We have had a busy winter, after Autumn and Winter racing came our usual lift out where we worked hard to perfect the keel, cut back the old and replaced the anti-foul and in addition this year we had learned a new skill and spent a full week perfecting the gel-coat and polishing the hull, until you could see your face in it!

The thought of sailing to a colder climate this year had prompted me to fit a new diesel heater. It went in the aft locker with its own tank both fitted as high as possible but after trials it had cut out when we heeled over too far and it had sucked air, so a quick alteration and it now is connected to the main tank. No more cold and wet nights!

We had ordered a new foresail from Westerway sails, made from Liteskin which is supposed to be lighter, stronger and with less stretch, it arrived a couple of days before we were due to leave so no time for trials, it’s first use would be on our delivery trip to Ijmuiden.

Other improvements were an extension to Bob, our sliding main hatch cuddy, which after fitting, completing provisioning and all the usual last minute safety checks, we were ready for the off.

We left Scarborough for our first North Sea crossing of the year, the new foresail looked great, it sets like a dream, it took a little time to get used to the fact that you can’t see through it and therefore can’t see the leeward tell tail but that said anyone with an eye for sail shape can set it to perfection.

The crossing it’s self had a bit of everything , upwind, downwind, reaching and plenty of fog banks! With all the usual rigs and wind farms to dodge we were glad to be tucked up safe and sound in Ijmuiden after 36hours at sea.

We met up with another Sigma 36 owner and spent time on each other’s yachts, comparing slight differences; he had made a great job of restoring her.

One by one the other participants in the 500 mile race arrived and we shared our time between last minute tweaks, catching up, drinking and dining out together, this really is a happy band of sailors who regularly race together, as well as the Dutch contingent there is Freddie from Switzerland, Jan from  Germany, Rasmus and Bard from Norway, Kass, an American girl had joined Huib and this year we had introduced Rob and Kevin another English team to the group.

The pre brief was a casual affair, held in a beach bar among the sand dunes, the start will be at 1200 noon, subject to shipping movements in the entrance and will be between the inner moles, leave Smith’s Knoll to your starboard side, Petro 39 Cardinal mark to your port side and on to the finish in Scarborough. I was asked to say a few words about the finish and with the start at around mid day, a few more drinks were in order before bed.

The following morning we gathered for a group photo, got the thumbs up on a 12 noon start and that was that!