Crew member on GBR5936R GameOn
The 48hours since we rounded St Kilda were an experience like no other !!
At 2am in the pitch black night with 30 knots of breeze we appraoched the enormous sheer cliffs of St Kilda. This tiny set of Islands in the middle of nowhere made an imposing mark rounding, and with less than 0,6 miles away Ollie at the helm was constantly questioning our proximity as I navigated from below. By dayight the wind had steadied to 20-25knots and we launched the A4 kite heading directly to Muggle Flukka (300 miles)leaving Sula Sgeir rock to starboard on route.
An intensive day of full on kite work ensued, with us alternating for some sleep in preparation to the bad weather ahead. By 3Pm the wind had built to 25-30knots, tactical decision to keep the kite up in the building sea state and breeze, and hold off Junique who was 4 miles astern at this point and had been closing the gap all day with their larger kite.They dropped and we started to quickly extend our position.
We were on the edge, the odd broach as a bad wave caught the rudders, but this delivered some stunning surfing at 15knots+. However, when you push your luck it bites back.....and a 43 knot squall landed on us, turning the boat on a penny into the wind. Kite and main are flapping like crazy, we cannot get the boat to turn back downwind, boat is on its side and everything suddenly goes into slow motion. Ollie blows the tack line, the kite shoots aft at a fair lick, whipping the sheets from their blocks and our world got a lot darker.
Spinnaker now untethered apart from the halyard, is now flying horizontal from the top of the mast. Mast and boat is bucking like crazy. We managed to turn the boat downwind and with Ollie now hanging from the leeward rail I steer the boat trying to get the flailing sheets close to him in order to find some way to get it back in the boat. A good catch and sheet is now in Ollie's hands as he dives into the hatchway as I release the halyard. Kite hauled back in with a minor rip, it could have been so much worse.
We licked our wounds, contemplated our luck to have saved the situation and tried not to consider the other outcomes. Jib hoisted, we continued our down wind sleigh ride as the wind continued to increase. By nightfall we had 35 knots of breeze and the frontal system was upon us. Through the night and next morning squalls would come through on top of the sustained 30+ knots, with gusts into the 40's. These big gusts were followed by rain squalls and then a calm 30knots of breeze for another 45 mins or so, where we could have some fun trying to surf multiple enormous waves to achieve the fastest boat speed competition onboard. Lucky Ollie picked up that prize with 21.2 knots...although I was not on deck and cannot verify his result :)
By lunch time Saturday we were approaching Muggle Flukka and the rock that has to be rounded Outstack. Getting round that corner could not come soon enough. British Soldier crossed gybes with us with their trysail flying instead of main. We only had one reef in the main and frankly would have loved to reduce further but the sea state and wind was now dangerous. As we passed ahead of them we cheered aloud, competition was still prevalent in the storm !! We nursed GameOn to the mark, suffering a few more wipeouts and lost our autopilot before finally getting into the lee of the Shetlands. (Great video and photos to come).
The relief between of us of getting to the top of the course and keeping the boat in one piece was palapable. We thought we would have a good couple of hours of calm in the lee of the Island as we travelled back down the Eastern side. We needed to get another reef in the main, reef in the jib and prepare for some upwind gale conditions before the wind swung further west and reduced. We got that wrong, 20 mins of relief was all we got. As we came around the wind tunneled over the land and whacked us hard again. Instantly with too much sail and 40knots the boat was completely on its side with all hell breaking around us. Ollie reefed the jib, leaping around the boat like bloody Spiderman whilst I tried to keep the boat controlled...issh. We then tried to reef the main, but could not get it to come down the mast track. All the time sails flogging and wind howling with waves drenching us. Plan B was hatched, leave the main but change to storm jib on the bow. If it could go wrong it seemed to, but with sheer perseverance we got this done, Ollie collapsing back into the cockpit we resumed our journey south along the coast of the Shetlands. Frankly by then we couldn't wait to see the back of Shitty Saturday.
But by morning calm had returned. 15 knots, sunshine and perfect conditions. A wind shut down during mid morning whilst frustrating (after having too much of the bloody stuff) was a welcome relief. THe Northerly gradient kicked in and this afternoon was stunning conditions..... Super Sunday was here !!. Boat was fully sorted and dried, clothes dried and repairs to autopilot and spinnaker completed, bodies cleaned and fed and plenty of sleep. Mid afternoon a pod of dolphins turned up (proper big dolphins !!) Ollie went up the mast to retrieve a lost halyard and do a rig check after the last 36 hour pounding. The day was completed with a Chicken Tikka curry with nan bread followed by sticky toffee pudding.
So now we are passing the latitude of Aberdeen, 110 miles to its East with 284 miles to the next mark off Thames Estuary. Full main, A2 spinnaker and stay sail flying us along in 15 knots of breeze. Loads of oil rigs, support and guard boats around us, just passed very close to the Montrose Alpha platform which is pretty impressive in the dark, lit up like a christmas tree with gas being burnt off in the sky night.
On the race front we continue to closely battle it out on the water with British Soldier, We can see another race boat further west but unsure who it is as AIS is not working. Beyond that we are not sure of race status and with the recent conditions we think there will highly likely be issues on other boats and possible retirements. Just hope everyone is safe and sound.
Ian and Ollie