FORTY DEGREES - RORC 600 DAY ONE
THE NIGHT BEFORE
With our training sail and day of preparation completed, we relaxed on Sunday night with a wonderful dinner prepared by our Pineapple House hostess Libby Nicholson and the charming Sarah Bourne. The dinner - chicken, vegetables, garlic bread, and potatoes - was enjoyed by the crew of 40 Degrees and the RORC committee (also staying at the Pineapple), in addition to Miranda's beau, the formidable Halvard. The hard-working RORC team spoke of their concern over a brand new, but wholly unprepared ,entrant, and of the helicopter/sports fisherboat logistics for the lucky photographers, including Tim Wright, also at dinner with us. Tim told us that he travels to European sailing events in a motor home with specially designed trailer containing his dinghy, a box for his outboard and his Smart car!
Niall and John's principal contribution to the evening was in dismantling the chocolate cake. In all, the crew went to bed grateful and well prepared for the race ahead.
After a morning of final preparations and sturdy breakfasts, 40 Degrees set out to English Harbour for the RORC 600 start at 1230. The start was close in to land, beneath Shirley Heights, just off Fort Charlotte and the spectacular Pillars of Hercules. All 24 competitors were present and sailing well in the 12-15 knot breeze from the South East. After a stirring pre-race speech by Niall, he and Michael orchestrated a strong start on starboard tack, after which we stayed closer to shore than the remainder of the fleet.
In the pre-start sequence, a finger of one unnamed crew member found its way into the runner jam cleat. His cheery reaction to the (luckily) minor cut and bruising was 'Don't worry, I have nine more where that came from'.
As we rounded the bottom of Antigua, several heads of land seemed unmakeable, but Michael was adamant at each one, and indeed 40 Degrees carried us cleanly around, avoiding Mamora Reef, Wicked Will Reef and Man of War Point, amongst several charmingly named hazards. This put us in strong position for the first leg to Barbuda.
THE FIRST LEG
As we rounded the South East corner of Antigua, we turned North (and slightly West) for a run up to Barbuda. We flew the spinnaker and quickly found separation amongst the fleet. We found ourselves ahead of one other Class 40, Ocean Warrior, but the other, Tradition Guadeloupe - a double-hander - closed ground on us. Winds were consistently 12-15 knots from the South, which kept us moving nicely. After four hours, we found our way to the mark off the West coast of Barbuda. Niall steered us round it cleanly and closely, and we dropped the chute in favour of the Solent, as we would now reach for Nevis. Michael again guided tactics, and Miranda and John worked hard at the foredeck.
THE SECOND LEG
As the sun set below an orange sky, 40 Degrees headed out South and West for the rounding of Nevis and St. Kitts. We made strong time throughout the early evening, flying primarily the gennaker in the slightly building 12-17 knot winds. We remained on one tack for this five-hour push, and we were pleased to widen the gap between ourselves and several boats behind, in addition to overtaking a few boats that had performed better in the first downwind leg. Despite these positive notes, we believe the double-hander pulled ahead of us during this time (though darkness prevents our certainty here). Nonetheless, we continued sailing strong as we reached Nevis under a bright moon and shooting stars.
THE THIRD LEG
As our practice sail had taken us to the South of Nevis previously, we benefitted from this experience as we rounded well off to make North West for Saba. With the wind now from the South East, we have been jibing this downwind leg and enjoying the building winds that are now approaching 20 knots. May they continue to build. At the time of writing, we have passed Nevis and the Western side of St. Kitts and jibed to sail West of St.
Eustatius before crossing the 20 mile channel to Saba. We believe that we are second of the three Class 40s but haven't yet opened our satellite phone to check on the RORC tracker.
The wee hours of the morning and our tactical hard work have brought with them fatigue, but under a crystal canopy of stars, with phosphorescence foaming at our stern and playful dolphins now alongside, we are reminded of the adventurer who wrote, "one must labour for beauty, as for bread, here as elsewhere."
John Patrick Cunningham
23 February 2010