Last weekend saw the first training weekend for the Northern Child/Southern Child Fastnet campaigns. The all male NC crew and all female SC crew were braced for some exciting sailing with winds gusting up to 38 knots on Saturday. Whilst there may have been some thought that watching the Lions test against Australia with a beer was appealing, we forged on with our training.
A briefing by Christian to welcome all the crew, followed by a detailed overview of each yacht for their respective teams. Safety equipment and drills, sail configurations and deck layouts. Shortly after lunch we headed out into the Solent in some very blustery conditions. The strong winds gave us an excellent opportunity to rig storm sails. This was probably the best storm sail practice we had ever had as usually you are doing this in 10-15 knots which is an unlikely situation in reality for an Offshore race. Far more likely that the wind is increasing and you are reefing to storm sails at the last sensible opportunity as the wind increases – probably around 30-35 knots. The crews both handled this well and on NC we were amazed to see us sailing along at 6 knots with just the staysail – amazing for a 20 ton yacht!! Saturday evening was a great night with dinner in Tiger Tiger and then a bit of a dance off – it is fair to say the girls won convincingly, although the men tried very hard!
Sunday was a much less boisterous day, with winds of 15-25 knots and so we had a chance to do some proper race training with non overlapping genoas and full or reefed mains. Tacking and gybing practice and a very sneaky MOB drill on NC just near Cowes. The NC crew reacted extremely well and we picked up ‘Fred’ our wet cold fender from the Solent within about 2 minutes. The girls meanwhile hurtled around the Solent at high speed with big grins on their faces, practicing some gybes and tacks. As NC decided to head back to Portsmouth Harbour we spotted SC on a parallel course headed back in the same direction. Over the VHF ‘Northern Child, Northern Child, this is Southern Child over’ – it was Bertie, Lucy’s First Mate on SC. It seemed clear that we were both heading back and the race was on!! Bertie closed the call with ‘we’re ahead of you’….
Mood changed aboard NC and I can only imagine on SC too. People started concentrating, trimming and working the sails. As we approached Gilkicker Point, the 2 yachts came together, almost neck and neck. The beauties on SC and the men on NC now seeing the whites of each others eyes. A seen from a Western when guns are about to be drawn sprang to mind. It immediately made me realise that this is why we race – the thrust of it, the challenge the competition. I have to say that at this point I took over driving NC – something Lucy duly noted later. The NC men were overjoyed to beat the girls on SC back to the harbour, but only just and I mean only just. There is no doubt that beating them next weekend in the Morgan Cup is no mean feat and that they will be a force to be reckoned with by the time they get to the Fastnet after all their training.
All together a very fun weekend, and some excellent Fastnet preparation.