I’m aware that some of you have been following the race on the website and have even contributed.
I thought it worth putting down how I feel and sharing it while it’s fresh. So thanks for your interest and support. Toni forwarded them via e mail .
We sailed an Ocean; no we raced an Ocean – big difference. 4,800 miles in 31 days. We came 2nd in race 1 and 4th in race 2. Are we happy with that? No we had great ambitions in La Rochelle to win the leg. However, a disastrous trip through the Canaries found the biggest hole in the Atlantic Ocean and we emerged 10th, with a record low run for 24 hrs of 9 miles. So to climb back to 4th felt good, particularly as we beat Hull & Humber (Dumb & Dumber to us !) We emerged relatively intact with only our mid range spinnaker damaged (damaged when we crash gybed and broke the preventer – a section 5 m X 2m went missing!). I hasten to add that this was the other watch – it was 2.30 am and I was asleep at the time. Other yachts had a RNLI evacuation at Lands End by the Falmouth lifeboat – it was too rough for the sea King, one dislocated shoulder, one leg caught up in a spinnaker sheet with rope burns that turned bad and series of stitches and bruises. As well as 6 blown out kites in the fleet , two spinnaker poles have been broken in broaches or gybes and a jockey pole bent.
So have I enjoyed it? Far too small a word for the totality of the experience. It has been a test, physically, mentally & socially. No one who has not encountered the foredeck of a large yacht during a racing sail change can understand the sheer physical brutality of it. In the dark, with the boat pitching, trying so hard to keep one hand for the boat and one for the job, it makes me feel every day of my age! Mentally racing the boat is relentless. 24 hrs a day trimming sails, changing sails and 3hr watches in the night & 4 hrs in the day test ones endurance and patience. Sometimes we were sailing best course downwind for days and life becomes repetitive.
I have to say the scenery gets a bit samey ( I spy with my little eye something beginning with S) However, the biggest test has been socially. God knows I’m not a difficult man to get along with ( I can hear the chorus , thank you !) Remember the boat was called Liverpool and was crewed by a significant number of scousers. It felt a lot like big brother at times and Toni will attest to the fact that I demanded daily emails from her and the boys to bring something into my claustrophobic world. But don’t get the impression it was bad – I feel I’ve been tested and passed, The highs have been extraordinary. Being at the top of an 85 ft mast while we’re sailing, uncrossing halyards and checking for chafe: helming downwind with a following sea – surfing at nearly 20 knots: being the no 1 upwind helmsman, being on for the first spell of the watch to set the standards of course, average and top speed: dolphins torpedoing down to the boat in phosphorescent trails: being hit by flying fish : the feeling of a supportive watch – all these and more are memorable. But for me it’s back to cruising. Roller reefing sails, lazy jacks and autopilots will be even more appreciated. When we parked for 48 hrs in the Canaries the skipper asked me ¨”Well Pete – from your experience what would you do to make this boat go faster” I answered without hesitation ” I’d switch the f*****g engine on ! “There are not enough restaurants in an ocean to make me do it again, however, as Robin Knox Johnson said in his address before the start ” for the rest of your life what will separate you from the average man is that you have sailed an Ocean” I’ll stick with that-it’s an achievement and I’m proud I’ve done it. You just may hear me talk about it every now and then and as I said at the beginning – thanks for your support – it’s meant a lot.