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What does it take to win the Rolex Fastnet Race? We find out from four former winners (19 Jul 2019, 8:16 am)

Matthew Sheahan and James Boyd ask four former winners of the Rolex Fastnet Race for their advice on how to get onto the podium

Rolex Fastnet Race 2009
Ran rounding Fastnet Rock. Photo: Kurt Arrigo/Rolex

As the world’s largest and most notorious offshore, the Rolex Fastnet Race, has gained in popularity, so the competitiveness of the 300+ boat fleet has increased. Some crews may be ticking another item off their bucket list, but the majority of competitors are out to win in some way, whether they be chasing overall victory, a podium in their class, or seeking to settle a friendly wager with rivals.

Diversity within the fleet has also increased. From heavily crewed supermaxis, to short-handed 33-footers, from paid to race to paying to race, the Fastnet continues to draw a huge variety of sailors, boats and teams.

What remains the same, though, is that the 605nm race is famously tricky when it comes to tactics and can be physically challenging when conditions pipe up. So what are the tips and tricks to doing well?

Here four previous Fastnet winners offer their advice on how to get onto the podium.

Seasoned front runner

Gery Trentesaux – Courrier Du Leon JPK 10.80. Overall winner 2015

Frenchman Gery Trentesaux is well known for his long-term success in RORC offshore racing, including leading the French team to victory in the 2006 Commodores’ Cup. The 2017 Fastnet Race was his 14th.

Courrier du Leon

Courrier du Leon. Photo: Jean-Marie Lio

Going into the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race, Trentesaux, aboard his new JPK 10.80 Courrier Du Leon, had won consecutive victories in the RORC’s Cervantes Trophy, Myth of Malham and De Guingand Bowl to place him and his team in the lead in the overall points for the IRC fleet.

It was little surprise then that he is considered a Fastnet Race favourite.

In recent years, French sailors have dominated the overall Rolex Fastnet Race results. In 2013 nine of the top ten finishers (including Trentesaux) were from across the Channel. Trentesaux attributes this to the large number who, over the last four decades, have regularly competed in the Figaro class or the Tour de France à la Voile. On board Courrier du Leon, he and two others are old Figaro hands.

Trentesaux also holds the advantage of having managed to carry a regular crew between his numerous Courrier yachts for several years.

They run no watch system. Instead they adapt their routine to the conditions, with the crew sleeping on the rail. Trentesaux handles the navigation, using both paper charts and PC-based routeing software.

Before the race he studies the course, figuring tide changes with the forecast, creating a ‘roadbook’ of the course (as the Figaro sailors do).

Gery Trentesaux . Photo: Daniel Forster/Rolex

Gery Trentesaux. Photo: Daniel Forster/Rolex

While they run PC-based routeing and carry an Iridium phone to download the latest forecasts, Trentesaux says a common mistake, in his view, is to place 100 per cent faith in electronic routeing.

“Often the routeing is stupid, so we use the routeing, but we don’t follow it automatically. We choose our course and compare it with the routeing and, if there is a difference, we try to understand why.”


2017: 1st IRC overall

2015: 1st IRC overall

2013: 1st Class IRC2

2007: 1st Class IRC0

2001: 1st Class IRC1

1997: First Fastnet Race

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Short-handed heroes

Pascal Loison – Night & Day, JPK 1010. Overall winners 2013

With hindsight, the first clue to who might do well in the 2013 Fastnet came when French father and son team Pascal and Alexis Loison won the RORC Channel Race outright at the end of July. A month later the pair took overall Fastnet victory in their 33ft JPK 1010 Night & Day.

Photo: Kurt Arrigo/Rolex

Photo: Kurt Arrigo/Rolex

As well as beating the entire fleet, they had trounced a total of eight JPK 1010s. This was a spectacular result and in many people’s minds, one of the most impressive Fastnet performances ever, particularly as this was also the first time in 88 years that the race had been won by a double-handed crew.

Yet this wasn’t the first time that the Loisons had made their mark in the Fastnet. Aboard their previous Night & Day, a J/105, they won the double-handed class in 2005 and were 2nd overall in IRC Two.

“Since teaching Alexis (31) to sail when he was a child we have sailed together a lot,” says Pascal, 55, a surgeon in Cherbourg. “Now, as a professional sailor on the Figaro circuit where he has raced for the last ten years, he teaches me. Our speciality is in two-handed sailing.”

Clearly there is a close relationship between father and son, but Pascal also points to some of the basic set-ups aboard their boat: “I think having two rudders is important for a short-handed boat. It is faster for this type of racing as it is better balanced. Making the right choices about a boat that will suit your sailing is very important too and that starts well before the race.

“When there are just two of you, you have to think carefully about how you sail the boat. If you are fully crewed you can change the sails a lot. But we have a medium headsail that goes from 0-22 knots. We rarely change, but we trim all the time and we trim everything that we can.”

Although a sail wardrobe that includes four spinnakers, including a Code 0 and a Code 5, is important, keeping the boat moving quickly is a priority for the Loisons. Boat speed is at the heart of their performance and that means staying on the ball.

Alexis and Pascal Loisin

Alexis and Pascal Loisin

“We don’t do watch systems,” explains Pascal. “When one of us is tired we will go for a sleep, but only if doing so doesn’t affect the boat speed.”

But when Pascal says sleep, he is using the French solo sailor’s definition meaning a 15-minute catnap. So how much sleep would they accumulate typically in 24 hours?

“About one to two hours,” he says. “It’s enough, if you have trained for it like the Figaro sailors do. Also, if you are tired you will sleep, but if you have a regular system that you are trying to work to you will not sleep, which is not good for the speed of the boat.”

Such an uncompromising approach to running a boat offshore may not be to everyone’s taste, but then neither is sailing double-handed. And yet with each edition of the race the double-handed fleet grows.

For overall success at least, catnapping around the Fastnet Rock looks like being the way to go.


2017: 1st IRC 4

2017: 1st Two-handed

2015: 2nd Two-handed

2013: 1st IRC overall

2013: 1st Two-handed

2013: 1st IRC 3

2005: 1st Two-handed

2005: 2nd IRC 2

Pay to play

Sailing Logic, Top Sailing School Boat 2005-2013

Sailing Logic was awarded ‘RORC Sailing School Boat of the Year’ for five Fastnet Races in a row. The Southampton-based race charter outfit has fielded multiple yachts made up of mixed experience crews in the race, and has had boats on the podium for every race from 2005-2013.

BUSA Yachting 2015

“People come to us because they want to do well, but we have to be careful with how we manage those expectations,” explains Allie Smith before the 2015 race, then Sailing Logic’s operations and logistics manager.

“We avoid the temptation to load a particular boat with the best experience and instead go to great lengths to set up evenly matched teams with a mixture of abilities. We have found that teams not only gel quicker and more effectively, but achieve better results.”

Planning is vital to the teams’ successes and that starts with the season’s campaign. Smith believes that the balance between offshore and inshore racing, along with day training sessions, is an important factor.

“Our Fastnet campaign seasons involve two training weekends and four RORC offshore races: the Myth of Malham, Morgan Cup, Cowes-St Malo race and the Channel Race,” she says. “Starting with the Myth of Malham race is important. This race rounds the Eddystone lighthouse so it’s a bit like a mini-Fastnet and is long enough to separate the men from the boys.

“We then have our second training weekend after this to give us a chance to work on offshore skills. But we also include a day of inshore racing to help the teams appreciate the importance of being slick with manoeuvres.”

Allie Smith

Allie Smith

What do crewmembers need most help with when planning their campaign?

“Mostly it is help with understanding the time and logistical implications of the programme and organising their time to make those commitments,” says Smith. “It’s surprising how many people with high-powered jobs struggle with the personal planning part of the campaign. Given that they, as a team, have decided what their goals are and how hard they want to push, that’s where we can help.”

And what are the things that surprise their clients the most?

“How quickly they gel with team mates,” she says. “That’s very rewarding for us, but is also at the heart of their success.”


2009-2013: Seven podium finishes in IRC Classes 1 & 2

The professional

Adrian Stead – Rán 2, J/V72. Overall winner 2009 & 2011

Britain’s Adrian Stead was tactician aboard Rán 2 when Niklas Zennström’s Judel Vrolijk 72 won the Rolex Fastnet Race in 2009 and 2011.

Adrian Stead

Adrian Stead

“I think any well sailed, well prepared, well optimised boat has always got a chance of winning the Fastnet Race,” says Stead.

“It’s about doing your preparation and not giving things away – making sure when the tidal elevators are there, you’re on the fast one and not putting yourself where you’re going to lose miles quickly because you’ve missed out on something.

“If you keep getting those right around the course, gaining ten minutes here, five minutes there, then suddenly you’ve gained yourself an hour at the Rock.”

Boats such as Maxi 72s take the race seriously and, with the Rán campaign, they commissioned their own tidal study of the Lizard in 2011. For the next race navigator Steve Hayles researched the exact position of the Shambles off Portland Bill. As Stead points out: “It just gave you confidence in what you thought was happening.”



Even though the race is relatively short for a Maxi 72, they run a three-watch system – on, off and standby – with the off watch asleep down below. On Rán 2, Stead and Hayles were out of the watch system.

However, flexibility is also required: “If there’s a really important headland or something that you need to get round, that essentially is a ‘race breaker’. You push yourselves there and if then there’s 15 hours on the wind on starboard, that’s the time when people can get some proper sleep. But you’ve made the jump by having everyone on the game at the key part.

“In 2011, when we got to the Scilly Isles, everyone was totally knackered, but we had to pump the boat to the finish before the wind dropped. That was hard and we did it with energy bars…”

Stead points out that the Traffic Separation Scheme exclusion zones today have a major bearing on the course, particularly off Land’s End, where there remains the possibility of sailing the longer route, leaving this to port.

“If you think the breeze is going to shift right, then although it looks wrong, you know it could be a potential winner.”


2011: 1st IRC overall Rán 2

2009: 1st IRC overall Rán 2

2003: 2nd IRC overall Alfa Romeo

1993: First Fastnet Race on one tonner GBE International

The post What does it take to win the Rolex Fastnet Race? We find out from four former winners appeared first on Yachting World.

How to win at double-handed racing – 5 top tips from a Fastnet champion (18 Jul 2019, 8:15 am)

Double-handed racing is booming in popularity, with both inshore and offshore events introducing double-handed classes. We get expert tips on how to set up your boat and routines for success

Race Start - Redshift Reloaded, Sail No: GBR 419, Class: IRC Three, Owner: Ed Fishwick, Type: Sun Fast 3600

The popularity of double-handed sailing is on the rise. The Rolex Fastnet Race is the perfect case in point – this year there are due to be 63 doublehanded entries, up from 45 in 2013. So why is two-up catching on in such a big way?

Alexis Loison is a professional sailor who competes regularly on the Figaro circuit. He’s also been part of the winning crew in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race. His biggest claim to fame came in 2013 when Alexis and his father Pascal raced their JPK10.10 Night and Day, to become the first double-handed crew ever to win the Fastnet Race; not just in their class, but outright, ahead of all the fully crewed boats.

According to Alexis, it’s partly because the logistics are much easier to organise with just two of you, rather than having to pull together a full crew of seven or more people all with different levels of commitment. Also, autopilot developments have made it much easier to handle a boat shorthanded.

But for Loison the main attraction is that there is never a dull moment. No sitting on the rail for hours at a time. “When you’re sailing doublehanded, you have the helm, you navigate, you are busy during all the manoeuvres. There’s never a dull moment.” So what are Alexis’s five top tips for successful doublehanded racing? Andy Rice found out…


Alexis and his father Pascal at the finish of the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race. Photo: ELWJ Photography / Rolex

  1. Forge a partnership

It’s really important to team up with someone who you like and who you respect. You have to have a similar outlook on sailing and on how you approach competition. With my father, I couldn’t find a better co-skipper; he’s the man who knows me the best, and that’s very important.

When you team up with someone for the first time, make sure you have both discussed everything in detail before you go afloat; how you will communicate, how you divide the roles, what weather you expect. It’s all about agreeing the processes in advance, and having your systems in place. Routines are vital.

Night And Day, the JPK 10.10, rounding the Fastnet Rock

  1. Choose the right boat

I love Class 40s, they are fast, powerful boats. But for two-handed racing a two-tonner is not all that much fun. The gear is big, and the boat is maybe too powerful in some ways. It can feel like the boat is in control of you, rather than you being in control.

A 33-footer, like the JPK10.10 that I sail with my father, that’s my favourite size of boat. It’s small enough to make it easy to change a sail; it is what I call a ‘human’ boat! Of course the boat is not the whole answer. Whichever one you choose, it’s important to really know your boat, to have practised all the manoeuvres so there is no hesitation about what to do. When it’s blowing hard in the middle of the night, you have to be ready.

  1. Twin rudders

While we were racing in the Fastnet that we won overall, we found ourselves in a match race with another JPK10.10, pretty much identical to us except it was fully crewed. We were both reaching along in 25 knots of wind, yet despite them having more crew weight on the rail, we were faster in a straight line.

Why? Because our boat has two rudders and theirs only had one. They suffered a number of broaches while we didn’t spin out once.

Two rudders give you so much more stability and control, which is even more important when you consider how reliant we are on the autopilot when racing doublehanded. Two rudders are definitely better than one.

  1. Prepare for the worst

Before a big race we do a lot of weather preparation. We look closely at the GRIB files, we analyse all the currents. We use Adrena, which is a really good tool for helping with your navigation plans. We make up a little route book with key points for different parts of the race.

Also, we talk through worst-case scenarios about what we’ll do if a sail breaks, and so on. Be meticulous about your safety planning, double-check your lifejackets, the liferaft, and so on.

We have a personal AIS system and a small wireless remote control that has two functions. One, we can use it to change the course on the autopilot; and two, if we have a man overboard, the remote automatically registers a MOB situation on the computer.

Double-handed crews mixing it up with fully crewed yachts at the start of the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race. Photo: Carlo Borlenghi / Rolex

  1. Survive the heavy weather gybe

A heavy wind gybe is the most difficult manoeuvre in two-handed sailing. We always follow the same procedure. Firstly, we use only one pole but we have two sets of sheets (guys and sheets) each side for the spinnaker.

  1. I take the helm and my father handles the No.1. I think it’s safer for me to be steering rather than leaving the boat on autopilot.
  2. Cleat the mainsail traveller in the middle of the track.
  3. Adjust the sheet to the ‘standard position’ marked on the rope. At this point the clew is sitting near the forestay. Barber-haulers are set at an equal distance, in line with the top of the guardwires.
  4. We ease a lot of downhaul on the pole and, once the boat is surfing nicely on a wave, I gybe the boat, with the new sheet in my hand so I am able to adjust the sheet for stability of the spinnaker and the boat. Obviously this is more difficult when the boat is bigger. If there is really strong breeze then my father will help me handle the sheet.
  5. We make sure the boat is stable, and then my father passes the pole to the other side, with no stress because we have guys and sheets. I also keep the sheet in my hand to help him out.

Pascal and Alexis will not be racing together in the 2019 Fastnet Race. “My father has sold Night & Day,” Alexis recently told the Royal Ocean Racing Club. “So this year I am participating in the Rolex Fastnet Race with Jean-Pierre Kelbert (JPK himself) aboard the latest addition to the range, the JPK 10.30.” Meanwhile Pascal is buying a JPK 10.80, but only for cruising.

Alexis, who is also a top Figaro sailor, points out that the 10.30 has been designed to be sailed shorthanded and so, for example, it has water ballast (290lt each side), more optimised for reaching and running. “I am very happy to sail with Jean-Pierre because we are friends,” Loison concludes. Their yacht, Léon, is one of three new JPK 10.30s competing along with Jean-Baptiste Vezin and Yves-Paul Robert on Very Good Trip and Gerard Quentot’s Blue Skies.

As a warm-up they competed in the Cowes-Dinard St Malo finishing second in IRC Two Handed to Francois Moriceau and Christophe Waubant on the JPK 10.10 Mary.

They are part of a powerful group of French doublehanders competing this year, including RORC racing regulars, all aboard JPK 10.80s: Marc Alperovitch on Timeline, Jean-Eudes Renier on Shaitan and Louis-Marie Dussere on Raging-bee.

The post How to win at double-handed racing – 5 top tips from a Fastnet champion appeared first on Yachting World.

Destination inspiration: Epic summer adventures right on your doorstep (17 Jul 2019, 8:03 am)

Our contributors reveal their favourite summer cruising grounds, from West Sweden and North Brittany to the Isles of Scilly

The River Helford in Cornwall is a great spot for a mini sailing adventure. Photo: Peter Baritt / Alamy

You don’t have to sail to the most distant parts of the world to have a cruising adventure. If you have only a week or two of summer holidays to play with, you plan to thoroughly sea trial yacht and crew before embarking on a longer ocean voyage, or you are after a season of sailing adventure, there are wonderful places right here on our doorstep in northern Europe.

We asked some of our most travelled contributors where they would pick to sail to for a world-class epic sailing adventure within striking distance of their home ports. These were their picks – and they explain why, where you should go, and what to take (or leave behind).

The West Country

Former editor David Glenn grew up sailing in the UK’s West Country and argues it’s still among the world’s finest cruising grounds…

Although Poole might be regarded as the gateway to the West Country, most yachtsmen will want to press on beyond Berry Head. There, I would suggest, cruising proper begins.


David Glenn knows the waters around the West Country better than most

Weymouth has a lot to offer, but when that freeing wind sets in, time your run to five nautical miles off Portland Bill to catch the first of the westgoing ebb and before you know it you’ll have Berry Head on the nose. There, the fishing port of Brixham has done much to improve its once lowly status with an excellent marina and seafood restaurants to die for, thanks to the burgeoning fishing co-operative.

Further west, considerably more beckons. Three spectacular rivers, the Dart, Tamar and Fal, not only divide the West Country into manageable cruising areas, providing staging posts from which smaller harbours and anchorages can be explored, but also offer self-contained pocket cruising grounds in their own right.

They are blessed with everything from safe access and shelter in all weather, picture postcard towns and the sort of tranquillity and unspoilt beauty in their upper reaches which, on a still summer’s evening, epitomise part of what cruising in the West Country is all about.

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On the Dart, don’t be content with staying in Dartmouth or Dittisham, but take the tide up to the lowest bridging point at Totnes, nine miles from the entrance, returning on the following ebb. The totally unspoilt, steep, oak-lined banks and the twisting course of the river make for a classic West Country adventure.

Alternatively, pick up a mooring off Stoke Gabriel, dinghy up to Sharpham Point, sample some of the excellent Sharpham Vineyard products including cheeses, and then walk to Totnes on the restored pathway.

I have to admit to being put off by Salcombe in peak season as it is packed with its overly fashion-conscious clientele, but the estuary’s beaches dotted along the East Portlemouth side are among the finest on the south coast and an irresistible family attraction. If you’re anchored off, they are literally within a stone’s throw. Rowing ashore in the evening when the crowds have returned to Salcombe is one of the great delights on offer.


Barbecuing fresh-caught fish is one of the delights on offer in Cornwall. Photo: A-Plus Image Bank / Alamy

To be fair, Salcombe has done well to maintain its sanity under the pressure of well-heeled tourism and Island Street has evolved into an attractive artisan-style shopping experience.

The relatively new Salcombe Gin Distillery shouldn’t be missed with its excellent balcony bar and tasting opportunities. If you’re completely weatherbound – and I don’t mean that metaphorically – you can even sign up for a Gin School Lesson.

Sail and walk

As with every anchorage and harbour you visit in the West Country, the South West Coast Path will be close at hand. This magnificent National Trust asset offers the perfect opportunity to stretch your legs. On the East Portlemouth side, your targets should include the traditional and quirky Pig’s Nose pub at East Prawle and the much more modern Gara Rock restaurant which you’ll come across en route. Both are excellent.

But the more spectacular walking can be found on Salcombe’s west side. The coast path takes you through remarkable rocky outcrops over Bolt Head en route to Hope Cove offering constant unmatched views.

If, or should I say when, you’re struggling west against that prevailing wind, think Cawsand and Kingsand, the twin villages on the Rame peninsula, as alternatives to Plymouth itself or the tight entrance at Newton Ferrers.

If you’re waiting for a westerly to clear through, the crystal clear waters off Cawsand tucked under the wooded shore offer great shelter and the pubs by the beach are welcoming. Even in a westerly gale it’s like a millpond and you’ll be perfectly poised when the wind direction changes.

A trip up the Tamar takes you past the Devonport Naval Dockyard with its fascinating four-mile river frontage under the two suspension bridges, the railway bridge being one of Brunel’s masterpieces. Then up to Cargreen, well worth a diversion that will deliver you from a harsh urban landscape to unspoiled, soft countryside in a matter of minutes.


Waiting for a fair wind in Weymouth. Photo: David Glenn

Fowey – a convenient place from which to take a taxi to the Eden Project – and Polruan, opposite, are quintessential West Country stops and shouldn’t be missed before visiting Falmouth and the outstanding River Fal.

With its burgeoning university, commercial docks, Pendennis Shipyard, the Maritime Museum and a very colourful high street, Falmouth bustles like no other West Country destination. You can pick up a Falmouth Harbour Commission mooring and hang out off the town and the famous Chain Locker pub (recently redeveloped but with the bar reassembled as original) watching the world go by, including the Falmouth working boats sailing on and off their moorings.

Away from it all

But for a bit more peace, head up river and either anchor in the mouth of Channal Creek beneath the National Trust’s Trelissick Garden or on one of the excellent municipal pontoons further upstream below and above the King Harry Ferry. These are special places on a warm moonlit night – totally unspoilt with only the rising fish disturbing the glassy calm.


Photo: Ian Woolcock / Alamy

Further west, the River Helford is fiendishly crowded with moorings, but there’s plenty of good anchoring space off Durgan, although it can become uncomfortable in an easterly. It’s a great launch pad for an assault on The Lizard and beyond to the Isles of Scilly. In the right conditions – settled with no threat of fog – this mesmeric archipelago is bound to seduce you. Eventually, you’ll get the hang of the pilotage and seek out the more remote anchorages.

For some the Isles of Scilly are considered the Holy Grail of a West Country cruise, but in reality it’s just part of one of the most remarkable cruising grounds in Europe and, arguably, far beyond.

Leave your boat or change crew: Plymouth and Falmouth, both with good rail connections. Falmouth Harbour Commission moorings here are excellent, sheltered, very reasonable and security checked regularly.

Dont miss: The excellent National Maritime Museum in Falmouth.

Dont forget: Prawning net, stout mackerel trolling line with planing board, large saucepan for boiling crab/lobster, good pushpit barbecue, fender board for drying out alongside, lead line for use in dinghy, small dinghy anchor, wetsuit, body or surf board, walking boots…

Best adventure: Hire a bike in Plymouth and cycle to Dartmoor. Inter-island pilotage in the Isles of Scilly. Go right to the navigable head of the Tamar.


Totnes on the River Dart. Photo: Kevin Britland / Alamy

River Dart

Top navigator Mike Broughton loves this micro adventure

In summer I live in Dartmouth (Kingswear, to be exact) and my favourite adventurous home waters cruising ground is upriver on the River Dart. It’s the most amazing, picturesque river, hardly spoiled by time or tourists.

In an anchorages three miles up the river at Dittisham you can still find a depth of 16m at low water, thatched ‘smugglers’ cottages’ only accessible by boat, top dining and the ‘proper pub’ Ferry Boat Inn.

Head another two miles up river, you find Bow Creek and now you have to work the tides. Here you can glide along the wooded creek to Tuckenhay, usually not passing another boat, and enjoy more hostelries. It is a magical scene, over half a mile wide in places and is still great for Swallows and Amazons-style camping. Any boat, stand-up paddleboard, or kayak will do.


Aerial view of St Mary’s from the south-west. Photo: Peter Cumberlidge

Isles of Scilly

This other-worldly, miniature archipelago sits out on the edge of the North Atlantic yet, warmed by the Gulf Stream, boasts sub-tropical gardens and turquoise bays over white sand. It is one of columnist and weather expert Chris Tibbss favourite cruising grounds.

I love the Scilly Islands. It can be tricky getting there and may involve moving anchorages as the weather changes, but on a good day it is beautiful.

There are beaches that rival the Caribbean and quiet, unspoilt islands with few (if any) cars. Add great sea food and long summer days and it has everything.

Tides are large so it does make for tricky navigation but a different anchorage can be found each night, so it’s well worth the effort. Interestingly, there are often more French boats there than British!


Tresco Abbey Gardens. Photo: Peter Cumberlidge

Dont miss: Tresco Abbey Gardens, a 19th century creation around the ruins of a Benedictine Abbey that has sub-tropical plants from around the world.

Dont forget: A good, seaworthy tender for exploring the bays and shore expeditions. Good anchor and ground tackle – don’t rely on getting a mooring buoy.

The post Destination inspiration: Epic summer adventures right on your doorstep appeared first on Yachting World.

What’s the optimum Fastnet route? Navigator Ian Moore crunches the weather data to find out (16 Jul 2019, 8:25 am)

It's too early for a detailed weather forecast for this year's Rolex Fastnet Race, but navigator Ian Moore has crunched some historical data to work out what, statistically, should be the optimum route. And he found some surprising things...

With tricky tides, imposing headlands and the vagaries of the British summer weather to contend with, the Rolex Fastnet Race is as much about tactics as it is about boat speed. Expert navigator Ian Moore takes a detailed look at possible Fastnet routes based on real weather data over five years.

Weather study

Everyone knows that the Fastnet Race is a beat out to the Rock and a run home, but we decided to test the theory with a weather study. Most weather studies – such as those conducted for the Volvo Ocean Race – are compiled using historical weather data and routeing software. This allows you to sail a virtual race thousands of times through weather data that fairly represents real weather features such as fronts, highs and lows, and the intertropical convergence zone.

ian moore copy

Ian Moore is a pro navigator

The optimum paths are determined by calculating courses through the moving and evolving weather features in much the same way as an actual race would be sailed.

By making progressive adjustments to a boat’s polar, the designer can compare performance results on literally hundreds of candidate sail and rating combinations in a relatively short time by sailing through all the various weather patterns.

This approach has been used for many years and studies have contributed to significant design breakthroughs in the Volvo Ocean Race, TransPac and Vendée Globe. Many such studies are performed using a software package known as The Router, written and maintained by Michael Richelsen of North Sails.

Richelsen originally developed his package for the Illbruck Challenge campaign, which went on to win the 2001-02 Volvo. Since that time, Richelsen’s work has been used by most of the Volvo teams, paired with historical weather data provided by Sailing Weather Service of the USA.

Using historical data

For our analysis, Chris Bedford, chief meteorologist at Sailing Weather Service, provided us with a subset from their global historical data set which extends back to 1979. Wind data is provided at six-hour intervals on a 0.25° latitude by 0.25° longitude grid – nearly three times the resolution of a commonly used public-domain forecast model, the GFS from the US National Weather Service.

6871_3_FSTN07cb_1998 copy

This data is far superior to a forecast model since it uses data and analyses that are not available to forecast models. The finer resolution also allows a truer representation of winds associated with local circulations such as sea and land breezes, and geographic effects.

However, even at this scale, some of the most interesting local effects are too small to be resolved. While retrospective data sets down to 1km resolution are available, the resources needed for such analysis exceeded the capacity of our study.

Lucky – a TP52. Credit: Kurt Arrigo/Rolex

Lucky – a TP52. Photo: Kurt Arrigo/Rolex

We chose a TP52 and a Bénéteau 40.7 as our two trial horses and for each boat we made ten runs in each year’s data, five days either side of the 2011 start date, a total of 50 runs for each boat. The result produces 100 optimum routes to the Fastnet Rock.

Having crunched the numbers, we found the data supports an earth-shattering conclusion: it’s a beat to the Rock and a run home!

In fact, statistically it’s more likely to be a beat to the Rock than it is to be a run to the finish. Some 77 per cent of the miles sailed on the outward leg had the wind forward of 80° TWA while only 67 per cent of the miles sailed on the return leg were abaft 100° TWA.

Fastnet Graph 1

This is, of course, because of the predominant westerly wind direction. In the optimum routeing 72 per cent of the miles were sailed in winds between north-west and south-west and only nine per cent between north-east and south-east. This left about ten per cent apiece for a northerly or southerly.

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Not windy

The good news is – and I can’t believe I’m committing this to paper – that it shouldn’t be that windy, though the study results are mean wind speeds at 10m and don’t include gusts.

What this means in reality is when the model says you will have six knots, then you will probably have about six knots or less. When the model says 22 knots, you are more likely to have 25 knots at the masthead and gusts to 30 are possible.

Fastnet Graph 2

The study showed 75 per cent of the miles should be between six and 18 knots (at 10m), and only six per cent over 22 knots. The return leg is a fraction windier, with almost eight per cent of the miles over 22 knots, predominantly because all the analyses show the windiest section of the race is the leg across the Celtic Sea to the Rock.

If we compare the distributions for the different boats, they are really quite similar. The outbound legs are identical, but the return leg shows some variation mostly due to the polar performance at reaching angles.

The 40.7 is comparatively slow spinnaker reaching and spends slightly more time reaching at 80-120° (bring a jib top) than the TP52, which prefers the A3 at 120-140° TWA.

The routes themselves are a bit more interesting, in particular the proliferation of offshore routes. Historically, it is just windier in the middle of the Channel than it is along the shore.

None of the routes goes into Lyme Bay. The study highlights this as a black hole, an area of particularly light wind. So there seems little merit in playing this bay.

Between Start Point and the Lizard there are a few more inshore routes as this is more likely to be a sea breeze section of the course, but they are still outnumbered by the rhumb line or offshore routes.

From Land’s End to the Rock there are more optimum routes to the north of the rhumbline than to the south, but there is little to infer from the data. This leg is historically an even racetrack, so go either side for pressure or shift.

The same is true for the leg back to Land’s End, but after Bishop’s Rock we see a great many more routes approaching the finish from offshore than along the coastline.

Fastnet Graph 3

Weather studies are normally done in the design phase of a new boat or to help design a sail wardrobe, but in this case we are using it to try to understand the racetrack. When it comes to the race itself, we will all make our decisions based not on a weather study, but on the best forecast we have at the time.

However, perhaps this will give you confidence when the navigator insists he wants to go offshore or make you think twice before you tack into Lyme Bay.

The post What’s the optimum Fastnet route? Navigator Ian Moore crunches the weather data to find out appeared first on Yachting World.

5 tips: How to manage fatigue when sailing offshore (15 Jul 2019, 8:02 am)

Andy Rice talks to Vendée Globe and Volvo Ocean Race sailor Jérémie Beyou about how to manage fatigue and avoid exhaustion when racing offshore

Leg 8 from Itajai To Newport. Day 2 on board Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag. Ben Piggott asleep. 23 April, 2018.

It’s all very well refining every detail of your boat – re-cutting sails, longboarding your hull – but what is the point of any of that attention to detail if you don’t spend as least as much effort on yourself? Nearly every offshore sailor has a story about when they fell asleep at the wrong moment in a race, or became so tired that they started hallucinating.

Multiple Figaro winner and IMOCA sailor Jérémie Beyou has fallen the wrong side of ‘too tired’ before, but has learnt from experience that it’s not worth the risk, and it’s not the way to win. Here are his five tips for managing fatigue and maintaining peak performance during a long offshore race.

1. Stay warm and dry

Although the newer foiling IMOCAs are much faster when they’re foiling, surprisingly they’re less wet because you’re actually flying above the water. With the older IMOCAs, or particularly the Volvo Ocean 65s, they’re wet across the deck nearly all the time. Whatever kind of boat you sail, it’s vital to stay dry. And I mean stay dry not just from the water, but from your own sweat. I have worn gear that isn’t properly breathable and when you’re working hard and start sweating, there is a risk of the body getting too cold once you stop working and start cooling down again.

On all of my own campaigns I choose Musto; I have tried almost every other brand at some point, but Musto’s ocean trousers are the best on the market for sure. I tend to wear a small and lightweight GoreTex jacket on the new IMOCA because the cockpit is quite well protected so I don’t need the full wet weather gear all the time when I’m on deck. For me, using GoreTex breathable clothing is a must; the body has to breathe, because it will keep you dry and longer term it will make it much less likely for you to pick up skin infections.

Jérémie Beyou training on Charal at Port La Foret in Lorient, Brittany. Photo: Eloi Stichelbaut / ALEA

2. Sleep little and often

You know you’ve been going too long without sleep when you hear strange noises in your ears. For me, it’s a whistling noise, and if I hear that sound, I know I’ve already left it too late. Before you reach the point of hallucination or whistling in your ears, you have to stop. You have to rest.

I actually find it easier to sleep when I’m sailing solo, than when I’m part of a crew in a watch system. When you’re single-handed, you get to choose when you sleep, whereas I find it difficult to adapt to sleeping on my off-watch.

Overall of course, in a watch system on a crewed boat you have more opportunity to sleep. When you’re racing single-handed you grab short naps of 10 to 12 minutes here and there, sleeping in your sailing kit so you’re ready to respond to an emergency. This is why it’s so important to wear clothing that is comfortable, breathable and warm.

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3. Take a ‘long’ sleep

Fortunately, the older I get the less sleep I seem to need. Most of the time the key is to grab short sleeps, little and often. But once every two or three days, the body needs a full recharge. The trouble is, if the weather is bad or there’s a lot going on, you can’t always sleep when you want to – not when you’re solo.

So before the start, it’s important to identify a period on the routing where it looks like conditions will be stable and where you can grab the opportunity for a longer sleep lasting around 90 minutes, up to two hours. For these moments, you take off your sailing clothes, go to your bunk, and get some real, deep sleep. It’s a good idea to set an alarm, but usually you wake up before. Getting some deeper sleep every few days is vital for your health and wellbeing.

4. Keep a ‘self-tuning’ log

You can’t afford to start the race tired, because the start is always quick and an important period in the race. So you have to be focused and fully rested beforehand. I have a good understanding of my body’s requirements because I register my sleeping cycle with a doctor every two or three years, to see if my pace has changed or not.

This involves a number of tests of concentration and reflexes, exercises with lights and noises where you push buttons as quick as you can. We do these exercises on a normal day, after sailing, after sport, so we have quite a few numbers and data. This data is useful to make sure my mind and body are on track during the build-up to a race.

5. Lay off the coffee

Don’t drink too much coffee, because while it’s good in the short-term, all stimulants have their after-effect. I’ve never tried caffeine pills or any other kind of drug for keeping me awake, and I don’t intend to start.

The best thing you can do is make sure you start the race not too stressed. I don’t try to get into a different sleep pattern before the race, I simply use my time on shore to get as much good quality sleep as possible. The most important thing is to make sure you are in good shape physically, with normal food intake. Make sure you start the race confident in your boat, and confident in yourself, mentally and physically.

About the expert

Jérémie Beyou is skipper of the foiling IMOCA 60 Charal. The French veteran hopes this will be the boat that powers him to victory in the next Vendée Globe, having finished 3rd in the most recent edition. A three-time winner of the Solitaire du Figaro circuit, the 42-year-old has also competed in the Volvo Ocean Race, as part of the victorious crew aboard Dongfeng Race Team last year.

The post 5 tips: How to manage fatigue when sailing offshore appeared first on Yachting World.

Top female skippers to watch in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race  (12 Jul 2019, 12:34 pm)

Women sailors make up around a tenth of the Rolex Fastnet Fleet, but there are some big players and inspiring stories amongst them. Here are some female skippers and crews to watch in this year's race

The entry list for the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race is shaping up to be just over 10% women sailors. While this is a long way from the level of equality that the sport should be aiming for, it is at least a big improvement from some two decades ago, when female skippers and crew made up less than 5% of the entry.

To date only one female skipper has won the Fastnet Race – French ocean racer Catherine Chabaud on her IMOCA 60 Whirlpool-Europe 2 in 1999. Dona Bertarelli also took line honours in both 2013 and 2015 with her partner Yann Guichard on board the 40m maxi trimaran Spindrift 2.

Here are some of the female sailors to watch in this year’s Fastnet Race:

Sam Davies (GBR), IMOCA 60 Initiative Coeurs

One of the most high profile and accomplished sailors in the race – male or female – is ocean racer Sam Davies, 44. Davies is back for a second Fastnet Race aboard her IMOCA 60 Inititiative Coeurs, although she has done many more on other campaigns.

Her IMOCA is newly fitted with new lifting foils in readiness for next year’s Vendée Globe, and she will race doublehanded with Paul Meilhat, winner of the IMOCA 60 class in the last Route du Rhum.

Davies feels there is still a long way to go with increasing women’s participation in the Fastnet, but she opposes requiring boats in the Fastnet Race to sail with a quota of women (as, for example, in the last Volvo Ocean Race).

“It shouldn’t be forced because the Fastnet isn’t any old race and you need to be capable. There is no point in just taking more women for the sake of taking them. It is important that the women who do it are team players in each crew, that they are there on the crew to do their job and do it well.”

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When it comes to solo ocean racing, women have historically achieved more success on the same playing field as men compared to any other discipline within sailing. Davies believes this is because it is more a reflection of mental strength and endurance than physical strength.

“If you do a short 24 hour race, it is harder to stay competitive because of all the manoeuvres, but the further you go offshore and longer the race, and the more it is about pushing your body to its limits, the more equal it becomes.

“Your manoeuvres take longer, but it is about your mental strength and doing things at the right time and not getting so tired that your brain stops working. If you are good at the endurance side, you can get your priorities right and you can make big gains.”

While there were no female skippers in the last Vendée Globe, there could be as many as seven in the next race in 2020. Of these three will be British: Davies, Miranda Merron, and Pip Hare, all of whom are competing in the 2019 Fastnet in the IMOCA 60 class. Other female sailors in the IMOCA class are Alexia Barrier racing with Ireland’s Joan Mulloy on board4myplanet; Clarisse Crémer, who is co-skippering Banque Populaire with Vendée Globe winner Armel le Cleac’h, and Isabelle Joschke on MACSF.

Hannah Diamond (GBR), Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300 Fastrak XII 

Having completed the Volvo Ocean Race last year, Hannah Diamond, 29, will be racing on the brand new Fastrak XII, a Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300. UK Jeanneau importers Sea Ventures has lent the Sun Fast 3200 to Diamond (ex-Vestas 11th Hour Racing) and Henry Bomby, who sailed with Dee Caffari on Turn the Tide on Plastic in the Volvo Ocean Race.

The long-term aim of Diamond and Bomby’s partnership is to campaign for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in the new ‘Mixed Two Person Offshore Keelboat’ class.

The new 3300 is designed by Daniel Andrieu and Guillaume Verdier to be sailed doublehanded with twin rudders as standard, optional twin 200lt water ballast tanks, plus IRC-friendly features such as a fin keel.

“We haven’t had to change it much for the Fastnet,” explains Diamond. “Everything is led back to the cockpit nicely. It has water ballast, which makes a massive difference with only two of you on board. There are lots of different sail configurations and it is very manageable with just two people.”

Diamond recognises that she became involved in the sport at a time when opportunities have been opening up for women sailors. “I have been fortunate with the timing, but I hope I have appreciated the opportunity enough to keep going forwards on my own merit.

“In the Volvo Ocean Race I got to sail thousands of miles with people I would never have otherwise have had the opportunity to sail with, people who I can now call my friends because they were my team mates – that is much bigger in terms of moving forwards with opportunities. Without the Volvo Ocean Race you never would have had the opportunity to sail alongside them and to gain their respect.

“But it is not easy for anyone. It is a privilege to be involved in professional sailing at a top level, regardless of whether you are male or female. It is easy to forget that we are incredibly fortunate that what we grew up doing as a hobby we have been able to turn into our profession.”

Kirsten Harmstorf-Schönwitz (GER), DK46 Tutima

Past Fastnet Races have seen plenty of all-female crews, and this year is no exception with a first from Germany in the DK46 Tutima, skippered by Kirsten Harmstorf-Schönwitz. Kirsten has been leading all-female teams for the last 25 years, predominantly inshore in the ORC fleet.

Dillon believes that one advantage of all-female teams is that it provides the opportunity for women to move around the boat. “They can helm when they might not get the opportunity to do so otherwise. It is a great thing to give people the opportunity to step up into roles they might not otherwise get to do.”

Felicity ‘Flic’ Gabbay (GBR), Elan 380 Elixir

‘Flic’ Gabbay, 67, proves that you don’t need to start offshore racing in your youth – she got into yacht racing in her 50s but has since competed in the Fastnet Race five times, three on her own Elan 380.

“I bought Elixir specifically just to do three races – the two handed Round Britain and Ireland, the Azores and Back and the Fastnet. But I have gone on racing her!” she says.

One of her Fastnets on Elixir was fully crewed, the other two doublehanded. “They both have their challenges. I think two handed is more challenging in terms of stamina obviously, but less challenging in terms of managing a crew. The reason I raced her in one Fastnet fully crewed, with a scratch crew, some of whom had never raced offshore before, was to prove to myself that I was capable of being an effective and fully responsible, fully crewed skipper.”

Gabbay firmly believes that women’s participation in offshore sailing should be encouraged. “We also need to make sure that people understand that as you get older it doesn’t stop you being able to compete.

“In the AZAB and RB&IR, I was co-skipper two handed with relatively little experience and came fourth overall in both races. I think there are few sports where you can compete at that level as an older woman. I would like people to know that. It is really important and I don’t think there is anything particularly brave or mad about me!”

The post Top female skippers to watch in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race  appeared first on Yachting World.

Fastnet Race 1979: Life and death decision – Matthew Sheahan’s story (12 Jul 2019, 7:57 am)

In 1979 Matthew Sheahan, aged 17, was racing his father’s yacht Grimalkin in the Fastnet Race. After being rolled, pitchpoled, battered and half drowned, and believing the rest of the crew to be dead, he and two others had to make a crucial decision

The helicopter crew leave Grimalkin after cutting the mast and rigging free. Photo: A Besley / Royal Navy

At 0830 Tuesday 14 August 1979, aged 17, five minutes changed my life. Five minutes that, despite the stress of the previous six hours, would encapsulate the most extreme emotional highs and lows that I would ever experience. Five minutes that would be stretched to the longest minutes of the night and culminate in the most important decision I would ever make to this day – a decision that would need to be made in the most testing conditions. And a decision that I would feel forced to justify three decades later.

During what turned out to be the wildest and most destructive night in yacht racing history, our six-man crew aboard Grimalkin, a 30ft Nicholson half tonner, saw conditions deteriorate rapidly as we headed out across the Celtic Sea on our way to the Fastnet Rock.

Aboard were my father, David Sheahan, Gerry Winks, Mike Doyle, Nick Ward, Dave Wheeler and myself. All had experience of offshore racing, all had raced together aboard Grimalkin for most of the season through a variety of what we thought were testing conditions, yet none of us had any idea how far we would be pressed during the next few hours.


My father and I on Grimalkin‘s first offshore race to Cherbourg after taking delivery of her in the autumn of 1978. Photo: Matthew Sheahan

The first knockdown was a shock to the system, a one-off, an extreme incident that, like lightning striking twice, was impossible to imagine happening again. But when it did, time after time, it was clear that our focus had changed from racing to survival.

As we careered down the perilously steep face of a yet another mountainous wave it was clear this was going to be a big one – at best a terrifying white knuckle ride, at worst the end of our night. Within a few seconds our boat speed leapt from a lethargic amble in the trough of the wave to a thundering plane as the wave pitched us head first into the invisible trough 40-60ft below.

Running down what felt like a vertical wave under bare poles in the dark while trailing multiple warps, there was nothing we could do to slow down. As the log wound itself up like the rev counter on an engine that has just been floored, a pair of huge white bow waves arced out from each side, providing a V-shaped wall of water ahead.

The continual howl of the storm was deafening, but the rumble and hiss generated by this outrageous burst of speed rose above the background. A soul-chilling surge of fear swept through all of us as we heard the terrifying sound of a breaking wave 40ft above us.


Grimalkin was a Nicholson half tonner, designed by Ron Holland and built by Camper & Nicholsons. Photo: Beken of Cowes

In just a few seconds the 10ft high foaming crest was bearing down on us from behind like an avalanche. We dared not look back. There was no escape.

As time slowed down before the inevitable crash, the most terrifying aspect of our predicament was the realisation that we had no more options. There was simply nowhere to go.

Any attempt to steer along the face of the wave was futile and would have meant a knockdown and tonnes of foaming water cascading onto the boat.

Having been knocked down repeatedly and the crew thrown into the water, we’d already been there several times during the night.


We braced ourselves for the pooping of our lives, but a split second before the onslaught from astern, the bow disappeared as we nosedived into a wall of water in front. No one had seen that coming, not that it would have done any good if they had.

As the bow submarined into this secondary wave, Grimalkin’s stern rose until it arced over the bow and stood us on our nose. As we approached the vertical, crew were thrown against the back of the coachroof or out of the boat altogether. A split second later and we were hit from astern by the breaking wave and we pitchpoled.

Solid water and bubbles rushed past my face, my limbs streamed out as I was towed underwater like a mackerel spinner by my harness line. I had no idea which way was up, where the boat was, or what would happen next. Helpless, overpowered and overwhelmed, when your predicament gets to this stage your mind goes into an alien state where fear is replaced with resignation. But, as I was to discover three hours later, this clearly wasn’t my time yet.


How the Daily Star reported the 1979 Fastnet Race disaster

Seconds later I broke the surface, trailing alongside the boat, spluttering, thrashing around and desperate to get hold of anything connected to the boat. Although she had righted herself, Grimalkin was now starting to accelerate down the face of another wave.

I don’t really know what happened next other than somehow I managed to get back aboard. As I scrambled back on deck, I could hear shouting, but in the dark, the noise and the drama of the conditions it was impossible to work out who was saying what.

As I tried to make sense of the situation I looked aft to see a pair of hands clutching one of the vertical legs of the pushpit. It was Dave Wheeler hanging on, struggling to keep his head above the quarter wave. As the stern pitched and heaved, somehow we pulled him back aboard.

I sat there and looked at him and for a reason I still don’t understand, ran my hand down his harness line to find his carbine hook floating free, detached from the boat. Both of us went numb with shock.


The winchman from a Wessex V helicopter goes into the water to rescue a survivor from Camargue. Photo: Royal Navy

Until this moment, running with the seas had been slightly more comfortable, safer even, than trying to reach across them or lie ahull where we felt like a sitting duck waiting for yet another breaking crest to roll us on our side, sometimes through 360°.

Sailing downhill reduced the apparent windspeed, reduced heeling and provided a degree of manoeuvrability that allowed us to dodge the terrifying breaking crests. The trouble was that at speed and with waves coming from all directions – now the breeze had swung through 90° – the potential for a major pile up was greatly increased.

The reality was that until now we had simply been lucky, most of the breakers had rolled past us on either side – just. On this point of sail there was no skill in avoiding the waves, we were simply playing a game of Russian roulette. And when the bullet and the barrel lined up, the waves that struck us broadside had simply laid us flat or rolled us, ejecting the crew into the sea.

Running out of options

That was frightening and risky enough, but the pitchpole that we had just experienced was all the more distressing as it drove home the unpleasant truth that we were fast running out of options. What else could we try? How much more could we take? How much more could our boat withstand and how much more water below decks would it take to see her start to sink?

As we took knock after knock, thinking beyond the next 60 seconds seemed impossible. Tired, cold and hypothermic, just responding to our surroundings second by second was the best our six-man crew could achieve. Our ability to make rational decisions was being impaired rapidly.

Even the simplest things were becoming difficult. I remember that, despite recognising the various components of zip on my oilskin jacket, I just couldn’t work out how to do it up.

But, over the course of the next few hours, life was about to become far more taxing and present the most serious dilemma I have ever experienced.

The post Fastnet Race 1979: Life and death decision – Matthew Sheahan’s story appeared first on Yachting World.

Andrew Bishop profile: Meeting the man behind the ARC rallies (11 Jul 2019, 8:04 am)

Elaine Bunting meets the man behind the ARC rally, whose ideas shape so many cruising dreams

Photo: Paul Wyeth

Do you know this man? Some will barely recognise Andrew Bishop, though his name may ring a bell. Yet others know not only who he is, but clamour to stop him on the street or the dock, usually to ask him a question or glean some vital piece of information.

Andrew Bishop is ‘Mr ARC’, the man behind the world’s most popular cruising rallies and seminars. He has quietly shaped modern cruising, and made ocean voyaging accessible to sailors from around the world, providing a runway to launch people’s most ambitious dreams.

Building on the vision he inherited from ARC founder Jimmy Cornell, he has maintained the ethos, but styled it in his own way. His upbringing and early career explain a good deal about his reserve and self-discipline, and also his meticulous care about getting the detail just right.

An only child, he was taken sailing as a youngster by his father, who kept an Angus Primose-designed quarter tonner in Chichester Harbour. Robin Bishop was keen on offshore racing, and regularly took part in Channel races. Andrew first did the Fastnet Race with him aged 15, in the family’s Nicholson 30.


A young Andrew Bishop with his father, Robin, in Chichester Harbour

A love of sailing was fanned further during schooldays at Gordonstoun, the character-building Scottish public school famous for educating Prince Charles and infamous for its bracing cold showers. “Yes there were cold showers,” Bishop admits, “but they were after a hot shower and the theory was the cold would close the pores.”

School activities included a week of seamanship. “We had to cycle to the harbour and have lessons in the boatyard – there was no minibus to take us down to a warm changing room. Then we went out in one of the two cutters that the school owned and rowed out to make sail. It was teaching us self-sufficiency.”

Here, too, he developed a love for navigation, especially astronav – he took an O-level in navigation – and befriended Adam Gosling. They remain close friends to this day; Gosling is a well-known businessman and top Solent-based sailor who has been a backer of World Cruising and is still on the company’s board.

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In his last year at school, Bishop applied for a Royal Navy university cadetship and says he was “partly surprised to be offered it.” His first job was as a seaman officer, working in Hong Kong. Here his navigation skills were honed by a commanding officer who liked to put his navigators under pressure by threading his patrol craft through narrow channels. “That taught me a lot,” Bishop says laconically.

Following two years in Hong Kong, he was posted to Scotland as flag lieutenant to Vice Admiral Sir George Vallings, who was in charge of all the naval establishments in Scotland and Northern Ireland. His new boss was also a keen sailor, and in 1973 had skippered the Joint Services Nicholson 55 Adventure on part of first Whitbread round-the-world race. The post gave Bishop “a real understanding of how the Navy works.”


Bishop during his career in the Royal Navy

Following this, Bishop took a frigate navigation course. He spent two years with HMS Liverpool, a Type 42 destroyer, but then began having doubts about continuing in the Navy. He felt the constraints of the service were hampering him personally and professionally, and in 1989 he quit.

He was considering applying to do an MBA when his father floated a more expansive idea. Robin Bishop’s dream was to sail across the Atlantic in his Freedom 39 schooner, Tamasina. Why didn’t Andrew delay his plans for a year and come and join him on the adventure?

So the same year, father, son and friends cruised south from the UK and joined the ARC rally, then on only its fourth edition. The transatlantic rally had been started in 1986 by Jimmy Cornell, and was becoming a magnet for ambitious cruising sailors.


At the helm of Tamasina in the 1989 ARC rally

Sailing in the ARC proved unwittingly to be the turning point in what had, until then, been a conventional background. One incident above all caused Andrew Bishop to rethink what he would do with his life.

Halfway across the Atlantic he had been working on the foredeck, about to set the main staysail. The boat was sailing downwind, wing and wing. A preventer had been rigged, but when a wave caught the transom it picked the boat up and the boom swung over, hitting Bishop on the back of the head and flinging him across the boat.

“The next thing I remember was lying down below in my bunk with a severe headache,” he recalls.

Later, while spending Christmas on board, Bishop heard that Jimmy Cornell was looking for someone to help him run Europa 92, the first ever round-the-world cruising rally. “The rally would be going to lots of places that I hadn’t been to and after the change in direction in my career and my mid-Atlantic experience it appealed to me. It became more important to me to have fun.”

So he went to see Jimmy Cornell, had an interview with him and got the job of rally operations manager. He ran the round-the-world rally, travelling with the fleet across the Pacific, Indian Ocean and north through the Red Sea. The organisational and logistical skills Bishop had learned in the Navy, as well as an exceptionally cool head under pressure, were (and still are) a characteristic asset.

With other Atlantic rallies running simultaneously, and the relentless pace of travelling taking its toll, the relationship with Jimmy Cornell eventually began to fray. It reached boiling point in the Azores, where they were running a rally from the Caribbean to Europe. When I ask what happened, Bishop says simply: “I was fired.

“I wrote a long letter to Adam [Gosling] and I was critical of Jimmy. I had faxed it from the hotel and afterwards they put it back in my pigeonhole. When Jimmy came in he saw it there and asked for it. The hotel gave it to him and he read it. He lost it and he fired me.”

Jeremy Wyatt, now a co-director at World Cruising Club, and then also working on the rally, responded to the sacking by saying: “If Andrew leaves, so do I.” So they both went.


Co-director of World Cruising, Jeremy Wyatt. Photo: Paul Wyeth

Back in the UK, the two promptly started up their own rally business with an event circumnavigating Britain. But they were to remain intertwined with Cornell’s business for many more years. “The events we were running were small and we needed a bigger one. The ARC was obviously key to World Cruising and we thought maybe we could have a merger and take it over. I knew that Jimmy wanted to retire and I started talking to him about that.”

The discussions were “well down the road” but Bishop’s backers would not agree the eventual valuation, and a deal fell through. “Then I came up with a solution, and that was to suggest that Jeremy and I were given full-time jobs for six months so long as we could relocate to Cowes. We would get an understanding of how the business worked. From January 1997 we all worked together.

“Then, that summer, he dropped a bombshell: he told us he was going to do a management buyout. We had spent a year negotiating and the thought of being part of that did not fill us with joy and so we declined the offer.” But someone else was interested: Sir Chay Blyth. Then looking for a way to diversity his Challenge Business from its ‘wrong way’ round the world race, Sir Chay bought the events, convinced he could find a sponsor for the ARC.

Bishop and Wyatt continued with Challenge Business. It was the opportunity they had been waiting for to put their stamp on the rallies. Among other changes, they introduced seminars to help prepare for ocean cruising.

But by 2004 Challenge Business was in trouble. Corporate sponsorship was drying up and the final wrong way round the world race in 2004 was run without a title sponsor. Chay Blyth’s business was under real financial pressure and began to offload assets, including World Cruising. This time, Bishop was able to agree a deal, and in just two weeks. “Jeremy and I finally achieved what we’d attempted to do 10 years earlier,” he says.

Since that day in 2006, the ARC has continued going from strength to strength. It marched undented past the financial crisis in 2008 and annually fills to capacity. Its resilience has several strands. For one thing, it attracts a varied international fleet, which mitigates a dip in numbers from any one country.


Watching the start of the 2018 ARC

Bishop and Wyatt also continually look for ways of improving the experience of taking part and build on what works; they do not chase wild new ideas. They have never attempted to find title sponsorship for the ARC, however lucrative an idea that might seem.

“We continue to enhance what we deliver. We don’t get much feedback from people wanting us to do something different. Our team go to great lengths to prepare the rally handbooks, make sure all the information participants get is accurate,” Bishop says.

The ARC continues to grow, so much so that last year Bishop’s team launched a third route option finishing in St Vincent. It also runs the ARC+ to St Lucia via the Cape Verdes. A revived idea that has worked well for World Cruising is the World ARC circumnavigation. This event now runs annually, allowing crews to leave in Australia or New Zealand for a season before rejoining the following year. It is also usually filled to capacity.

Why is it so popular? For one thing, deadlines make things happen. And the information that World Cruising provides – the knowledge, the handbook, the seminars – make it very much easier than it used to be to find out what you need to know to go. Over three decades, World Cruising Club has demystified ocean cruising, and unriddled what was once something of a black art.

They continue to look at information and services that cruising sailors need. In 2008, they bought Jimmy Cornell’s cruising website Noonsite, which reports on news and information from ports and cruising areas round the world, and launched Ocean Crew Link, a platform to link up boat owners and crew.


Bishop’s own yacht, a replica of Slocum’s Spray

Once, Andrew Bishop dreamed of sailing round the world, following in the wake of Joshua Slocum, and in 1996 he launched his own boat, a replica of Slocum’s yacht Spray. He keeps her in Scotland, an area that has his heart. “The peace and tranquillity are my ideal. I love the remoteness, the beauty, the challenging sailing, the tranquillity, the starkness and the wildlife,” he says.

As for sailing Spray around the world, he says: “I don’t know any more. Life changes. Responsibilities change. I don’t have the same burning desire to sail round the world as I once had. I’m lucky I’ve been to so many of the places.”

It was while covering the first round the world rally for Yachting World all those years ago that I first met Andrew, and he has become a valued friend. He is very private person, who has no need of the limelight. You’d never term him ‘larger than life’, and in the marine business that’s something of a rarity. He takes very seriously the ambitions of rally participants and cherishes the family ethos of his events. For many of the young people who have worked for him seasonally, he has been a champion and mentor.

He may be less well known than some of the rock stars of the sport, but Andrew Bishop has shaped the sailing of many thousands of crews covering millions of miles. Of all the influential figures in sailing, this quiet and serious-minded man may well be a dream-maker for more people than anyone else.

Bishop’s advice for ocean cruising

  • Know your boat system – and by that I mean understand the user manuals, the plumbing and wiring runs and how the boat is put together. That is time well banked for when you go.
  • Fit extra equipment in good time so it’s been used and you are not operating it for the first time on your trip.
  • Seek compatible crew, which means sailing with them before you set off and knowing that you can live on board together in a small space. You should ensure that your skills complement each other and you’re not too heavy in one area.
  • Give some thought to how you are going to enjoy your time at sea. For example, what food are you going to feed your crew? Listen to their likes and dislikes. Make your victualling thoughtful.
  • Use a tried and tested watchkeeping routine that everybody understands and feels is fair and right. Be sympathetic to people’s different body rhythms.
  • Have a plan, but be prepared to be flexible. For example, be prepared to add different or extra stops on the route you are planning to sail or change your direction of travel because of the weather. Remember, you are there to enjoy your voyage.
  • Don’t be overambitious with your sails or drive your boat too hard. It is always better to arrive safely.

The post Andrew Bishop profile: Meeting the man behind the ARC rallies appeared first on Yachting World.

Navigation briefing: How to anchor your yacht mid-race (10 Jul 2019, 7:52 am)

Pro race navigator Mike Broughton explains the gains that can be had by anchoring mid-race

It’s easy to get caught in the ‘washing cycle’ tidal streams off the Isles of Scilly in the Rolex Fastnet Race

There are two factors to consider when it comes to racing and anchors. One is whether you might find yourself kedging to avoid getting swept back against a foul tide, and so need to deploy the anchor quickly. But to balance that you want to avoid carrying your heaviest anchor in the bow, which accentuates pitching and kills your speed.

Rules are quite clear about the need for anchors in racing, depending on the Special Regulations category of the race. Substituting a lighter anchor is fine as long as it is ‘fit for purpose’. You might argue that one test could be: would it keep the vessel off a lee shore if the yacht were dismasted and had engine failure?

There is no doubt that getting the weight out of the bow is good for performance and even simply moving the main anchor inboard over the keel will help, but it still needs to be accessible for quick use – not so easy for heavy anchors on yachts over 50ft.

Dropping the hook

Racing on day one of Lendy Cowes Week this year in a Fast 40+ the anchor made it to the seabed in very light winds and an increasing flood tide, although only after I nearly dropped a clanger rather than an anchor!

While I was focusing on speed and course over the ground, the anchor was made ready (which always takes longer than you think), only to discover that we were still in the forbidden anchoring zone between Stansore Point and Gurnard. We may have been a quarter of a mile from the submarine cables, but it wouldn’t have been a great move to snag the seabed power cable and turn off the lights on the Isle of Wight.

So the anchor stayed on deck as we ghosted along for another 20 minutes. The fitful wind died once again, some 300m from the ‘Elephant’ mark in Thorness Bay. We were going backwards so this time the anchor was deployed. It stopped the rot and we made gains on two adjacent competitors. Once the wind filled in again, we rounded the mark in equal first after two hours of racing, then heard on the VHF: “Race abandoned”.

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In offshore racing, many yachts have made gains against competitors by anchoring better. That can be a combination of deploying it more quickly (not staying in denial for too long), having the right type of anchor, getting it back up quicker, or selecting the right place.

After a very light Fastnet Race in the 1990s, class winning skipper Mike Shrives told me they’d made a major gain at Portland, “We anchored best and that was what made the real difference.”

Many times yachts get into the Portland ‘washing cycle’ as they creep along in light winds, then hit the strong tidal steam and get set back, only to try again and again. In light winds it generally works better for bigger yachts to go well south of the tidal race, as they have enough speed to keep going over the foul tidal stream. Smaller yachts often face anchoring in light winds once the tidal stream turns against them.

Overcoming denial

Shrives and his team of Royal Navy students overcame ‘anchoring denial’ early and dropped the pick before close rivals. Little did they realise that they’d timed their anchoring perfectly, as they drifted backwards across the shallow Shambles Bank. Their anchor held, while their main opponents dragged for up to half a mile in the deeper water.

“All we could see was navigation lights getting dimmer behind as other yacht anchors took time to dig in,” he recalled. “When the wind filled in, we were off and garnered a lead of nearly 40 miles heading towards the Fastnet Rock.”

Back in the Rolex Fastnet Race in 2003, I raced on Chris Bull’s J/145 Jazz. After creeping round Bishop Rock at sunset, we headed east in a fading wind with a strengthening tidal stream against us. Keeping close to the rocks helped (and led to some lively navigation) as we made slow progress over the ground. We found ourselves going backwards but were, typically, in denial, especially as the depth was over 70m.

We made it to a shallower area with less current and continued sailing, but really we were in the washing cycle, making tortuous progress east in a weaker tidal stream, only to get knocked back in the stronger stream on the headland. After going round about 18 times, we capitulated and anchored.

The tracker didn’t make good viewing in the light winds as opponents astern slowly made in roads on our lead. In reality, we probably saved over two hours by getting to a spot where we could actually anchor, rather than being swept back westwards to an area, which would have been increasingly deep.

Meanwhile ashore in Plymouth, Charles Dunstone’s Enigma had just finished with several of my friends on board. The leaderboard was showing that they could now only be beaten by Jazz for the overall trophy, and we had to finish within seven hours to win.

My phone buzzed with a dozen missed calls and texts from Enigma, wondering where we were. Had we stopped our signal at the Scillies? Were we in stealth mode? The word among the 22 crew on Enigma was that Dunstone had promised a Rolex watch each if they won overall. They were tense times.

We held our position against the tidal stream, watching other yachts slow behind us, then retrieved the anchor as the wind built once more. But our overall victory had evaporated, Charles generously kept to his word, while Jazz at least held on to win Class Zero.

Mike-Broughton-Headshot-400x400About the author

Mike Broughton is a pro race navigator who has won many titles including World and European championships. He is a qualified MCA Master to captain superyachts and previously had a successful career in the Fleet Air Arm flying Sea King and Lynx helicopters.

The post Navigation briefing: How to anchor your yacht mid-race appeared first on Yachting World.

5 Tips: How to bullet-proof your yacht for offshore racing (9 Jul 2019, 7:46 am)

Andy Rice talks to Vendée Globe and Global Challenge skipper Mike Golding about how to ready your yacht for all eventualities

Tor McLaren's Gallavanter presses on during the 2017 Fastnet Race. Photo: Carlo Borlenghi / Rolex

You don’t need to tell Mike Golding about the importance of making your boat bulletproof. After all, this is the man whose keel dropped off his IMOCA 60 when 50 miles out from the finish of the Vendée Globe in 2005. He still finished, coming into Les Sables d’Olonne in a very impressive 3rd place.

Modern IMOCA 60s are complex, cutting-edge machines operating at the boundaries of reliability, but even when sailing a more run-of-the-mill boat, Mike would always run a series of checks before embarking on any kind of long-distance offshore race, even a hop across the Channel.

Aside from big Vendée moments like keels falling off and masts falling down, Mike has suffered his minor mishaps too: filling up his IMOCA 60 from a fuel tanker in Southampton Water only to pick up a dreaded bacterial bug that turned his diesel into jelly. Here are Mike’s five vital tips before you go offshore.

1. Start your engine

You need to start with the engine because you need power. Whatever your charging system it must be bombproof, so ensure the engine is regularly serviced, make sure your fuel is clean, and carry necessary spares.

Next on the list is electrics. Do the lights come on, do your nav lights work? If you have an alternator, what’s your backup? These things have to work if you’re to be in a position to finish a long-distance race.

2. Points of entry

Is the boat watertight? Make sure all skin fittings are properly fitted. I’ve learned from bitter experience: when I was pounding across Biscay in a nasty aboard one of the steel 67ft Challenge boats the hose popped off one of the skin fittings. The bilge pump was barely coping with the amount of water pouring in. If the pump had failed the boat would have gone down like a stone.

Double-clip through-hull fittings and have emergency bungs readily available – I tie the correct sized bung to each fitting with a piece of string. Modern boats have ever more complex steering linkages and compartments are not always easily accessible. Understand the steering system while the boat is on shore.

I cannot overstress the importance of regularly inspecting the keel and its attachment at least once a year, and always after a grounding.

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3. Chafe and turnbuckles

Look at the sailing systems. Wear you find now will multiply exponentially when you’ve been sailing for days at a time offshore. Treat signs of chafe as an early warning system for something that needs resolving before you go to sea. Pay particular attention to halyards and anything else that, if it broke, would require someone to go up the rig. You really don’t want to have to do that in a big sea.

I’ve learned from personal experience about turnbuckle failures, and a lot of times it’s down to there being insufficient articulation in the metal fittings. IMOCA 60s have virtually solved this problem with soft connections – to the point where I feel safer having a rope lashing than a turnbuckle because it articulates 100 per cent.

With modern materials, a rope junction is superior to a wire junction, provided they’re well maintained and periodically changed. Spectra is the most reliable option for most applications.

When you’re in harbour make sure you have enough length in furling gear systems to be able to take four turns of sheet around the winch – because that’s what you’ll need in a storm.

4. The weakest links

With every system on the boat, ask yourself the question: ‘What will be the first thing to fail?’ Either have a spare or at the very least be aware of which part of the system is likely to fail first. Have your plan of action before you need it.

Make sure you have lots of spare lengths of high-modulus rope – you can fix almost any problem with this stuff. If a metal fitting fails, you can tie it back on. The other obvious ones to take are lots of duct tape and Sikaflex: with these you can repair almost any sail.

5. Bulletproof your crew

Establish a routine that all the crew understands, but be flexible to change if circumstances require. You don’t set out in shorts and T-shirt to do a Channel race, so have the right clothing for all conditions. Equip everyone with head torches, and have plenty of spares.

Make sure you’ve got food that can be served without complicated cooking: hot food is really important for toughing out the worst moments.

And allow people to rest where possible. My mantra is that you should always ‘Wrap up before you get cold, eat before you get hungry and sleep before you get tired’.

About the author

Mike Golding is one of the most experienced offshore sailors on the planet. He skippered Group 4 to victory in 1997’s British Steel Challenge, held the solo record for sailing round the world westabout between 1994 and 2000, and has completed three gruelling editions of the Vendée Globe.

The post 5 Tips: How to bullet-proof your yacht for offshore racing appeared first on Yachting World.

Beautiful but deadly: Why the Fastnet Rock has always been feared by mariners (8 Jul 2019, 7:59 am)

The Fastnet Rock lighthouse is as famous in its way as Cape Horn, and just as notorious. Its history shows why

Photo: Carlo Borlenghi / Rolex

It is so notorious among sailors that you could say the Fastnet Rock is the northern hemisphere’s Cape Horn. Legends have formed around this famous landmark: of storms, and shipwrecks and the terrible events of the RORC Fastnet Race in 1979.

So you may find it surprising if you’ve never sailed there yourself, or if you’ve raced there only to turn round and sail 250 miles back to Plymouth, to discover that the Fastnet Rock is just six miles from the Irish mainland and four miles from the closest island. With a fair wind you can be grasping your first pint of Murphy’s within the hour at Ciarán Danny Mike’s on Cape Clear or O’Sullivan’s in Crookhaven.

It is geography that has made it so feared by mariners over the centuries. The Fastnet lighthouse stands on small outcrop of rock, off the first land that would have been seen for weeks for those sailing across the Atlantic in years gone by. If their navigation was even slightly out…

Often shrouded in low cloud and beset by strong winds and seas from a succession of Atlantic lows, it was a place where ships could – and did – come to grief.

Even today, with metres-accurate GPS positioning and radar to ascertain its position, crews are wary of ‘the Rock’. The weather is still as unpredictable as it ever was.

As recently as 2011, the iconic lighthouse silhouette was the backdrop the dramatic rescue of Rambler 100’s crew after the maxi yacht lost its keel and suddenly capsized shortly after rounding the lighthouse.

A reassuring light

The Fastnet Rock lighthouse was built to supercede an earlier light built on a clifftop on Cape Clear Island in the early 1800s. It could, in certain conditions, be obscured by a stratum of fog. An inquiry found this to a factor in the loss of an American packet on nearby West Calf Island in 1847, in which 92 of the 110 passengers and crew were drowned. After that, plans for a lighthouse on the Fastnet rock were drawn up.

The lighthouse on Cape Clear island that preceded the Fastnet Rock light

The lighthouse on Cape Clear island that preceded the Fastnet Rock light

The tower you see today was started in 1897. There’s a bit of a myth that the rock for it was quarried locally at Crookhaven – not so. Most of the south-west coast is formed of old red sandstone (which actually ranges in colour here from dark grey to green). This is sedimentary rock prone to marine erosion, hence the characteristic striated appearance of the headlands of West Cork.

The elegant and beautifully waisted tower structure was designed by William Douglass, an engineer with Irish Lights, and built from coarse-grained Cornish granite that I believe came from the Cheeseswring quarry in Bodmin Moor.

Over 2,000 blocks were cut and shaped to interlock one into another. Each course is said to have been assembled in Cornwall before the granite blocks were shipped to Crookhaven and Cape Clear Islands, from which two teams of builders worked over five years.

Today, the only visitors to the lighthouse are maintenance teams and inspection tours. Once every two years, the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Fastnet Race rounds the rock, but no longer does it send a delegation to keep watch in the lighthouse. Today, it stands empty, but its light is still a reassuring beacon.

The post Beautiful but deadly: Why the Fastnet Rock has always been feared by mariners appeared first on Yachting World.