After six months of eagerly looking forward to starting our Rolex Fastnet training, the first weekend was suddenly upon us! We met at Brighton Marina for dinner on the Friday night which was a good chance for the crew to meet and get to know the people they would be racing with over the next five months. Our race trainer, Davie, introduced our skipper for the Rolex Fastnet campaign, ‘Cheeki Steve’, and outlined the format of the weekend. We were forecast to have a mixed bag of weather so it was decided to head straight out of Brighton Marina on Saturday morning to acclimatise and practice ‘Man Overboards’ before heading back in as the wind picked up to get stuck into ‘Safety Saturday’.
Davie had spent the past few weeks painstakingly working through the RORC (Royal Ocean Racing Club) Safety Declaration, making sure we conformed to all strict regulations. Every crew member needs to know exactly where all items of safety equipment are stored and, of course, how to use them. All crew members had all previously done the RYA / ISAF Offshore Safety Course – which is a requirement after the tragic events of the 1979 Fastnet Race. So everything was very familiar as we started to take apart the whole boat, locating fire extinguishers, bilge pumps, gas alarms, emergency VHF aerial etc. On deck we looked at jack-stays, the liferaft, flares, emergency steering and other crucial safety features.
It was a cloudy sky that greeted us on Sunday morning – however the wind had dropped so it was decided to stick to the plan of ‘Spinnaker Sunday’. After a quick breakfast together we headed to the boat and started to talk thorough all the various lines, blocks and halyards we would need to use to hoist our spinnaker and spinnaker pole.
There were a few bemused faces as we headed out for Brighton Marina to put into practice everything Davie and Cheeki had talked through with us. However as we worked through the spinnaker hoist everything started to come together and we were soon cheering as we looked up at our blue training spinnaker and saw our boat speed steadily climb – job done, we thought!
However our Beneteau First 35 ‘Run’ has three spinnakers on board so once we had got to grips with our smaller training spinnaker, it was time to try ‘Big Red’! The boat was hushed as Davie talked us through the hoist, most of us thinking “are you SURE about this”?! But under the expert tuition of Cheeki and Davie we soon had ‘Big Red’ up and were flying along at 12 knots, surfing down waves. To top it all off the sun came out, cue big smiles from everyone!
Sunburnt and tired we headed back into Brighton Marina, all feeling a tiny bit closer to our goal of becoming a slick racing crew ready to take on the Irish Sea and the Fastnet Rock! To quote Davie – “Awesome weekend, everyone worked extremely hard, fantastic crew with a great attitude. Looking forward to the next bit!!! See you in two weeks”.
For more information on the Rolex Fastnet 2013 campaign – Fastnet