The announcement that Shirley Robertson and I are joining forces for 2022 went out at the beginning of January and it was fabulous to start the year with a buzz. I have been overwhelmed at the positive reaction we have received towards our new project and want to share some of our plans for the months ahead.
With both our co skippers from last year focussing on new projects this season, our project is the perfect way for Shirley and me to continue racing in this competitive and fun environment. We are looking forward to sailing alongside the many friendly faces that we have got to know over the last 18 months.
The boat is currently in Cowes being prepared for the busy season ahead which means that we have plenty of decisions to make. We will be looking at the sail wardrobe, rigging, the equipment – all of which will need to meet the demands of close to 2000nm on the Round Britain and Ireland Race, classed as a Category 1 event in World ailing’s Special Offshore Regulations. Other areas of focus will be power consumption and how we manage our efficiency. Ironically, we will be making all these decisions before we have even sailed together because, although we have met on the water as rivals over the years, we have never actually teamed up. One decision we have made is on the name of the boat. We landed on RockIT because we want the boat to be a rocket ship and, as a team, we want to Rock it!
With our training, it will be important to work on communication and identify our roles onboard. We will of course be playing to our strengths but also need to develop weaker areas so that we have confidence in each other for long periods of racing. I have witnessed first-hand that Shirley can make a boat go fast and, as an Olympic sailor, her attention to detail will be excellent. I come from many miles of offshore experience and have sailed the Round Britain and Ireland course on four previous occasions, claiming a record on two of those. Having spent the last few years predominantly in a mentor / coach role, I am looking forward to learning from a different set of skills, so that I too can develop as a sailor. By bringing our abilities together, I feel that we have the potential to put in a good performance.
We will be using the RORC series of races as warm up, a qualification process and preparation ahead of the Round Britain and Ireland Race in August. There are one or two races a month from the end of April onwards so we will be kept busy. We will also recruit the support of external coaches to help us get the best from each other and the boat.
The double handed race scene is a growing discipline in our sport and fiercely competitive. The simplicity of being able to coordinate with just one other person, the logistics and associated costs involved make life far easier then organising a big crew and the racing is just as exciting. The boats are fun, simple and accessible and line up to give some close racing.
I was keen to include the Round Britain and Ireland Race in the campaign as it is the big event of the UK season this year and a route I know well. The course takes us very far north. In fact, we can be further north than we would be south if we were rounding Cape Horn, so this race is not to be taken lightly. Traditionally the course is planned to be clockwise but, from previous experience, it all depends on the weather forecast as to which way round the course we are sent. Assuming we follow the clock, we tackle the tidal gates of the South Coast before making it across the Irish Sea. Then, if prevailing winds are in place, it is time to send it with the wind aft of the beam all the way to the top, hopefully being able to enjoy the wildlife along the way. Once you turn the top corner at Muggle Flugga, the northern most point of the British Isles, the course is fraught with oil rigs, wind farms and shifting sand banks making navigation difficult. The final stretch from the Thames Estuary, back along the English Channel to the finish line is about staying away from the shipping and not losing focus. Although the end is in sight, there are still hazards to negotiate. We know all too well that the UK can provide anything from being becalmed to storm force winds, so being prepared for everything is important.
I look forward to sharing more campaign news in the coming weeks and months. After what has been a challenging couple of years for many of us, I hope that 2022 can be a year of action and activity for us all.