Canadian Power & Sail Oakville Squadron
Monday, Sept. 4 – Day 2
It was amazing to hoist sails and parade in front of so many people, and to hear cheers of « Vamos Punta! » from the harbour, from spectator boats on the water, and people all along the walls of Henry VIII’s castle, before the official canon blast finally signalled the race start.
Although it was very light wind, we had a great start – first across the start line, first to pass the mark heading into the Solent, and first to hoist the spinnaker as we headed downwind. Everyone working hard to trim the sails to maximize boat speed non-stop since then.
The team is strong and work great together – an amazing group of people. As much as this is a race, it is also an experience for all on board. This means giving everyone opportunity to contribute, particularly at the helm. Steering a 70’ sailboat is quite a feeling. Steering it well, especially downwind, in shifting winds, and in very light or very heaving winds and waves, is quite a skill that takes time to become proficient at. Only a few of us helmed the first night, because we were downwind, flying the spinnaker in 20 knots and had to gybe twice in the dark. (This means the wind was coming from behind us and the big spinnaker sail is out front, along with the main sail. Gybing is turning to port or starboard and moving the sails while keeping them full of wind, to the opposite side of the boat). Gybing (and tacking) safely is crucial, so only the skipper or crew who are deemed capable helm during these maneuvers, particularly at night. But today everyone takes turns at the helm to start to get comfortable behind the wheel and learn how to maximize boat speed while staying on the most direct course. Since this experience is new to so many, we don’t always travel in a straight line
Our strategy before start was to stay north of the English Channel. A few boats followed us and others chose the southern shore route. We have a good course and speed for the Bay of Biscay mark, which we will round early evening. We hope our bet will pay off. We don’t see others as you see on the Clipper Race Viewer web page. If boats are within about 20 nautical miles, we can visually see their position. Otherwise, we only receive updates on the fleet’s position every 6 hours.
Yesterday, Nanne, who is from the Netherlands and I were assigned to meal prep and galley cleanup, called Parent Duties. Everyone rotates through this role, once every 10 days. It’s a long day, but the reward is you get to shower after and have a longer uninterrupted sleep shift. The benefit of being Parents the first day is we won’t have to do it again before we arrive in Spain. The downside is, no more shower until then either! (For those of you wondering, everyone is required to maintain daily personal hygiene using wet wipes. Unfortunate for waste generating, but a bit of a necessity. The waste is stored and disposed of when in port).
We saw our first dolphins during lunch time which was amazing. Bay of Biscay will be with light downwind so we will use the larger spinnaker. At this point we haven’t decided if we will we go for the scoring gate and get extra points or stay on the regular course. The scoring gate would be a detour of at least 20nm.
We all share our bunks with one other crew, who is on the opposite shift. I am now resting in my bunk and my next watch is 7pm to 11pm.