Ruffian’s summer cruise 2015
This year we took a new and therefore exciting new route down to the start line in Falmouth for the AZAB but first we have the RORC/EAORA race from Harwich to Scheveningen.
We left Scarborough for Harwich and making good time and also carrying the very strong tides off Lowestoft we gave it a miss and sailed straight to Harwich, arriving after two days of pretty full on sailing, we tied up at the MDL marina, just a couple of miles past Pin Mill and only a short walk from the Royal Harwich yacht Club, which would host the Dutch feeder race for the race back to Scheveningen.
The following day we spent making sure Ruffian was ‘race ready’ followed by a riverside march to a place I have long wanted to visit, one of those places that looked as if it hadn’t been awakened for many a year, namely Pin Mill and it didn’t disappoint! The pub there oozes old world charm, looking over the drying riverside berths, the most interesting boats imaginable, all with their own story to tell, old gaff rigged sailing boats, flat bottom barges, plant pots gracing their decks, perhaps I shouldn’t get too nostalgic or Emma will be wanting the same on Ruffian! We walked further along the river bank to see house boats converted from barges, bedecked with curio’s, logs piled up for winter, what a fascinating insight to the lives of the people who must live on them, free from the shackles of modern day living.
Back to reality!!
We walked back to the marina where we met up with Deb, Rob and Paul and went out for a great fish supper at one on the pubs at the other side of the river.
RORC North Sea Race 2015
With eighteen boats in the two handed class, it was a busy start line, with no quarter asked and none given, with everyone vying for the pin end, it was inevitable some would be pushed over early and a general recall followed. The second start was just as hectic but we managed to time it perfectly and hit the pin end bang on the button, pleased with our efforts we settled in to the beat to the first mark, which we rounded about mid fleet before setting off on the course proper which kept you off the shallows off Harwich, followed by the wind farms and then North to Smith’s Knoll, across the North Sea to the traffic separation schemes off the Dutch coast , where a buoy and a couple of way points ensured the crossing was at the required ninety degree heading. After rounding a few more buoys we arrived at the finish in Scheveningen.
As the slowest boat in the fleet, we knew if we were to achieve a good result we would have to work hard, and at one time or another, with the exception of the storm sails, we flew every sail on the boat, with the code zero really earning its keep. The big kite was up and down like a yoyo, even executing a few near perfect gybes in the pitch black but funnily enough something we didn’t achieve so well in broad daylight! We peeled from the zero and asymmetric to the big kite a few times so not surprisingly our fist hours ‘off watch’ didn’t come before three am on Saturday morning, with each of us only managing about three hours of interrupted sleep for the whole duration of the race.
We covered two hundred and seven miles in just over thirty hours and the reward at the end of the day was twenty seventh out of fifty six over all, eighth in the two handed class and fifth in class four, taking some good scalps on the way including quite a few 42 ft plus boats as well as Cat Zero the 72 ft Challenge yacht. With competitors from the Netherlands, Belgium, France , England, Ireland, Austria and the USA adding to the international flavour of the event.
During the race there was considerable damage when Luctor 3 and Coin Coin, both Sydney 43’s hit an unlit special mark at 12knots! A report to Trinity House will hopefully ensure the light will be mended. The former unfortunately having to retire with serious structural damage.
We sailed the race to Scheveningen where Madalon and Peter joined us for dinner and after a couple on nights set off on our cruise down the Dutch coast passing the entrance to Euro port at HW, which explained why it was extra busy and then down the Belgium coast to our first port of call, namely Nieuwpoort, arriving at 0830.
Nieuwpoort consists of two huge marinas both of which provide excellent facilities, pubs, restaurants etc. And as we had arrived early in the morning it gave us enough time to explore.
An early start the following morning saw us on way and down to the French port of Dunkirk, not a very spectacular place to visit, except our arrival coincided with the 75th anniversary of the small ships evacuation of the troops off Dunkirk during the 2nd World war. What a treat, they were all tied up in the central docks dressed overall, their crews now in smart blazers, white shirts and ties, straw boaters, sipping champagne. Posters fastened to the railings alongside describing the part which they had taken during the evacuation, the number of lives lost and saved by their actions, it was captivating and very emotional reading some of the reviews. French bands played, there were stalls set up all adding to the occasion and providing an air of festivity and jubilation.
The following day saw another early start to catch the tide to Boulogne, 43 miles in 5 hours, don’t you just love it when you get it right!
Boulogne is a port we have visited before on a delivery trip and so we wandered around the large, locked marinas, the fish docks where all manner of fish, crustaceans and shell fish can be purchased from the fish market. Finely we restocked with fresh food and small plastic barrels of wine at give away prices, which led to us both resting our eyes for the rest of the afternoon and an early night in preparation for yet another early start the following day!
Fifty five miles later and we arrived at the nicest, cleanest place we had visited in France so far…. Dieppe, in fact it was so good we stayed an extra day, taking the tourist trail around the town visiting the huge churches and historic buildings with the most amazing stone work, and excellent shops. The marina it’s self was clean and well serviced, the sun was out and we relaxed on board, bread and cheese along with a drop of red wine for lunch, with other interesting yachties to chat to (mostly on their way to the Med to live the dream!) we could have easily stayed longer but we must move on and remember we are really on passage to the start line for the AZAB!
An early start and a short hop of just 30 miles and we arrived at Fe Camp, an ex deep sea fishing harbour, made famous by the Benedictine monks as the home of the liqueur by the same name, sadly we were just too late for sampling, maybe next time! Never the less a beautiful and interesting place but unfortunately not enough time to stay any longer.
Yet another 5am start to make the most of the tide and a 60mile + sail to St Vaast La Hougue, a drying harbour where arrival time is paramount!
Ours was perfect and we sailed in at high water, hardly noticing the hazards that await if you get it wrong! We tied up and once again met up with the traveling circus on their way to the med, had lunch, once again fresh bread, cheese and a drop of that red coloured stuff from the plastic barrels, truly relaxing!
We went to pay our harbour dues and looking out of the window, couldn’t believe our eyes, as a ferry arrived at the slip way outside and then just continued to drive up it! We paid our dues and shot outside to see a ferry parked at the top of the ramp on a set of hydraulically operated wheels!
A short walk across the car park and we were over looking acres and acres of oyster beds, dozens of tractors carried men and oysters to and from the beds, firstly harvesting their crops and then replacing them, small oysters in special sacks placed on the grids and allowed to grow, before they would complete the cycle, producing over 6500 tons per year.
The weather for the near future, according to forecast is due to deteriorate so we are glad of the excuse to have at least another day in this delightful place.
After a very pleasant stay, we left Saint Vaast at 1900hrs on Friday, with a small weather window, but it should be enough to beat the big winds that will arrive shortly. Our intention was to sail straight to Falmouth but the best course we could make to windward saw us arrive off St Albans ledge (just to the west of Swanage )in the early hours of Saturday morning. It was now clear it would not be a pleasant trip and we would be hard on the wind for the rest of it! Our first tack was just sufficient to clear the over falls off Portland Bill, a head land which you should never under estimate! We then tacked back in to Lyme Bay to see if we could get a little shelter from the ever building sea’s, arriving off Torbay in reducing visibility, it was very tempting to put in, but we resisted temptation knowing that the weather would determinate a lot more before we reached Falmouth.
Once out of the lee of the land we were hit by very confused sea’s and building wind as we rounded Start point, past Salcombe and onto our revised destination of Plymouth, with no genoa and three reefs in the main we surfed into the safety of Plymouth sound and once in the shelter of the breakwater dropped what remaining sail we had up and motored to Plymouth Yacht Haven, it was a miserable wet and foggy night and we were very great full for the help we received from a passing pilot boat who was guiding a tanker, which we had not/ couldn’t see, to the entrance of the marina.
The forecast for the next few days didn’t promise any improvement on the weather front. 30/35 knots on the nose, so after a unanimous vote we decided to stay put and once again explored all our favourite old haunts, the Barbican water front, the fish & chip shop there and the local chandlers! On our last night there we met up with Freddie from Imsomnix and had a few beers with him and co-skipper Martin.
After been locked up in Plymouth for a few days, the gales subsided and we were released to make the final leg to Falmouth. Again it was an early start and we were sailing past the break water at 0600hrs, followed by a long line of fellow escapees! Once again the wind was on the nose and so it was a combination of sailing and motor sailing, but never the less it was good to be back on the water again. Not a spectacular passage except for the buzz on the VHF announcing that an Australian warship would commence firing at 1030 in our area, this prompted an immediate response from every vessel in the area enquiring about their safety. Some were ok and others diverted, we thought we had escaped but were called by name to make a detour to the North.
We were greeted at Pendennis Marina on the dockside by our host family who gave us all the information packs and offered any help we might require. (Nice touch). After a tidy up and a quick shower we caught the water taxi to the yacht club and after completing all the paperwork were soon drinking the specially brewed AZAB beer in company of friends from previous races and forming new friendships with competitors from this year’s race.
Once again we had made it safely to the start line and have a few days to unwind, relax and get ready for the race itself. Australian warship would commence live firing practice at 1030! Immediately followed by calls from every yacht in the area, enquiring about their safety, we thought we were in the clear until we were asked to alter our course as we were in the line of fire! We finally arrived in Falmouth were we were met by our host family, who were waiting on the doc side to greet us. A quick shower and a water taxi to the club for the hog roast, where a good night followed, sampling the AZAB special brew and meeting up with so many friends from past races