They said they wouldn’t start the race if the word 8 was mentioned in the weather forecast, but that was the least of our problems, first we had to extricate ourselves from between these two poles (wooden variety for mooring to, not nationality!)  due to the very strong cross wind.  We threw off the leeward warps and winched ourselves as far to windward and back as we possibly could, and then with the quickness of a city slicker, we threw the remaining warps off and gunned Ruff backwards, without touching either pole… result, we can now progress to the start line with no damage.

With good, but odd start instructions, start anytime between 0900 and 0915, two reefs in the main and a small amount of genny, we went off at full tilt to cross the line only to enter into a luffing match with a DFDS ferry, and stopped dead in its windshadow until it had passed.  One nil to DFDS.

The course was virtually North, and with 25 knots of true wind sometimes gusting 30, shallow water and a rough sea we surfed our way at well over 8 knots, hitting 11.7 over the water and on one occasion 14.8 gps and we were the slowest boat!  Coming into the Texal TSS we were still in sight of  Viaya and Crazy D as we left the Dutch Coast behind.  It was a wild day and we covered 88 miles in the first twelve hours, all night we were wet, cold and very miserable as we clung on to this wild sleigh ride. 

At 0317 we logged a distress call from one of the yachts, but it later turned out to be an equipment malfunction (water in the handheld DSC set.). 

Friday was a complete contrast, with the sun up at 0430,the wind had eased to between 15 and 17 knots true and  in the first day we had achieved our 24 hour record of 174 miles.  We were shaking out reefs and hoisting the asymmetric spinnaker, until with the wind a little bit more behind, Big Pink made his debut on the race.  We spent the rest of the day dodging the rigs and  shipping.

Saturday saw two reefs in the main again with a scrap of genny and by 0900 we had achieved another 150 mile 24 hour run.  With the wind going behind, we decided that our small spinnaker (Little Bad Wolf) would make one of his rare appearances.  This did not go well from the start, with the spinnaker sheet and guy getting loose and flailing about, the guy shackle undid from the sheet and gave Pete a good whipping!  With dolphins watching the debacle it was decided a quick drop would be prudent.  One nil to Little Bad Wolf who now thinks he will spend the rest of his life in his bag …… to be continued.

Saturday was a very grey, cold, wet and miserable day, again with big winds and seas, by 1500 we had crossed the outer Skagerrak sea and were now dodging cargo vessels heading for Stravanger.  By midnight we were once again banging and crashing to windward in the strong wind and big sea.  We were 10 miles off the rhumb line when we decided to tack back.  We had only gone a few miles when in the matter of a minute the wind changed direction and we hove too, next we saw the most weirdest cloud we had ever seen, a tubular cloud as black as thunder completely encircling us, as it passed, contrary to what we thought would happen, the wind died to 12 knots, but now came from astern, 180 degrees different to what it had been.  We started with the asymmetric kite in very light winds  and then decided as the wind went further aft  it was time for round two with Little Bad Wolf, being our only dry sail and therefore light enough to fly.  Emma got our revenge, by putting him up inside out!!!  Ruffian v LBW-one all.

 Sunday started in light winds and bright sunshine heading up the coast to the turning mark below Fedje , frustration once again began to set in but in no time at all the breeze slowly started to build, looking at the projected ETA gave us a big lift, we may be in for lunch time. At some time during the morning we had flown all three spinnakers, but by late afternoon they had all been put to bed and in building winds and seas, white sails were the order for the rest of the day.  We were now tacking into 20 knots of wind with the occasional gust taking up to 30 knots and to compound matters we were being headed on our making tack.

We eventually rounded the turning mark at Fedje and decided that once again LBW would have to come out of retirement, he was very well behaved until we decided to gybe,  needless to say we finished the race under white sail.  2-1 to LBW!

As we were looking for Askoy Sailing Club, a speed boat approached us fast from behind, and to our utter astonishment and delight, it was two friends we had met in our last AZAB from Embla 3, bearing chocolate muffins and cakes, which were very quickly devoured and appreciated!  They guided us expertly through the fjords and into the marina where we were once again amazed, and nearly moved to tears (Emma not me!), as the entire fleet appeared on the pontoon to cheer us in and drag us straight off the boat to the club house for soup and pizza!

Bergen to Lerwick leg

 The hospitality we received from Askoy sailing club was exceptional, the club house and facilities were left open for our use all the time.

We left Askoy in convoy and sailed through the spectacularly beautiful fjords, amazed by their ruggedness. We weaved our way past small islands, with the smell of pine wafting through the air until we reached Bergen, where we rafted up on the town quay with the rest of the fleet and after a little sightseeing, attended the race pre-brief for the Bergen/Shetland race, followed by an early night.

We left Bergen in a relaxed mood, as the forecast for the race was 4 to 5max, S/E- S/W winds. Once again we experienced the raw beauty of the surrounding fjords on a 4 hour passage to the start line.

The race started with a bang, from the Norwegian warship stationed at one end of the starting line but with forty- odd fully crewed boats fighting at the pin end we chickened out telling ourselves that clear airs was a better option, where we found the rest of the two handed fleet with the same thoughts in mind.   The wind was 40 degrees on the port beam and we powered away in much flatter seas than there was the last time we passed this point!

We were in good company; Greyhound had sprinted away, as greyhounds do! But with Vijaya, Crazy D and Vandal in close proximity, all of which to our amazement we managed to keep pace with, all of them with an IRC rating of well over one. 

At about 1800hrs there was a big wind shift with the fleet now splitting up to go North or South.  As there was never a mention in the forecast of any northerly wind, we elected to go south which left us harder on the wind sailing back to the rhumb line than others who had elected to go North.

This race turned out to be very different from the last leg in as much as there were boats of similar handicap to us and at all times we could see at least another 10 or 12 boats around us which gave us encouragement to keep pushing, the seas also were kinder and we ate well and had sufficient sleep.  We worked continuously trimming and changing sails whenever there was need and were further encouraged when we spotted Bjorkski 2 and Crazy D and occasionally Vijaya  on the computer screen.

As we closed on Shetland we were overtaken by other boats, but after our first despondency we realised they were a 44 foot Hanse and a Bavaria 42, only to give us further encouragement as we knew we must have sailed well to have stayed in front of them for so long.

For the final few miles we re-hoisted the asymmetric spinnaker and knowing the local terrain from our past RB&I experiences we did a much tighter rounding of Bard Head than most of the other boats.  We fell into a wind hole as did all the other boats around us and it was now time for Big Pink to play his part and with a good peel followed by two perfectly executed gybes which saw us sailing out of the wind hole and powering our way to the finishing line, but one last gybe had to be executed to avoid a tanker leaving port (yes we know they should have given way to us, but why risk it).  We were pushed all the way to the finish line by Home of Jazz, a VQ32 and crossed  at 20.32.29 BST, hopeful our hard work should give us a better result.

We repacked our two slightly dampened spinnakers and put them in the forepeak where we are sure we could sense Little Bad Wolf’s smugness as he was still warm and dry in his bag having not had to make an appearance on this leg!!!!  

WOW we have just found out we were 4th in the double handed, 3rd in the1000 mile race ,leg two and 1st as the highest place first timer to the race.

Shetland to Bergen Leg

We have enjoyed the company of all the other competitors, firstly with a meal on Friday night in a hotel after the prize giving, followed by a great BBQ at Leslie Irvine’s, one of the competitors, who lives in Shetland.

It had been howling all night and as is usual in Lerwick harbour a strange swell about 2ft high develops and sets all the boats rocking like hobby horses, making for an uncomfortable night, with creaking ropes and slapping fenders.  Race morning arrived, with torrential rain and a very low cloud base, giving poor visibility.  All the boats circled the line, with every crew member looking wet and miserable!!  Once again with fully crewed boats hyped up all around and pushing to the limits, we made a reasonable start, getting the asymmetric kite hoisted and set before a lot of the fully crewed boats.  We managed to hold the windward line until we dropped the kite and hardened up onto the wind after rounding Bard Head in a good position. 

After the initial adrenaline rush that the start always gives, we realised we were now soaking wet through as we settled into our routine. We had a very easy few hours, with the sea calming all the time and the wind going further on the beam.  More torrential rain forced us to change into our second set of oilies.  Once again we were well up with the fleet with boats all around.

At  0700  the following morning the fleet sailed into a huge wind hole with the more Northerly boats coming out on top, this we think was one of the turning points in the race and for a change we were in a good position and we managed to gain a few miles on all the yachts to the south of us. The lack of wind brought with it more torrential rain and Emma who had stood a two hour watch was once again soaked to the skin. After the rain, the sun and we made full use of the chance to dry off.

We watch the computer screen all the time and monitor every ones position and realize we are in a good position. When crossing the 4th meridian, you must report to race control, we counted those who called in before us and after applying handicaps, calculated we could be in first position.

It was time for big pink to once again play his part, the hoist went well, and he was soon set and flying well in the light winds, Crazy D a Breehorn 41, who had overtaken us earlier was just in front and with boats closing on the finish from all angles we listened for the boats reporting their “10 minutes to the finish call” we once again made quick calculations and can’t believe our luck, if we could hold this position we could do well. Hanna Marie a past winner on many occasions were side by side they climbed higher than us with their asymmetric kite, we pushed them as high as we could and then bore away, heading straight for the finish line, they changed to a symmetrical spinnaker  and it was a race against time to the finish. We crossed in front of them and now await the result.

But what a great race it has been, from arriving in Ijmuden to leaving Norway, we have raced hard, but been made so welcome in all the stop over points and met some truly wonderful  and inspiring people who we know will be always be friends.  We have seen some of the most beautiful and rugged scenery we have ever experienced.  Although the next 1000 Mile Race is in two years, we are unable to do it as we are doing the AZAB, but we will be back in four years time to do it all again.

At last the results!!!

1000 Mile race 5th overall and 1st in Leg three Shetland to Bergen

Shetland to Bergen Race           1st in the two handed class

Shetland to Bergen Race           2nd overall out of 45 competitors—RESULT!