The beginning of the month started with an awesome blast around the Island. The Round the Island race is an iconic annual event and this year it was a blustery affair. The conditions may well have accounted for the difference between the 1100 entrants and the 838 that ultimately made it across the finish line.
I was lucky enough to join James Harayda on his IMOCA Gentoo. We sailed with a full crew and quickly agreed our roles on the boat. Our plan was to reduce manoeuvres, sail clean and have fun. As we were the only boat in our class, to win we just had to finish but we know that is not always as easy as it sounds! It was upwind out of the Solent and we had a favourable shift off Yarmouth, allowing us to lay the Needles easily. We hoisted our Jib Top at the Needles, which at the time we felt was a rather conservative choice. However, by the time we reached St Catherines Point, we were seeing gusts in excess of 30 knots and congratulated ourselves for erring on the side caution. To keep things simple, we decided to go for one gybe which meant I had to call a good layline. Once I made the call we gybed and, although it was a tight layline, with the assistance of some gusts and shifts with rain clouds, we made the leg up the eastern side of the island easily.
As we passed Bembridge Ledge buoy, a mark of the course, we saw a capsized boat in the water. It was a sobering image that made us all realise the importance of concentration as we headed back to the finish line. The final tacks up the Solent to the finish allowed us to enjoy a favourable tide and we finished at 13:12:05 with an elapsed time of 5h 12 mins 5 secs, being the 5th boat across the line. A great morning of fun and fast sailing, making it possible for me to be home for lunch and an afternoon dog walk.
I then headed to North Devon to spend some quality time with my family, catching up and relaxing. As I was going to be abroad sailing soon after, Jack stayed on for an extended holiday. He loves the relaxed lifestyle in the west country!
Towards the middle of the month, I joined The Famous Project in Montpellier, where I experienced firsthand the excessive temperatures southern Europe is being exposed to. We had a couple of days sailing and filming, in which we experienced the full range of conditions, before heading off to Marseilles where the Olympic test event had been held. We enjoyed a day with some Nacra 17 sailors who joined us onboard the MOD70. It was great to have such skilled sailors on a boat a little bigger than most of them are used to and for them to experience the higher loads and faster boat speeds.
I departed Marseilles and headed straight to Cowes to join my boat for the 50th anniversary of the Rolex Fastnet Race. I was jumping onboard the Volvo 65 Team Jajo with American Skipper Clarke Murphy. We knew the forecast was fruity for start day but we also knew we had the perfect boat to handle those conditions and, if we stuck with it for the first 12 hours, conditions would abate and life would become easier onboard. It was really enjoyable to be back on a VO65 again. It felt like I had never been away and, having such trust in the boat, I was super relaxed setting off. We had a great start nailing the inshore end of the line, taking the favourable tide along the Green off Cowes and in a position to dominate the tacking out of the Solent.
The sea state in the Needles Channel was lumpy, in a wind against strong spring tides and we experienced similar bouncy conditions off the tidal race at Anvil point too. We did not get too close to Portland Bill as we took the last of the tide across this critical point of the course. In the first 20 hours, we heard endless VHF traffic discussing damage and retirements and were grateful to be in a strong boat that was built to handle the weather and sea state. We passed Lands End on Sunday morning and chose to head north to clear the traffic separation scheme at the Isles of Scilly. From there it was a pretty quick trip across the Celtic Sea to reach the infamous Fastnet Race Lighthouse at around 2am. We hoisted the spinnaker to head south for the 6 miles to clear the traffic separation scheme at the Rock and then it was time for a fun send back across the Celtic Sea and onto the finish line. We entered Cherbourg harbour late Monday night to cross the finish line in an elapsed time of 2 days, 8 minutes, 33 seconds. We won our class IRC SZ and finished 2nd place overall.
A great result on the perfect boat for the conditions with a fabulous crew.