Sunday 3rd June finally dawned and we were up and rushing around doing final preparations. We had a competitor’s full English breakfast in the Club, where we chatted with all the other competitors. We were all in good form and eager to get set off. We went back to the boat and got ready to set off, the big open 50 had already gone out as her draught is so deep she would not be able to get out later. Suddenly as I was still pottering around down below stowing things, Pete called to say we were the last boat to leave the marina, so I jumped into action and we were soon sailing out, with both of us feeling confident that we were ready and prepared.
The engine trouble we had had earlier in the week we were sure we had cured, we had run the engine for about 10 hours during the week in long stretches, which it had handled with ease.
We motored out, put the sails up and turned off the engine. As we were doing our prestart manoeuvres we decided that we could do with a reef in the main, so to make it easier to do, we turned the engine on and put her into drive at slow revs. We had nearly got the reef in when the engine died. We both looked at each other and simultaneously said, we go on and start and look at it whilst we are racing.
We had a reasonable start and headed out to Eddystone Light, following Quid Non and with Change of Course and Sumi Kudo slightly behind us. The wind built and so did the sea until it became moderately rough and we were seeing about 30 knots on the wind instruments. It really was too rough to do anything with the engine, and so we hand steered to keep the load on the batteries down. In the event we were still needing to charge at about 2300 hours, Pete went to bleed the engine and got it going, it lasted about 15 minutes before it packed up. We continued on, with me steering and Pete working on the engine in a pitching and uncomfortable sea.
At about 0100 we realised we were not going to get the engine working and we made the decision to divert into Falmouth to get the spares that we thought we needed. As we got into the bay we realised that it was bank holiday, so in the flat calm of the bay, we left Ruffian to sail herself and both worked on the engine, Pete drinking quite a lot of diesel! After another couple of hours we had exhausted every avenue we could think of, so sailed into Pendennis marina in a very dejected state.
We were both quite exhausted as we had not slept for now over 24 hours, so we decided to get some rest before we tried again with engine and decided what to do. In the meantime we bumped into Arthur Godfry, a friend from Scarborough who was on his way back from the Canaries. We discussed with him at length our decision to turn to Falmouth and he agreed that we had done the only sensible thing having no alternative means of charging the batteries which were by now flat. He made us feel a little less dejected.
At this point we were still racing, and were hopeful we would get the engine up and running and get back out to chase the others. As it has turned out this was not to be. A full day today spent taking the fuel system systematically apart, finding a small leak in the lift pump which we think is the culprit. We now have to order a replacement, which, as all the Volvo suppliers were closed today (bank holiday), will have to be done tomorrow.
By the time we get the part and get it fitted, the others are going to be long gone. After a lot of soul searching we have made the gut wrenching decision to retire. We came to race, and starting so far behind the others we have no hope of catching the pack up. We live to fight another day and if the race runs again in four years time we will be back to try again. It is devastating to us, after so much work and preparation that we have put in, that our attempt has ended so soon and in a way we just did not expect to happen. We wish the rest of the fleet every luck and good sailing on their way across and will be following all the way. We also wish to thank The Royal Western Yacht Club for their hospitality and James Brembridge for his support throughout our troubles.