Three days and a thunderstorm

The summer weather looked too good to be true as we set sail for the Falmouth Classics in June: hot sun, clear skies and little wind. “Three days and a thunderstorm”, warned my Cornish friend Mark. “Saturday forecast looking ‘sub-optimal’. BBQ may be challenging.”

He was right. On Friday we drifted round Carrick Roads for two slow races in sunbathing weather. On Saturday we scudded to the start line in a fresh breeze with two reefs in the mainsail and the storm jib up. The wind started gusting a near gale and our race was called off. By evening, rain was beating down on the barbecue marquee at the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club. I’m afraid we beat a retreat and missed the Parade of Sail on Sunday.

We had our three days of glorious weather, though, in fact four days: perfect for new crew Justin and Leslie to get used to the boat. On Tuesday, we enjoyed watching our marina’s hired harrier scaring away seagulls as we prepared the boat, and motored across Plymouth Sound to anchor in Cawsand for a moonlit night.

One Wednesday we sailed to Fowey and on Thursday, we challenged the light airs with our new genoa and topsail. There was a nervous moment when the bilge pump started working every five minutes and we thought we might be sinking. But it was only one of our two water tanks, soft bladders under the saloon settees, rupturing and emptying its 150 litres of fresh water into the bottom of the boat.

On Friday, I was thrilled to be joined by my friend Michel from Trégastel in Brittany, who had travelled by car, ferry and train to reach Falmouth in time for the first race. Michel is the President of the Modestine Society, a Franco-Scottish friendship group set up to celebrate the life and work of the nineteenth-century writer Robert Louis Stevenson, a Scot who hiked the mountains in southern France with a recalcitrant donkey called Modestine.

Unfortunately, Michel had injured his knee playing tennis and when he stepped on Guiding Star, he wrenched it further and sat through the race in increasing pain. We managed this shot of us with the Modestine Society banner before the water taxi took him ashore.

On Saturday, my old skipper Anthony joined us for our roaring broad reach down Carrick Roads and an exhilarating beat back after the race was cancelled. Sailing with Anthony on his 1904 Californian yacht Aeolus captured me for traditional boats: all the ropes the same colour and no winches. Needless to say, with the boat heeled to 30 degrees and water rushing over the side deck, none of us took any photographs so you’ll just have to take my word that we had a terrific time.

It wasn’t much fun queueing in the driving rain for barbecued sausages and chicken but when the downpour stopped, we were rewarded with a sky to remember. The lawn in front of the Yacht Club was crowded with awestruck sailors holding their phones up to take photos. Even the view from the car park was stunning.