The day after mother watch was engineering watch – this involved filling up the boat with water, looking after power supplies, emptying the bilges and of course checking the engine was in order.
However once the main duties were attended to in the morning there was little to stop you getting involved in the sailing on deck, which made it a much better day for me.
We had a race scheduled for the afternoon with the other boat, so Skipper told us not to fill up the water tanks, and then we went through the customary evolutions again and again.
At lunch time we pulled alongside the other boat and made contact with them – because we called them our skipper seemed duty bound to ask what they wanted to do in the race – and they decided on a course that involved a Le Mans start, a lot of spinnaker work and indeed a gybe with the spinnaker up, something we had not tried. We tried suggesting our spinnaker was blown, but they were adamant that we did as they wanted. Had we waited for them to contact us perhaps we would have been able to pick the course.
The mate went downstairs to work out our courses and then we got everyone into position. We worked out that we would need to pack the spinnaker in 30 minutes during the race, a tall order considering only 4 people had seen how to pack the thing.
The Le Mans start went really well – 2 minutes 30 seconds and the other boat went flying way off what we thought the course was – we even checked the co-ordinates to make sure we were not making a mistake!.
At the first turn we got the Spinnaker up and started flying – we had Liz on the helm as the most experienced helmsperson and we then set about gybing the spinnaker for the first ever time. We were not worried though, because Skipper said it would be OK – to be fair he was right, and when we dropped the spinnaker to head back up wind we could not see the other boat.
We were making better time than expected and it turned out we only had 20 minutes to pack and re-hoist the kite because of our speed over the water – I got involved in the frantic packing and we managed just to make the times – and we hoist the sail as we rounded the market buoy.
However the other boat took a massive chance to try and make up time and had been flying the kite significantly longer than we had – it was a risky option as they could easily have had to dump the kite and definitely lose the race, but with skilful helming they managed just to make the marker buoy.
As such it was all down to the final run. Then we had a touch of farce – customs boarded the other boat to carry out a routine search – we are told it did not slow them down but would almost certainly have distracted them. To make up for it the Rib gave the boat a little push and they closed to within twenty metres of us with two miles to go. At this time we were moving at just under 10 knots….so just a little quicker than paints dries.
It is almost impossible to explain how exciting it was – travelling at such slow speeds did in no way detracts from the level of excitement and the fact that an overtaking manoeuvre can take over 15 minutes did not lessen the drama. We pulled away ten metres, they made it back up – the cut and thrust was all about the trimming of the sails….when we passed the finish line we were about 50 metres ahead. It had been my first experience of a race and I was hooked – as indeed was everyone on the boat.
When we finished dinner and just before the evening lecture I was given permission to rush off to get a bottle of bubbles to celebrate the win – what we had not realised was it was 10.30 and we had already missed the shops, so we celebrated with a blackcurrant squash.