RORC North Sea Race 2013
Once again with knotted stomachs we tried to hold a good position for the start but with crewed boats wildly out of control, it isn’t easy! The adrenalin was pumping with everyone, so much so there was a general re-call. The second start was no different as we took pole position, only to be one of two boats to be over early! Well it does show we were trying!
The first mark was set about one mile away on a true beat, and after our restart, fortunately we were just far enough behind to avoid the total carnage that ensued, collisions everywhere, one boat holed, and about five protests and some ones mast head light bobbing away as we rounded.
Bearing away to the second mark, with twenty five knots apparent, we elected not to fly the kite and goose winged to the next mark still achieving speeds well over 8 knots.
A couple of reaches later saw us on to one of the main legs of the race, travelling north, dead downwind to Smiths Knoll, a leg of about sixty miles. The wind had eased and it was time to let the new spinnaker (Big Pink) pay his way. After a few gybes in building wind, we settled on to a steady course to the mark. The wind was now gusting up 25 knots apparent, but Big Pink held us safe and stable, with the speed not falling below 8.5 knots and occasionally 9’s and10’s, we knew the longer we carried it the better we would do, so with gritted teeth and fast beating hearts, with white water flying about everywhere, we surfed the waves as we clung on and ate our evening meal, ready to abandon at an instants notice!!! But Ruff and Big Pink gave us confidence and we carried on into a very dark night, until the six plus one light of Smiths Knoll was sighted and with big shipping closing on the mark on route to Hull, we dropped the kite, rounded the buoy and settled on a fast reach to the next mark, MSP 65 miles away off the coast of Holland, in close contention with other boats.
Big Pink had only a small rest in his bag, as the wind eased and went behind again and it started to rain, he was back up for an hour, before with building winds pulling the wind more onto the beam, we peeled to the Asymmetric until the leg was eventually finished under white sail and in pouring rain. As we came into the mark we were having close racing with Cosmic Dancer, who was in our class and fully crewed, we overtook him before the mark and were pulling away nicely, but after rounding the MSP buoy, they seemed to take a better course than us and managed to stay high on the course as we fell away.
We had at this point been running the engine to charge our batteries, when the engine failed, giving rise to further concern as to what would happen if we couldn’t get it going again. After an investigation we discovered it had only been a fuel shortage problem and was soon fixed with topping up the tank from the spare can.
Falling away at the start of this leg proved to be our undoing, as we closed to the finish, the tide changed dramatically against us, and beating into an ever strengthening wind, our tacking angle was about 30 degrees, made even worse as we were passing through a big ship parking area, and were constantly being swept far too close to them for comfort, forcing us to keep tacking, so we were basically going nowhere. The finishing mark was now insight, but with driving rain, poor visibility, a good F7 established in very shallow waters, a lee shore, and uncertainty over the engine, after two hours of trying to get to it, darkness starting to fall, and nowhere to run to, we made the decision to make safety our priority and gave up our quest to finish.
After a call to Scheveningen Port Control they told us the harbour was still attainable and expertly guided us through the shallows and safely into port.
Strangely enough we don’t feel as if we have failed, it has been a good shakedown for our next adventure, the 1000mile race from Ijmuiden to Bergen.