in Dover, the wind direction moved to a more favourable direction, so the following legs were to Brighton (and a quick trip home to sing in Belshazzar in Canterbury Cathedral), Torquay, then finally round to Plymouth.   At times it was a bit of a 'wind screen wiper' passage whilst running, but other wise straight forward.   Long legs after the previous Jester now seemed normal.Cruise%20ship%20off%20Isle%20of%20Wight%202.jpgCruise ship off Isle of Wight

Pre-challenge time in Plymouth was relaxed and enjoyable.   Tamar River Sailing Club were excellent hosts, and a convivial time was had.   It was good to meet other Victoria owners - both challengers and sailors preparing for their own seasons (particular thank you to Sue Thatcher for her tips and encouragement).
Pre%20start%20at%20Tamar%20Yacht%20Club%202.jpgPre start at Tamar Yacht Club

The forecast for the trip was not particularly good.   Challengers faced fresh to strong SW winds for the first 5 days on the rhumb line.   Heading rather further west to escape the long beat also looked rather windy.   To the east of the rhumb line however, charts indicated much more moderate winds - this is the route I took in the hope that the forecast improved once off Spain.   With the relatively poor tacking angle of the Frances in those conditions, and the bumpy ride that beating entails, an improvement in the wind direction was important for me in being able to complete the challenge.

The start line conditions were good - plenty of breeze, not too bumpy.   The next day or so had some good sailing although heading deteriorated once off Brittany, leaving my world at 30 degrees, playing the wind shifts to make best progress.  francesca%20at%20start%20line%202.jpgFrancesca at start line

Sleeping, yet again, was best done on the floor. The lee cloth worked well in certain conditions, but beating hard, and needing to be up regularly was awkward.  For some reason, next to my face on the floor, there was a trickle of water which came from the shallow bilge next to the mast, ran past, and back down by the galley.   It was probably coming from either 2 additional drinking water tanks, or a deck leak further forward. The front double berth wet, as well as the lockers full of food underneath. Splashes could be seen across the anchor locker panel.  It appears that the leak was from the forward part of the hull to deck joint, and has since been filled with epoxy putty.  However the bilges were also acquiring some water not explained by the volumes from the above - possibly a weep on the bottom rudder gudgeon as the leak started soon after this was replaced.   Not particularly worrying, just needed pumping daily just to keep an eye on.

The best sail plan for the days across Biscay was double or triple reefed main, reefed staysail, topped up with as much or little yankee as wind strength allowed.  This minimised deck work and worked pretty effectively.  The fairly well rolled genoa is quite high up, so does not interfere with the low down power of the reefed staysail.    Wind speeds varied quite a bit between F4 and F6 (with one short spell at 35kn) - relatively manageable, but needed regular attention keeping her sailing without being overpressed.   With more consistent wind speed I would have preferred full staysail as the tacking angle is considerably better.

One disadvantage of taking this very easterly course was that it took me into far more shipping.   Every night there were 3 or more contacts on the AIS, which meant staying awake to see them past, only to be woken shortly after by the next one.   Almost every ship shaped a course past me, bar one.   It was a beautiful sunny (but windy) day and I was outside enjoying the sailing  - a ship was seen directly behind and heading straight for me.   It was getting rather close after several minutes, so irritatingly I had to tack to get out of its track, but its behaviour made me very weary at night whenever the alarm sounded.    Decent sleep was thus hard to come by even in deep water.
Interesting%20deck%20cargo%202.jpgInteresting deck cargo

Approaching soundings off Spain I was not enjoying the trip.   Racing other competitors kept me going, and the thought of arrival.   Daily distance made good to the Azores were poor, and there were only so many days I can beat before going mad.   It was then that I heard that there was due to be a stationary low just north of the Azores, meaning yet another week of beating - and no certainty of a change after that.   The low was fairly pokey, and other competitors a little west of me later reported sustained conditions of 40kn.   I also discovered that the two other Victorias had given up several days earlier, and that Tony Head (an experienced Jester campaigner) in a Twister turned round that day due to the conditions and forecast.  This only confirmed my feelings at the time, but probably did influence the decision to give up.  Thoughts of stopping in north Spain for a week to see if conditions improved were attractive, though it would have been unfair on my family if this turned into 2 weeks or more, sipping beer on the beach....

A%20good%20year%20for%20dolphins%202.jpgInevitable dolphins, full of encouragement

After what had seemed an eternity (only 5 days) I had logged 556 miles through the water, but only 309 miles towards the Azores.   Of more concern the previous 24 hours - 102 miles through the water, 32 miles nearer the Azores.  So, I turned round, and had some terrific off the wind sailing, and a quick trip back to Plymouth in relative comfort. A shame, but memories of being hove to in strong winds last time, together with the discomfort and frustration of beating took their toll.  Back in the comfort of the marina, my first shower for days revealed a colourful array of bruises, largely where I had been trying to prop myself upright.

After some lovely cruising in the Yealm, Salcombe and the Dart, it was time to come home.   Unsurprisingly, the wind was due east (fairly light) so had to beat/motor sail virtually the whole way home.     The return trip was Dartmouth to Brighton to Gillingham.
  Dartmouth%202.jpgLovely Dartmouth

Total miles logged for the trip was 1,672 - 671 getting to Plymouth and back, and the remaining 1,006nm 'there and back again' in the Atlantic.

Will I do this challenge again?    The desire to fetch the Azores, singlehanded and in Francesca is still high, though the constraints of being at the start line means that it is always a lottery with the weather.   Perhaps next time I will do it by leaving a little later on in the year, and not with the pressure of the challenge.   However, memory becomes selective over time, so who knows what will happen in 4 years.

Last edited by Jonathan_Hopper (2016-10-28 22:32:17)


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