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Old 07 August 2001, 19:30   #1
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RB4 - Bangor Challenger's story


The tale of the Nisoft Bangor Challenger entry for the RB4M 2001 Round Britain Challenge.. Where do I begin?
PART 1 How, why etc. - the preparation stage.

I suppose it starts from a discussion I had with one of our “pupils” at an RYA safety boat course which Hugh (Holmes) and I were running last year. I am the Rescue Convenor for Ballyholme Yacht Club in Bangor, Northern Ireland, which is an RYA registered training establishment for sailing & powerboat courses. Hugh and I are both Instructors and run courses (when we are not yacht racing or ribbing) primarily to keep a steady supply of rescue boat crew, plus training for local motorboaters etc.
Anyway, I was talking to this boy who was “moving up” in the rescue world from level 2 to safety boat and he said “where have you been in the RIB?” Only when answering him did I realise that I had been all over the place in the yacht (32 foot cruiser / racer) plus all over the west coast of France in the Rib via road & ferry on the annual holidays BUT not much beyond the Irish sea & Scotland in the Rib direct. This sowed the seed..
I followed the write up on the Round Scotland last year with great interest and when HMS advertised the “RB4M” I was hooked! All I had to do was convince someone else and get a suitable boat and engine etc. etc...
At that time I had just sold my Humber Assault 5.3 and was about to collect a Ribmax (Rimini) 5.4 which would not fit the “under 5M” criteria. We (or rather my son Nick) also have a Searider 4 but the thought of bouncing around for 10 days getting very wet didn’t appeal to me so although I had got the RB4M bumf I sort of “let it lie” for a bit and got on with work, yacht out of water, new Rib fitting out, courses etc.
A few local Ribs regularly do the run from Bangor the Portpatrick and on one of these around December I started discussing the idea with Hugh. My son Nick immediately said “can I go” and I had real problems convincing him that he was too young (13 with level 2). But all the other problems seemed surmountable, except for money and/or an engine. Just before Christmas I was over with the local Suzuki dealer (Ralph Carson, Outboard Services) and we got to talking about RB4M. He was too worried about his back to do the trip, but the idea of approaching Suzuki for an engine came up. A couple of weeks later he was summoned to Suzuki for a prize for the most 4 stroke sales in the UK and I received a rather drunk phone call saying “you’ve got a new 50 for the RB4M if you want it.” All of a sudden the planning in earnest started.
I told Hugh “we’re doing it!”, advertised and sold the Ribmax 5.4 and looked around for a suitable boat. I looked at various options including Valiant, Lencraft and Redbay, but having bought several Humbers for the club and myself and Hugh, we reckoned that a small Destoyer would be just the job. I went to see Andy at Humber and the 4.95 Destroyer was ordered!
Next the lists started. One for navigation stuff, one for “personal” stuff, one for fitting out the boat, one for approaching sponsors etc. I usually get consoles etc. done locally rather than live with someone else’s ideas of seats etc. so I got my local GRP jobster Robert Mullan to make up a free standing console and seat boxes. I reckoned that it would be better to have both crew side-by-side to allow both seats to be a bit further back and hence give the helmsman a bit less of a hammering in bad seas, plus it would allow easier “discussion” on navigation etc. and leave more room for storage and alternate places to “stretch your legs” and sit as a break from “just one seat”.
On the sponsor front I got very favourable results from the local office of a mobile phone company which my daughter Jan had contacted through her work (Carphone Warehouse). Whilst it wouldn’t cover anything like the whole cost at least the fuel would be covered. This was good because it let me concentrate the grey matter on all the other lists!
We collected the new Rib from the Humber factory along with a new club Assault 5M and I started in earnest at the fitting out. I fitted the engine and consoles, made up and fitted the seats and launched the boat in its basic form without A frame etc. The sea trials showed the fuel consumption to be fine, less than 3 gallons per hour. Some more fuel tankage was required as the 65 litre under console tank obviously wasn’t enough. The boat was handling great, very good and adequately fast down and across wind, but a bit nose-happy upwind. I reckoned the extra fuel if carried at the front would sort this out. Lesson one- don’t reckon, prove! This was to be a major issue later on. On the nav front our two handheld console mounted GPSs were fine. The windscreen needed increasing and my birthday present of the new MIG welder made a good job of the A frame. But not matter how I tried, the lists just kept getting longer and longer. It seemed that every job completed resulted in two more to do!
Then things changed. Hugh (just turned 50) had for a long time been threatening early retirement from BT and there had also been a slight possibility of it for me from my job in the local Power Station (British Gas). Over the space of two weeks Hugh had got the offer and became a pensioner. A week later and my offer turned up dated from my forthcoming 50th birthday. Another week and I had joined the great unwashed! All of a sudden the lists actually started getting shorter! Looking back I don’t believe we would have made it to the start if I hadn’t got early retirement as I had just started preparing too late.
BUT just as the lists were becoming one pagers a big problem came up – money! The sponsor pulled out at short notice and we were left with a real money problem. In desperation I mentioned it to my friend Stephen Harris who immediately offered sponsorship from his software company, Nisoft. We were back in business again!
The final sea trials were planned for the weekend before the off, with Nick and my wife/coordinator/press advisor Louise as crew. The plan was to start from Newtownards Sailing Club on Strangford Lough, then around the Lough and out to the Isle of Man. Things went great until the Sunday when we headed out of the Strangford narrows into thick fog, less than 50 metres visibility. Here endeth the sea trials! I did get more of a feel for the rig, and not only was the speed well down when carrying the extra fuel, but also nose was still a bit light. Oh for 10 more horsepower and a bow tank. I still thought that moving all the extra fuel to the front, plus Hugh’s weight, should cure it, plus I really thought that the smaller Ribs on the event would have to shy away from head-ons into a head sea, so I still wasn’t overly worried.
Back home final preparations and list-doing continued, with late night colour photocopying of chartlets for the A4 route plan book We were due to leave on the Thursday morning for the ferry in Dublin and I found myself at 11pm the night before starting to make the all-over cover! It was duly finished and fitted around 12 for a leaving time of 6.30. Lesson 2, don’t tow a boat with a new cover in a rush for a ferry!
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Old 08 August 2001, 17:26   #2
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Day 0.
We left bright and early at around 6.40 from Bangor headed for the Dublin ferry at 9.40. After 4 stops to refit the cover in the first 15 miles we eventually took it off and carried on. We arrived at the ferry terminal at 9.30 just as the ferry was closing its doors. Not a very good start! Not to be beaten we booked onto the next fast ferry (more dosh) and ended up in Plymouth at the Mountbatten Centre around 10pm. We may have missed the do but at least the bar was still open.

Day 1. We launched bright and early after a clean scrutineering and compliments on preparation from Dog Phillips (wow). At the briefing we felt a bit out of it, as everybody else seemed to know each other. How was I going to tell my son Nick that he couldn't come but two lads of the same age did? We may have had the best prepared boat but we were just two, everybody else seemed to have backup by the bucketload. We were paired off with Harry and told to stick together no matter what. Sounded fine but who was Harry? Lesson three; arrive in enough time to find out all you can about the others.
Howard and Harry turned out to be great lads, father and son with an old, small but very well prepared Searider (I could just here Nick saying “why not mine?”).
The start was memorable and definitely one of the high points. The Nisoft Bangor Challenger was actually here and doing it. Loads of emotions, adrenalin, hangover etc.. First to the line after the gun, loads of photos and so on. We all headed off for the Lizard, nine boats plus two backups. This was a “getting the feel” time with Hugh and I having not really spent enough time on sea trials. But my over-and-over-again land preparations were paying off with no problems on the boat or engine apart from a loose radar reflector. After a few miles the “ we will all stick together” thing talked about in the briefing wasn’t happening. Ourselves on the Challenger and Harry & Howard on the Avon Seal were being left behind as we were not prepared to knock the crap out of the rigs into what was becoming a very lumpy F4/5 headsea on the first part of the first leg. The others seemed to be more intent on “getting going”. The time pressures built into the event were already starting to affect things. 20 miles on Avon Seal suddenly stopped. We stood by in what was now a very lumpy sea, trying to help as much we could. After about half an hour the Seal was taking some water over the sides and things didn’t look good so after consultation we called the fleet for help. The Spirit team backup boat, Cyanide, responded from further back. They eventually found us after we gave a GPS position. They took over looking after the Seal and we reluctantly bade farewell to Harry and Howard and went on with Team Spirit who had accompanied Cyanide. At least we were going again and the two Suzuki rigs were now running for the Lizard.
I have had lots of bad weather experience at many headlands before but I can honestly say the shape of the sea round the Lizard was the weirdest I have seen in many a year. It wasn’t really that big, but was coming from everywhere. In a 4.9 boat this was hard on the back and the nerves. To be fair we took absolutely no green stuff over, only a bit of spray from the side. We found we had to slow down to 12 knots to preserve boat & backs. The boat was flat out to try and climb up the waves, then barely getting going over top before the next one. Again how we could have used another 10+ horsepower like some of the other “entries” had turned up with. It was obvious that Team Spirit wanted to go faster but at least they stuck with us. We eventually approached Newlyn when Cyanide caught up and they all wanted to go in for a break so we followed. After a while we were anxious to get on so we headed out for Lands End, the other two saying they would catch up. Once round and past the next waypoint Cyanide came up and said that they wanted to go on ahead. This made us think through everything; what problems might we face crossing the Bristol Channel on our own at night on the first day? A quick check and the big problem was fuel. One of the RB4 starter packs had inferred that all boats should only carry no more than 20% reserve fuel; this made us err on the low rather than the high side. Lesson 4, ignore any outside influences on fuel and always carry that little bit more. At this stage we had 16 gallons plus the 6 reserve; obviously the standing by for the Seal plus the hard going into the headsea had used much more than we expected. This should be enough to reach Milford, but too risky without travelling in company. So the biggest blow, we had to turn back for Newlyn, definitely the lowest point of the whole trip. Beat on the first day due to circumstances beyond our control? ****! But we weren’t going to lie down just yet.. In Newlyn we had no way of getting fuel or help so we just had to get the train back to our car at Plymouth. We phoned Harry and they were out and fixed and raring to go. This gave us a great lift. They we intent on towing up a bit to catch the fleet so we agreed to buddy up and do the same. We would just have to do our best tomorrow..

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Old 09 August 2001, 18:36   #3
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Day 2.
We left very early and drove to Newlyn. As we were pulling the boat out Paul Lemmer turned up to help. He had heard we were there and just came to offer any help needed. There are some gentlemen in world after all. We were soon under way intending to meet up with the Seal around Bristol. Then bang. A puncture in the trailer. I could have sworn that I packed a tin of fix-a-flat but we couldn’t find it so we had to leave Challenger in a traffic jam and take the wheel to get fixed. Two hours later we were up and running again but meantime the fleet were heading up the Welsh coast. We eventually met up with Harry & co near Bristol. By this time there was no way to catch the fleet without silly running hours, so we all agreed to head up past Wales and meet them the next day in the Irish sea. We all pulled into to a Travelodge for the night. As we went into the hotel Harry told us that Howard had accidentally jumped on his foot (big toe) and he was in agony.

Day 3.
At breakfast Harry told us his foot was much worse. There was no way they could continue. Heart wrenching stuff. We again bade farewell and headed on to launch on our own. By 11 we were heading out into the Irish sea, The Challenger was running again. “We’ll just have to do Wales next week” I said to Hugh. Our friend Ralph Carson had crossed to IOM in his Rib to meet all of us. He and another mate, Peter Giovinnoli, were now in their two Ribs accompanying the fleet past the IOM towards us. He updated us on progress and expressed concerns about the state of some of the engines (mostly mounts). We also heard that the fleet was now down to 5 plus one backup. We headed off in mirror flat seas at a comfortable pace towards the Mull of Kintyre expecting to link up with the fleet. After rounding the Mull the sea started to pick up and the visibility gradually desreased until we were down to some 20 metre stuff around Corryvreckan, We slowly GPSed our way through islands into the sound, glad of the knowledge of this area from previous sailing events. We reached the fuel-up point at the Puffin dive centre at Oban around 4pm. After fuelling up and discussing stuff with Tiger Sharks helper Rob, we hung around waiting for the fleet. Several phone calls later we heard that they were having problems so we decided to head on for Lochalsh. Up through the Sound of Mull past Tobermory wishing we could spare the time call at the Mishnish for a pint and some craic. Then round Ardnamurchan point with the GPS showing more west than ever before (it is the most westerly point in the UK mainland). There is a tradition for cruising boats that have rounded Ardnamurchan to wear a sprig of heather on the bowsprit (or the nearest equivalent), but try as I might I could not get Hugh to go ashore for some, so Challenger had to go without. We got to Lochalsh at 10.30pm and were welcomed by Joe and co. Too late for a meal but at least we got a pint!

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Old 10 August 2001, 17:00   #4
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Day 4.
Back with the fleet again. Three of the fleet were out of the water for repairs with the others on the pontoon. There was no sign of HMS. For the first time it was starting to feel like we might be part of “the group”. The lovely helpful Joe helped us fuel up while the two Ribcraft 4.8’s were organising to get re-launched. We did our checks and were soon ready, but it seemed to take forever for everybody else to finally get ready. We eventually headed off after the briefing. Heading north was initially very pleasant, then as the sea started to get up we found ourselves surfing down over loads of big ones. The Challenger just lapped up the following sea. This was the first time we observed an interesting but annoying trait, that of most of the other boats veering off to port or starboard when we were quite sure we were on a straight line to the next waypoint. This was christened the “great circle route” and seemed to have something to with others steering by chartplotter and/or compass rather than by direction to waypoint. Anybody else observed this? We all stuck quite well together up to Cape Wrath and formed up for photos and filming as we rounded and turned East. This was another major high point. Everyone then seemed to break and do their own thing, with the smaller boats and the support boat Yes Dear heading inshore. We stuck straight on the GPS route to the next and following headlands, going well offshore. Increasing seas and even more surfing over and down. We were now averaging 26 knots with absolutely no green stuff. The Humber’s high nose was ideal for this. After an enjoyable run with only a few back- thumps off the top of big ones we turned into Scrabster just after Shiger Tark (as Yes Dear had accidentally on purpose christened her!). That pint of namesake tasted lovely. Once again Joe and Rob helped with the refuelling run. We did all our checks and were ready for the next leg before the steaks were cooked. Great crack with the Tiger Shark, Yes Dear & Black Max crews. Eventually headed up to the hotel where the rest of the crews were being much more sedate in the bar. Nightcaps & bed.

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Old 11 August 2001, 20:44   #5
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Day 5.
Reasonable weather and a totally flat sea for the off. Then the first of our problems. After years of experience of breakdowns on so-called waterproof VHFs on club boats I had installed the VHF inside the console with the mike and an external speaker outside. The external speaker was one of those little round black ones which whilst only splashproof had proved to be a good job on the yacht for several years. But this one only lasted a week! From now on we would have to listen to the speaker inside the console and open the door to listen better if we thought it was for us. It is funny how something that sounds so minor can be such a pain in the xxxx on a trip like this.
At the briefing Jan suggested the need for a fuel stop at Peterhead before the run down to Berwick. We were very happy for this as we had become so painfully aware how fuel usage could increase in bad weather. Having done our own weather check I was curious where he got his from, as it sounded more like what we all would have liked to hear rather than what I had heard. Was this some great psychiatric ploy to make us feel better? Anyway off we went, at least for a while until Jan stopped for an overboard problem, quickly sorted and away again.
It was a great lift to pass Duncansby Head and head South, like as if was downhill from now on so it must be easier. How wrong I was.
During pleasant running down across most of the Moray Firth more “greater circle” and “lesser circle” antics were seen and more alternate names for Tiger Shark used. Then our first long stop. What initially started as a 10 minute comfort and nibble break seemed to become almost a one hour business meeting for the smaller boats. We just wanted to get on with it and stop xxxxing around. These long stops were to become more of a feature as the trip went on. Anyway into Peterhead in lovely warm sunshine before Joe & Rob even got there, so greatly appreciated help from the harbourmaster got us fuelled up (and Scotch Pie-d up!) and ready to go again. This is an excellent and inviting Marina and definitely on the must-go-back list.
More time-wasting and eventually we were heading out again towards Berwick.
It started out fine and we all made good time down past Dundee a long way out across the Firth of Forth on a straight line for Berwick. Two faster boats went on ahead everyone else stayed more or less togther. Then it got darker and the flat seas started to build up. Serious amounts of "positive driving" was required to find the best path across the headseas. We both took turns at the helm, drawing heavily on past offshore racing experience. We were soon down to 8-9 knots climbing up every wave and smashing back down the next. This was very tough, more so on us than on the boat. Yes Dear stayed with us all the way even though they were obviously going much below their most comfortable speed, with green stuff breaking right across their bows. We were very glad to follow close in their wake to get the tops taken off the waves and lessen the impacts on boat & crew. Whilst we weren’t really at risk I certainly would not have carried on straight into this had we not been under such a time and leg-end constraint. Something was bound to break and it did. Lesson 5, over-engineer everything. I had bent and welded up a large half-round stainless handle for the crew to hang onto, attached to the left of the console. On a big downer it suddenly came away in my hand at one end. I was then faced with holding half onto this and half onto the seatback, twisting my back and greatly increasing the thumps on my back on the big ones. Would this leg ever end?
When Berwick finally came up Gemini headed in first as they claimed to know the way in. Lesson 6, always do your own reading up and planning on harbour entrances. I just hadn’t bothered to check the almanac before we left. Gemini just disappeared into the harbour and we couldn’t figure out where to go. The mind just doesn’t function properly at 1.30 am after 6 hours of bashing. We finally used Challengers spotlight and scanned slowly round from port to starboard to find the inner harbour wall, just as Gemini (I think) came back out to indicate the way in. Much clapping as we turned in and HMS was back again, shouting encouragement and beaming like the spotlight. Tying up was the most relieving thing on the whole trip. Joe & co had got us all currys, real food and real still earth to sit on, oh bliss. I dont even remember getting into bed. I don’t want another one of those days..

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Old 12 August 2001, 17:11   #6
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Day 6.
Refreshed and raring to go again, we were lifted even more to hear that the fleet were not going to try to reach Wells but stop at Whitby. We did a temporary rope-through-plastic-drainpipe handle repair to give the crew something to hold onto, but the rechargeable drill had got a dunk and died, so I couldn’t drill a big enough hole for a sensible thickness of rope; we had to use burgee stuff. I had already figured that the tide wouldn’t let us in but expected HMS to try anyway, so it was good news for all. A long, arduous fuel-up carrying cans across several boats did nothing to damp the spirit, from now on it was all shorter legs, surely things were past their worst. At the briefing Jan seemed to be giving his own positive spin on the weather forecast, but the general positive feel in the camp would have almost ignored any forecast! We were to run with Gemini as we were reasonably similar speed on previous days. Off we went in decreasing visibility but moderate following seas. More greater circles, more stops. When the vis had dropped to around 200m we “found” the Farne islands with loads of Bull seals relaxing amid the stink of the Guano. After photo, filming & pee stops we headed on south. The visibility improved but the size of the following sea increased. This was no problem for Challenger but a real problem for the crew (at this time Hugh) trying to hang onto a soggy rope handle. Several times he slipped forward hard, only to be thrown back even harder onto the backrest. It was impossible to push against the handle so you couldn’t control yourself properly. Still, everything else was going fine and by this stage we seemed to be the only boat with no engine problems.
After a couple of more long stops we reached Wells mid afternoon. Having this time closely reviewed the almanac we confidently motored in to a lovely little place which looked like time had somewhat passed it by. Dracula’s church remains were a daunting sight up on the hill to port. I have spent much time on business and boat-collecting trips not far from here, but never had reason to visit. Definitely another for the must-go-back-to list. We tied up at the pontoons right up the river to starboard in bright sun with spirits high. Then Spirit arrived and the fleet had got bigger again. The guys off Cyanide advised that they had left out helmets and all the Suzuki spares on my yacht in Bangor, not expecting to see us again. Very sensible and helpful; I just hoped even harder that we wouldn’t need them! Up for refuelling, up to the B&B then down to a pub and eventually down to the local curry house with most of the crews together for the first time. A good day and a great night. Things were definitely getting better.

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Old 13 August 2001, 18:41   #7
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Day 7.
Up early and down to the boat to get the handle fixed, we noticed that the crew seat pod had cracked at the backrest bolt point. Obviously the lack of handle and sea state had put Hugh’s bum down much harder and caused the damage. We took some bits off and went up to local boatyard. They were most helpful and bent up a small alloy bracket to brace the seat pod, but no luck for handle. We borrowed Black Max’s drill and fitted the bracket, this sorted out the seat back fine. We also drilled out the handle holes and fitted much thicker rope for the handle, with a more “ergonomic” piece of plastic drainpipe; it was better but you still couldn’t push on it very much.
For once we had a reasonably prompt start and were again heading south initially into quite flat seas. Not great visibility meant it was a bit boring apart from the usual lesser circle routes, business meeting stops, filming runs and alternate names for Shagger Tart.
The crossing of the Humber estuary was quite a bit more bumpy. We heard another (local I think) RIB calling up the fleet apologising for not getting launched and coming out to greet us. As the Wash approached the visibility lifted a bit. Then bang! The sudden visit from a jet fighter (as referred to by some of the others). We reckoned it was our friend foredeck crew Jorg who we had recently lost to the RAF. This happened a couple of times, each time adding to the (lack of ) clean underwear problems.
Most of the fleet got to the Wells clear water mark together, intending to wait to be led in. We had previously got a very good up to date drawing of the channel from Harry so we headed on in, followed by the others. Just inside the main channel we were met by a boat from Wells telling us we had to wait for the reception party. This was confirmed by radio / phone, so we all sat about for ages, waving to the locals on the beach etc. Joe & co. were brought out (on a boat!) to meet us and we had local press photos before being led into the town for an amazing reception. It looked like the whole town plus holidaymakers were standing there. This is what we would have liked everywhere. Apparently they did the same thing yesterday but we didn’t turn up! This was probably the high point for me. We rafted up, fuelled up (15 miles away!), then down to the B&B (16th century) to discover why it was called Wells-next-the-sea. One of the wells was in the garden of the B&B, a former customs house, with sweet water only 20 feet from the salty, silty estuary wall. Then down to the yacht club for a brilliant reception where each boat received a handcrafted poem-scroll-thing. Loads of free food, plenty of pints and loads of craic with the other crews and the local lady commodore. Even team Aldiss turned up, albeit on the trailer. They too vowed to finish the trip later. I have to say that I was very reticent about Wells as a choice of stop by HMS, what with tricky entry and tides etc., but I was wrong. A memorable day and yet another for the must-go-back-to list.
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Old 15 August 2001, 18:29   #8
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Day 8.
Things were a bit quieter this morning, probably due to last night. Anyway at the briefing we agreed two options depending on sea state, traded some waypoints, and were away for the Thames crossing. We wound our way back out along the channel to the clear water mark, then turned to starboard to go round Norfolk & Suffolk for the Thames. Initially moderate visibility and flat water made the trip fast and pleasant. Plenty more greater and lesser circles and the odd longish stop as we followed the coast down past Lowestoft. The weather gradually improved to the point where our coats came off for only the second time on the trip. Bright sun, mirror seas, what more could you ask for? As the weather was so good we agreed to take the most direct route straight across the Thames estuary between the banks towards Ramsgate. It was strange to be more than 20 miles offshore and yet be running so close to a breaking sandbank for several miles. As we pulled into Ramsgate Hugh remarked how easy that leg had been. “It was only 130 miles” I replied. “Wait a minute, that’s 6 Portpatrick’s” (Our most common “long” run at home is from Bangor to Portpatrick, about 22 miles). It is astounding just how quickly you get use to this type of daily distance on a run like this, when normally a day trip of a fraction of the length can be so daunting. From this point on all measurements of distance run or distance to go used the “Portypee” standard of measure. It made some of the South Coast hard beats sound much less.
We pulled up to the fuel berth and for the first time since Oban were able to get petrol at the quay. Only problem, it was the most expensive in the British Isles! We tied up and headed up to a beautiful B&B at the top of the town overlooking the sea. After changing and calling in the daily events to Louise for her reports to the local home press and sponsors, we headed down to the pub just above the marina for a pint. It was very quiet and the crews had agreed to meet later at the restaurant next door. So we headed up to the local Royal Temple Yacht Club. Our club has a reciprocal arrangement so we were made most welcome by a past flag officer. Great discussion about the relative costs of marinas here and on the south coast of France, plus graphic descriptions of the French canals gave us serious food for thought. Many years ago I had taken a 16’ (Loftus Bennet) cruiser through the canals from Liverpool to the Thames and out to Leigh-on-Sea in Essex and found it most enjoyable. I had also vowed not to do it again for a long time (4 knots for 250 miles), but perhaps the thought of fresh baguettes and fine wines could tempt me. Hmm, a 3 week long rib run at 5 knots. Any takers for 2002?
All the crews met up at the restaurant for an enjoyable get together, albeit over a meal which was incredibly slow to be served. Then Brian off Cyanide arrived in, complete with plaster cast amid great cheers. By now the evening festivities were at last starting to occupy a significant part of the whole event, not like the earlier days. This is what cruising, as opposed to racing, should be about. Only the threat of stronger winds to follow took the edge off the feeling that it was almost over. Nightcap (not nightclub) and sleep!

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Old 17 August 2001, 18:03   #9
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Day 9.
The penultimate briefing confirmed our own weather forecasts. We were to turn west into mist, ran and “some” wind. I felt my back twinge at the thought of it. Out with the ibuprofen for the now daily dose! We were to head down and round Dungeness, meeting up around Hastings for some filming. We were again paired with Gemini. At last as the end aproached the start times were becoming more disciplined and we all got going quite early. But as the others sensed the end approaching it seemed all thought of sticking together was being overcome by the “race for the finish”. As soon as we headed off the fleet split up such that within an hour we had lost sight of most of them. The sea was OK until we turned west, then as we past Dungeness we had to head out a bit to clear the firing range. The conditions got worse with the sea right on the nose, as it was to stay for the rest of the trip!
We met up off Brighton and waited for the aerial filming but the visibility was poor and we only saw the plane once. It was then off towards Selsey, and again we found ourselves on our own apart from Cyanide in the distance. The last 20 miles became very difficult with a F5/6 still on the nose. We were more than ever intent on self preservation. We tried all speeds but found the boat just went skywards over every wave and so we settled down to 8-9 knots with the lack of a proper crew handle causing real problems again. At least at this speed we could plod on straight into it without having to zig-zag. Plus we were staying dry as the high bows were throwing it all away. As we approached the Bill the sea state was such that it became difficult to see marks until you were right on top of them. We were very glad of Cyanide’s offer to lead the way through the Looe channel. As we rounded and turned northwest conditions improved a bit and the rain stopped, plus we were now on a quartering sea, so we were able to go back up to 18 knots for the run towards the Forts. Only a couple of Portypee’s left! We headed right inshore and got some shelter such that we were up to 24 knots passing Portsmouth as the fuel load decreased. We turned into Southampton water and were the last to enter Ocean Village. We tied up next to Gemini as Paul was surveying their broken seat pod. Then we realised that our crew pod was again slightly cracked at the backrest attachment point. Obviously the handle problem coupled with the sea state had again taken its toll. We would have to be even more careful tomorrow. The Royal club made us most welcome, with a great spread complete with beer. The no-mobile-phones rule was put to good use to get us fed and watered adequately before the daily report back to base! Then the bad news – a 5.30am call to get us away to Yarmouth by 7ish. The threat of stronger winds made sense of it, but it still didn’t make leaving that club so early any easier. At the B&B we were told to be on our best behaviour as the old landlady had taken some convincing by Joe to let a crowd of hairy/heavy ribsters into her haven. She turned out be most helpful and even offered a nightcap. A pleasant end to a difficult day with much trepidation about the last day to follow...

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Old 19 August 2001, 09:47   #10
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Country: UK - N Ireland
Town: Bangor
Make: Shakespeare
Length: 7m +
Engine: O/b 225
Join Date: Jan 2001
Posts: 188
Day 10.
We were down at the boat and ready to go well before most of the rest. There was a very different “feel” to the last day, like a mixture of trepidation and fear. Forecasts of west to northwest 5-ish added to it. We went across to Yarmouth and got petrol at the quay - only the third time without carrying for miles. There was great talk about heading inshore around the bays to get shelter as there was supposed to be some north in the wind. We decided to make a last attempt to reposition everything to increase the noseweight. Only much later at home was I to realise that what the boat really needed was to lighten the stern. We moved two move fuel tanks from amidships to the bows and whilst the stowage was not perfect it would probably last for one day. We set off and the difference was noticeable. As we headed out past Hurst Point the fleet again started to leave us behind and head to starboard. We quickly found little help in the quartering sea and found the VMG towards Portland Bill on the GPS showing barely positive. We were faced with the decision of 10 knots straight on or 13-14 knots at 60 degrees to the right course. We opted for plodding while everyone else went touring. Halfway across this leg we actually appeared to have passed all the fleet, but by the time we got to the Bill only Cyanide and Spirit were still to round it. We stopped very close to the shore for a pee, snack & phone break and then headed round very close inshore. Over about 100 metres the sea state changed from moderate with a long swell to short and very steep. The fuel load in the bows was now down quite a bit and the nose was lifting much more. Was Lyme Bay going to be like this the whole way across? Again everyone else had gone inshore so we also turned in to get some relief from the very steep seas. This time the VMG was zero to negative. We stuck it out for a few miles and then turned straight onto the course for a 3 Portypee slog. Cyanide kept in occasional radio contact which was most reassuring. Still, everything was still going OK apart from the sore backs. The sea became more regular in the deeper water but the wave height did not decrease for many hours until we started to get some lee from the next headland.
As we rounded Start Point onto the last course for Plymouth we wondered where everyone had gone. The conditions were now much better and it was even brightening up. We called the fleet and found they were all in Salcombe which we had just passed. We turned back and went in. I have never been there before, and as we turned to starboard to enter the main harbour it was like entering a different world. The sun was shining and there were loads of people around and on the water in every type of craft. We tied up at the pontoon where all the crews were enjoying a pint in the sunshine. Another high point. Then it was time for the final 15 miles or so. Off we all went and again we were at the rear. Would they all hold back so that we could all head in together as planned? A final bit of filming just before the turn into Plymouth brought everyone together along with several boats that had come out to meet us, including Paul on a big BWM and Brian back on Cyanide. We regrouped and started off for the final run in, then we ran out of petrol! A panic changeover to another tank and we were all off again. As we turned into Plymouth there were horns sounding, people waving, and it was amazing that we all held station abeam to pass the battery. Then it was final photos, tying up, loads of welcoming friends and relations (none of ours), group photos, presentations, speeches etc. We were glad to see Harry & co again. Then it was over and I felt drained. Having survived on adrenaline, ibuprofen and Red Bull for ten days it was hard to get motivated again. There was much talk of “right lets go and do it all again backwards” We even contemplated carrying on back up past Wales on our own, but with no backup motor with us and a yacht race to get to back home the reality overtook us. A quick 1200 mile drive up in a hire car to get the jeep & trailer, back down to get the boat, back up to get the ferry home, and it was all over, apart from the prologue......
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