The butterflies in my tummy were really starting to flutter as I stepped off the Red Jet Hi-Speed Ferry as I arrived in Cowes. The Hi-Speed crossing was quite rough and we had certainly been hitting the water hard on our approach. I knew then that the Zircon and Spinnaker Yachts team would be in for a fast and furious day of sailing.
It was my first time sailing, let alone sailing competitively on a 41 foot Spinnaker Racing Yacht. I had started to wonder what I had gotten myself into. We were swiftly given our oil skins and life jackets and before you could say “sailor” we were off making our way to the starting point. I was then at the helm and Jim allowed me to sail part way to the starting point for the Class 2 Yacht race, narrowly missing buoys and yachts which were everywhere I looked.
The winds were blowing at about 20 – 25 knots and the sea was choppy. Jim thankfully took over when it was becoming increasingly difficult to stand without falling over and we then made our way to the start position. We all were given our roles, and told what to do when the boat needed to tack. This is where the teamwork really kicked in and on a few occasions it would have been very easy to have flown overboard but luckily with the help of Jason, Malcolm and the crew, this did not happen!
We managed to get a good starting position and the race began although we became sandwiched in the middle of 2 other yachts who also were trying to get the best starting position as we were. Luckily we managed to continue without any problems and we were sailing – FAST!
We made our way round the checkpoints with so much tacking; I must admit I was exhausted. If you were not lucky enough to get a good jump over the boat you were pretty much stuck with your feet dangling in the water! It is amazing how quickly you learn to grab hold of things if your life depends on it!
We finally managed to get the Spinnaker sail up as soon as we were downwind, and then we were really travelling, roughly at 10 knots until we needed to tack around a few more checkpoints at which point the sail was back down and we furiously sailing again. After another hour it was a relief to be travelling downwind for the final hurdle of the race and we were able to get the Spinnaker sail up for a second time which meant we were speeding along with a few boats very close behind.
Just as the finish point was in sight, the sail started flapping furiously and the clutch to the jib had broken! The boat tipped and was sailing at such a tilt I was actually sitting in water! Luckily with the quick actions of the crew they retrieved the sail and we were still moving!
We passed the finish line in 7th place out of 30. After 6 hours of intense sailing, soaked clothes and a few too many bruises, I can truly say we had a once in a lifetime experience! We all survived the adventure and I have much admiration for the crew who were so fearless and were fantastic.
Written by Sarah Green, Zircon Project Coordinator.