All posts by Skipper

South West Gaffers Rally

Most of our trips begin, and end, in the Clovelly Bay Inn in Turnchapel. Guiding Star’s berth in Plymouth Yacht Haven would be two minutes away if we could walk on water, or even just organise a dinghy, but it’s only 15 minutes the long way round on the South west Coast Path. The Greek lamb in pitta bread and the seafood chowder are wonderful; not slimming but richly tasty.

The South West Gaffers first Festival of Sail in Plymouth gave us a day of light wind racing in the Sound and then a day sail up the Tamar to Saltash Sailing Club for pasties.

I found the racing frustrating because I couldn’t get Guiding Star moving in the light airs. We were the biggest boat in the fleet and the start line across the restricted width of Cattewater gave us little space to put sails up, so we crossed the start with the topsail still on the deck.

Out on the Sound, several smaller boats passed us on the beat to the windward buoy, despite all I’d learned in the Falmouth Classics about not pinching in very gentle wind. We made up ground reaching and running but then I failed to spot two boats on starboard tack as they started their second lap, and had to wear round 360 degrees to avoid them. Thomas, Ian and I had a happy, hot day, though.

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Guiding Star racing in front of Plymouth Hoe. That mizzen’s not working properly, and we haven’t got the topsail up yet. Photo by Jane Bryan

Local photographer Jane Bryan took some splendid photographs which reveal part of our problem; the mizzen was creased and losing power because the strop holding up the yard was a few centimetres too far aft.

At Saltash the next day, Guiding Star was too big to come alongside the Saltash Sailing Club pontoon so we anchored in the Tamar and were kindly given a lift ashore. The wind freshened from the day before, especially once we passed Devonport dockyard, so we rocketed up and down the river.

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Many thanks to Judy Hales on Theta for this photo of us entering the Narrows, where Mount Edgecombe blocks the southwest breeze and the tide turning the corner chops up the water. The mizzen’s working better today

Heatwave sailing in the Falmouth Classics

The sun was hot and the wind was light, and we struggled to keep up our speed into the wind by comparison with more experienced lugger sailers on Gladys and Our Boys. However, we managed third place behind them in the lugger class and had a glorious time.

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Thomas with a pint of Tribute and Paul with the coffee mug for third place in the lugger class

Kim was keen to stick to the racing rules but this was a traditional boat regatta so when Grayhound appeared over our shoulders trying to muscle her way across the start line, clearly upwind of us and completely in the wrong… I let her. She’s something like 80 tons and Guiding Star is 16.

Thomas used to be a photographer for Reuters in war zones across Africa so his images are worth a gallery of their own:

Celebrating Robin Knox-Johnston

Here’s Sir Robin Knox-Johnston sitting on Suhaili, the original boat in which he made history 50 years ago by becoming the first person to sail alone, non-stop around the world, winning the first Golden Globe race; next to him is Bill Rowntree, who photographed the start and end of the trip for the Sunday Mirror and created some of the most memorable images in sailing.

Sir Robin brought Suhaili to Plymouth for a rally organised by the southwest section of the Cruising Association to celebrate the anniversary. Several of us then followed him to Falmouth, his original departure point, for a three-day jamboree and a chance to see skippers and boats competing in a re-run of the Golden Globe.

Sir Robin is ordinary and extraordinary. He talked to anyone who came up for a chat, spent the afternoon in the pub watching the rugby and nearly got into a fight with a Scotsman who took his seat, and hung his washing over the boom like any of the rest of us. But he had the courage, determination and seamanship to sail alone in an age without GPS, satellite phones or downloadable weather charts; and to keep going when his gear failed and all the other Golden Globe competitors dropped out or went mad; two committed suicide and one sailed a second time round the world rather than come home.

It was a privilege to join a small band of perhaps two hundred passionate sailors for the events in Falmouth: a press conference in the Chain Locker pub to introduce the skippers in the Golden Globe 2018 race, sailing small family-priced, long-keeled cruisers and navigating with sextant and paper charts as Robin did 50 years ago; a book signing by Sir Robin; and a talk about the original and the new race by speakers including Bill Rowntree, who showed some of his famous photographs and told the story behind them.

Falmouth made little of what was a historic event, though. Plymouth grabbed the right to host the start of the race but then couldn’t find sponsors and lost it to Les Sables d’Olonne in France. There was little publicity in the town and no events to pull in lots of spectators. The mayor of Les Sables d’Olonnes said he expected 100,000 people to watch the start on 1st July; surely Falmouth would have wanted a crowd like that?

Many thanks to John and Martin for crewing Guiding Star to Falmouth; and special thanks to Martin’s friend Rich for lending us his pickup truck so we could retrieve the dinghy outboard from servicing in Penryn.

Feeling our way in the Brixham Regatta

The Brixham Heritage Regatta turned into an unexpected challenge of navigation and nerves. 

We made a good start across the line in very light wind and mist and willed our way north across Torbay to the first buoy. The one other boat in our Lugger class, Le Grand Lejon from Brittany, weighs nearly twice as much as Guiding Star and fell steadily behind.

However, that was about the end of the race. After we rounded the buoy, boats headed off on different tacks for a long beat south to the windward buoy near Berry Head, but the mist quickly thickened into fog and soon we couldn’t see any of the other 30 boats in the fleet; not even the three 80-foot Brixham trawlers, which are hard to miss. Visibility dropped to 50 metres.

We pressed on for half an hour, navigating by GPS and staring into the fog to keep watch. We heard on the radio first one, then two, boats withdraw from the race. The wind freshened and for a moment we hit 5 knots. But then the Regatta committee abandoned the race entirely and called all boats back.

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Thanks to Sarah’s friend Peter Hunt for this shot of Guiding Star drifting in the mist before the start

Many thanks indeed to Matt for running our radio comms, Mark for helping to navigate, Paul for knowing every inch of Torbay and Brixham Harbour, and Emma and Sarah for calm helming.

I have no idea how the Regatta Committee worked out the results, but we were delighted to win the beautiful Toni Knights Lugger half-model for the first lugger. We were also surprised and happy to be awarded the Noss Marina Shield for Friday’s passage race from Dartmouth to Brixham, even though we were the only boat taking part and had to motor almost all the way because there was no wind. But we did turn up!

Full results are on the Brixham Heritage Regatta website.

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Sarah, Emma and Paul with the Toni Knights Lugger half-model trophy. It’s a model of his own boat, IRIS. Sadly Toni wasn’t able to take part in the Regatta this year

Next morning, the sun shone from a cloudless sky.

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Rafted against the beautiful Breton lugger Le Grand Lejon

More photos below of the Regatta and our passages up from Plymouth and back again. Many thanks to everyone for their photos.

I’m only sorry there are no photos of the epic bacon, egg and fried bread sandwiches made by Jon on the passage up from Plymouth to Dartmouth and Brixham. It was a pity there wasn’t much wind for sailing, Jon, but it was wonderful to have you on board.

The best of 2017

Looe Luggers Regatta 2017

Guiding Star came second! Weather kept several regular boats away and stopped us racing on the first day, but we managed two races on the second day.

Crew from left to right: Candice, Theo, Alan, Paul, Alan

Many thanks to the Looe Sailing Club for the video on YouTube, and for their wonderful welcome to all the crews during the weekend. Watch Guiding Star at 8 minutes 27 seconds into the film.

 

Winter work

When I bought Guiding Star, the surveyor suggested replacing the keel bolts. Once we hauled the boat out in Bristol in December 2016, it was clear he was right. Martin from RB Boatbuilding lifted out five tons of lead to get at the bolts.

That was just the start of the winter work.