It was a pleasure to join the team at Wipro in London for their Spirit of Wipro run at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at the beginning of October. There were distance options to suit all running abilities from a children’s 2km run up to the longer 10km. Being sailors and not runners, Alexia Barrier and I elected to run the middle distance of 5km which allowed us to finish in good time to cheer on everyone else taking part in the day. We were fortunate to have both beautiful weather and amazing team spirit as we worked to achieve our common goal of raising funds for the charity Thames 21. It also provided an opportunity for us to share our plans for The Famous Project with the run participants in the hope that they will support us on the extraordinary journey that lies ahead for us together.
The next day we met at the Wipro offices to brainstorm ideas around how The Famous Project can be activated to promote sustainability, education, technology and innovation. As we move forward together with shared ambitions, we all agreed that exciting times lie ahead.
We took full advantage of Alexia being in the capital to deliver the project to an enthusiastic audience at RORC in London. We were able to explain the multiple layers the project offers and answer questions people were dying to ask. I am confident we left the audience inspired and keen to follow our progress.
Regarding inspiration, I was delighted to join my friend Neil Laughton at the Royal Geographic Society in London for the launch of his new book, ‘Adventureholic’. This book is a roller-coaster ride around the world detailing the exciting, daring and occasionally eccentric expeditions undertaken by Neil over a 30 year exploratory career. No matter how outrageous and unbelievable some of the stories sound, I can assure you they are all true. If anyone could have come up with the ideas for these crazy adventures and then gone on to make them a reality, it is Neil.
The true stories include multiple expeditions to Mt Everest, the Arctic and Antarctica as well as journeys to deserts, jungles and oceans. Methods of travel include climbing, trekking, riding, driving, flying and on one occasion paddling a bath! Anyone reading about these adventures cannot fail to gain knowledge, inspiration and confidence that almost any adventurous endeavour is possible. You just need to be passionate, committed and have the courage to take the first step on your own exciting journey. The final chapter is called ‘Nine Lives and how I lost them’ and serves as a warning to the under-prepared, over-confident and those lacking a little common sense. I would go so far as to say this would make a great Christmas present for those that are a little tricky to buy for.
Next on the agenda was to deliver ‘Limosa’, the MOD 70, to Malta from La Grande Motte, France to prepare for the Rolex Middle Sea Race. The three day voyage gave us valuable time to drive in a range of conditions and gain confidence ahead of the race. The forecast for the race was for lots of upwind conditions, although there was going to be very little opportunity to break records, we could definitely aim for Line Honours.
On Saturday 21st October at 1100hrs we took the first start of the race with our two fellow multihull competitors. The light conditions in the harbour made for a slow and frustrating start to the turning mark off the beach. However, once we got into the real wind further offshore, we had an amazing broad reach to the corner of Sicily. We were averaging 30 knots as I went down to get some rest before my watch. I was both excited and nervous to be driving at these speeds but, rather frustratingly, it was not to be as the wind dropped before I returned to the deck to take the helm and we calmly sailed through the transition just before the Messina Straits. As darkness fell, the new wind that was forecast filled in fast. In a very short space of time, we went from full main and J1 to two reefs and the J3. We saw the wind peak at 34 knots resulting in 54 knots of apparent wind across the deck. We were now short tacking into the straits, avoiding the shipping and the traffic separation schemes. The water was flat and it was not long before we went back to the J2 headsail.
It was still dark when we passed the next landmark of the course, the Volcano on Stromboli. As a token symbol we did see a spurt of lava from the top as we sailed by. The daylight hours saw us tack along the top of Sicily, making the northwest corner as the navigation lights came on and darkness fell. The passing of the islands along the western side of the course all happened in darkness with a one sided beat and a few tacks to round the islands. Lampedusa was rounded just before daylight returned and then we were back on one reef and a J1 as we set the boat up to sail at a 70 TWA straight to the channel between Comino and Malta. The boat speed stayed at around 25 knots, the middle hull was just kissing the surface and it was amazing. It was such fun to drive and get an injection of adrenalin from travelling at the speeds this boat delivers. I couldn’t help but wear a huge grin on my face. There was a slight transition through the islands and then the final few tacks to make the harbour entrance and the finish line, where a little gust of wind gave us a push and we approached at 28 knots of boat speed. We finished just in time for lunch on Monday. No record for the course but a line honours win and, after a few days, it was confirmed that we were also going to win in our MOCRA Class and pick up the prize for being first foreign boat home. We were tired, salty and buzzing. Claiming our first race win was a great start to the programme and we are looking forward to our next race in January when we cross the Atlantic.
I finished the month by joining the Royal Thames Yacht Club at their ‘Laying Up Supper’ to celebrate the end of the season and all that the club membership had achieved. I shared some of my experiences with the audience and how incredible it is to sail everywhere at speed on a MOD 70. The passion was genuine and I believe that it was a little contagious too. I am sure there will be some new followers to on our journey towards our Jules Verne Record Attempt.