Crew Member on GBR90 40 Degrees
Niall Dowling and I have chartered 40 Degrees, the Owen Clarke Class Forty, from Peter Harding to do the second Caribbean RORC 600 which starts on Monday 22 February. We have undertaken to send out daily emails on our progress.
The Caribbean 600 was conceived by RORC members based in the Caribbean and the Antigua Yacht Club. Last year's inaugural event, won by the Irish boat, Lee Overlay Partners, attracted 25 starters from around the world and a similar number will take part this year, the majority newcomers. The race begins and ends in Antigua and takes us past and around several islands of the NE Caribbean for 600 nautical miles and, we expect, some three to four days racing. http://caribbean600.rorc.org/
Miranda Merron is our boat captain. Miranda is a professional long-distance sailor who has been with 40 Degrees since her launch. She has kindly agreed to come with us and show us the ropes. That small phrase covers a multitude of tasks. She is a delight to sail with, exceptionally helpful, knowledgeable and patient. http://www.40-degrees.co.uk/miranda_merron.html
John Patrick Cunningham is a 30 year-old American from San Francisco, now resident in Cambridge, England, as a research fellow in engineering.
Niall and I have sailed and raced together for the past 14 years, most recently during our two-handed campaign on Slingshot, the J 105, in 2008.
40 Degrees was built in Capetown and launched just last September. She already has almost 10,000 miles under her keel, many of them done in the Route du Chocolat late last year from Nantes in France to Progreso in Mexico. www.forty-degrees.co.uk <http://www.forty-degrees.co.uk/> She has been immaculately prepared by Peter/Miranda and Sam Goodchild and looks perfect for short-handed sailing. 40 Degrees has been designed to the box rule of the Open 40 class for short-handed, long distance racing. She has a carbon fibre mast, a fully-battened mainsail, water ballast, a very wide transom and a host of other go fast and safety devices.
Two key features of this race - already regarded as a classic ocean race despite is short life, are the long 12-hour nights, twice what we would normally have offshore in an English/Irish Summer, and the wind effects of the mountainous islands that we round or pass - noticeable several miles offshore. For good measure, we have an active volcano - Montserrat - to pass as well. There are many corners and lots of lobster pots off the French island of Guadeloupe
As we have not sailed on her before, we decided to use the bulk of our time since arrival on Thursday for familisiarisation and practice. We went out on Friday morning for some 30 hours - around the East coast of Antigua - towards Barbuda (our first mark) and thence downwind, South West, to Nevis (our second). We turned home off St Kitts, sailed past the large rock that is Redonda and rounded Montserrat for Antigua. This nighttime leg to Nevis was a 50 mile spinaker run and turned out to be a magical sail - close to a lifetime best - and very special for Michael as we sailed towards one of his honeymoon islands It was warm with a clear sky in which we could see every single star. We had the ocean to ourselves, it seemed, as we followed a moonlit path, navigating by the star in Orion's sword named after Phyllis - it fitted perfectly in the triangle between the upper spreader and the main stay. (Personal note from Michael: 'Thank you for guiding us, Phyllis; sorry it is snowing and minus 6 in Ireland...'
We learned much about the best sailing angle, the eight sail inventory, the two rudders, the several water valves, the primitive ablution system (thank you Tesco for the biodegradable bags...), the jet boiler - a one-pint bottle that is the boat's sole cooking device, making surprising fast tea and unexectedly good freeze-dried meals, the importance of the boom preventer, the spinaker snuffer, and much more kindly explained with great forebearance by Miranda.
FOLLOW THE FLEET
We fitted our satellite tracker to the stern of 40 Degrees this morning and you can follow our progress and that of the fleet on http://caribbean600.rorc.org/2010-fleet-tracking.html <http://caribbean600.rorc.org/2010-fleet-tracking.html> <http://caribbean600.rorc.org/2010-fleet-tracking.html>
We are racing in the three-boat Class 40 and the six-boat class zero.
This year's forecast is more benign that that of last year, with generally light winds - 8 through 15 knots expected. This will make for a somewhat easier, although longer, race.
We have been welcomed warmly by Antigua Yacht Club and by Libby Nicholson in her delightful Pineapple House nearby - a series of cottages built into the hillside and overlooking the super yacht marina of Falmouth Harbour. In our berth at the Yacht Club we have Velsheda and Mirabella for company, amongst others. We had a relaxed welcoming party at the Club last night with about 200 others and short and witty speeches from the elegant Commodore, Elizabeth Jordan, the Minister of Tourism, John Magennis, the RORC CEO, Eddie Warden-Owen and the generous sponsor and last year's winner, Adrian Lee.
WE START TOMORROW
Today has been a day for rest, some exercise (we swam across English Harbour), a good lunch at Catherine's Cafe and provisioning (wet wipes high on the list). Libbby has kindly invited us to a chicken buffet tonight and we hope to be well rested for tomorrow's midday start.
21 February 2010