Crew member on GBR1R ICAP Leopard
Yesterdays story from SAM!
At 14.00 on Monday the 23rd of August I set off on ICAP Leopard to race theSevenstar Round Britain and Ireland race.
We had met on board at 10am to go through the race strategy, weather andsafety procedures. Just before leaving the dock, Mike Slade and skipperChris Sherlock presented me with a birthday cake and a birthday cup of EarlGrey tea which we all devoured pretty quickly everyone was going to needthe energy!
The race start was pretty hectic as we had only one hour to pass through asafety gate with our storm jib and trysail set, then get them packed up andour race sails up which, in those conditions (30 knots of wind,) was a bittight for a 105 maxi!
However we had a great start first boat over the line in the best position with Mike at the helm wearing a huge grin! We shot out the solent, despitethe adverse tide, and soon found ourselves in huge seas once out of theshelter of the Isle of Wight.
After 40 minutes or so, Guillermo took the helm. The wind and waves werebuilding and so was our boatspeed which was frequently above 30 knots! Itwas a wet and wild ride but everyone was enjoying it and ICAP Leopard was inher element! The wettest spots were the trimming position (to leeward, inorder to see the sails) and the bow. The bowmen had a tough job on theirhands as we had to change from the R2 to the A5 as we rounded the Owers andbore away. At one point I saw Louis surf a wave from the stem all the way tothe mast, passing Freddy who was hanging on for dear life to the innerforestay!
After the sail change at the Owers we discovered that one of the upperbattens in the mainsail had popped off the batten car, so Louis was sent upthe rig to lash it in to prevent eventual damage to the rig. He did a greatjob, whilst Guillermo tried to keep the boat stable to help him as he was40m above the deck!
My job for this first, busy, day (before we got into our watch system) wasto back up Hugh Agnew on the nav, and collect as much weather information aspossible to help us make our decisions on sail choices and our immediateroute strategy. I spent a fair amount of time at the nav station downloadingweather files, but I did manage to spend enough time on deck (tucked away atthe back trying to avoid the huge waves crashing over the deck!) to enjoythe ride! We were FLYING along, but totally in control.
We were running deep and we had the traffic separation zone coming upquickly. Maritime law states that everyone must keep clear of these shippinglanes (unless crossing at 90) so to comply to this we had to put in severalgybes to pass between the coast and the Northern limit of the west-goinglane.
As we headed into the first gybe I was down below getting in the forecast.The gybe felt great totally in control and smooth (surprisingly for thesepretty full-on conditions). As I felt the boat pass through the wind therewas a bang and then I felt the power come off and immediately knew somethingwas wrong. The boom had broken just aft of the gooseneck. We now had a bigjob on we were heading towards the cliffs at Beachy Head with ICAP Leoparddisabled. We had to find a way to get the main down without damaging the rigor the sails and without risking injuring anyone if the boom broke loose. Wehad 20 minutes before we hit the shore and the conditions were worsening.
Quick thinking from Chris Sherlock and his crew followed by good teamworkgot the situation under control and within 10 minutes the mainsail wassafely down and lashed into the boom, with the boom secured solid.
We turned around and limped back to Southampton upwind under headsail only.A disappointed crew, not only is it frustrating to have gear failure, wewere saying goodbye to our chance to get the record and what is turning outto be an epic and exhilarating race.
However, we must look on the positive side. Nobody was hurt and we saved thesails and rig from further damage. We were also not far from home it wouldhave been worse had that happened north of the Shetland Isles!
So, I think that Dee, Miranda, Alex and I will be saying goodbye to ourrecord in a couple of days time Groupama and Telefonica should beat it.Wed kept it for a year which isnt too bad! I HOPE that Mike has got ataste for that record as ICAP Leopard is certainly capable of beating it andif he does decide to have an attempt on breaking the record I will be thefirst to volunteer as crew!
I had a great time on board. It is strange being one of 20 when I am used tosailing alone. I think it is valuable learning for a solo sailor to go outand race with top-level crew like that as it keeps us on our toes. TheLeopard crew are a great bunch and I was really looking forward to spending6 days together on that amazing yacht!
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