Filling the cracks

I’d say there’s a direct link between climate change and wet sleeping bags last week on Guiding Star. Weeks of heatwave opened up decks seams all over the boat and when the weather broke with a storm at the end of July while we were in Douarnenez, the rain poured in.

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Back in Plymouth, we spent a day working on seams. Iga and Celia put masking tape on the worst seams, which seemed to cover about a third of the boat. Inspired by Tim on Alert, I put aluminium foil over the cooker and boiled the pitch in the galley to fill up the seams. Iga mastered the big soldering iron to melt the old pitch into the new and smooth the seams.

There’s still a long way to go. We didn’t have a caulking iron to harden down the seams before adding new pitch; that’s on order. But we made a start.

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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.

About Guiding Star

Guiding Star is a Looe lugger built in 1907 by James Angear for the Soady family and converted into a yacht in the 1930s at Uphams yard in Brixham.

She’s a traditional wooden boat with great character and very steady at sea. She has a gaff mainsail and a lug mizzen; there are no winches but the rig is easy for a small crew to handle because none of the sails is very big. There’s a comfortable saloon with a paraffin lamp, a roomy galley, and five berths.

From 1960-1989 Guiding Star was owned by Brigadier John (“Jack”) Glennie, who sailed her all around Europe. She was then substantially rebuilt in the early 1990s by Barry Jobson and Jackie Gillespie, who sailed her to the Caribbean and back and took part in many classic regattas. Her current owners are Paul and Sue Eedle.

Length overall with bowsprit out 15.8 metres 52 feet

Length overall with bowsprit and outrigger out 22 metres 72 feet

Length with spars shipped 13.1 metres 43 feet

Length on deck 11.8 metres 39 feet

Length at waterline 11.5 metres 37 feet 9 inches

Draft 1.95 metres 6 feet 5 inches

Beam 3.26 metres 10 feet 8 inches

Displacement approx 16 tonnes

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.

 

Sail on a 1907 Cornish fishing boat