Another record for Maiden 2
Maiden 2 made the crossing in just 5 hours 23m 38s at an average of 25.58 knots (subject to ratification by the World Speed Sailing Record Counctil) - some 58 minutes and 16 seconds faster than Steve Fossett achieved last year aboard the world's largest racing catamaran, PlayStation.
The blue 110ft catamaran set sail from the Solent this morning at 09:20:26 BST. Once again on board were a mixed crew led by Brian Thompson, who by coincidence also sailed on board PlayStation when Steve Fossett established the record for this passage last year. However in this respect even Thompson has been outflanked by watch leader Helena Darvelid who not only sailed with Fossett, but was also on board when Tracy Edwards' Royal & SunAlliance team made their record breaking passage on this route four years before Fossett.
As Maiden 2 was beating back up through the Alderney Race back to Blighty, madfor sailing spoke to Helena Darvelid and navigator Adrienne Cahalan.
Conditions were perfect today for the record, with an easterly breeze of 14-18 knots. "We started in about 14-15 knots and it filled in to 18-19 mid-channel and then it levelled out to 14-15 again. You don't need a lot of wind speed to keep up high average speeds on these boats, " commented an elated Cahalan.
But almost more crucial to get the high speeds was the westbound tide, which held for the duration of the record and even swished Maiden 2 down the Alderney Race. This was no so much for the added thrust of the tide, as to the flat water created by the wind being with the tide.
"We had the tide with us all the way," continued Cahalan. "We had a deadline to leave the Solent at the time the tide was right for us. I think now with this record, the tide is pretty critical - you can't have it against you as it does too much damage to your average speed. We had it with us all the way. And now we've turned around, the tide is with us all the way back!"
Maiden 2 set off under full main, genniker and staysail and had a tough time getting out of the Solent with the wind directly from astern. "We had to do a few gybes to get out of the Solent. I think we did seven gybes in all but we got to the Needles in under an hour," recounted Darvelid. "When we got out there it was getting too low for us on the heading, so we wanted to come up a bit. So we dropped the staysail and put the yankee up, rolled up the genniker and later on we were sailing very, very fast across - at over 30 knots, flying a hull - pretty radical, good fun sailing. We got to the Alderney Race, at 12.30ish, so we were very fast across."
So the Needles to the Alderney Race in 2.5 hours... "It was brilliant, flying a hull, doing the 30s, everyone with big smiles on their faces, spray, coming over everyone..." exuded Darvelid.
"Then we had to come up a bit to come around Jersey and the Minques. So we headed up a bit - first 10 then 20 degrees - and put the staysail up for that, so we were probably on about 70-80 deg TWA to the finish line. And then we finished..!"
Significantly when Darvelid first sailed this record on Royal & SunAlliance, it was on a different course. "I remember it was a fast trip as well. We did a different course - on Royal & SunAlliance it was about 158 miles. We had to leave all the Channel islands to port, so we went outside Guernsey, then we came up. We had the same conditions then, I think we had a 30 knot northwesterly. On that boat we had spinnakers, so we were running the whole way. Then as we came around Jersey the wind shifted and we came up with the wind and gybed at the end.
"We had a high average then - it was 22 knots and it stood for a long time [as the fastest passage record]. We were completely flat out, we were just stonking across then. On that boat it felt very, very fast. It was a great, great record."
When she set the record on PlayStation last year Darvelid recalls that they had a bit more wind. "We were doing about 30 knots all the way across then as well. but we ran out of wind a little bit behind Jersey. Then we did a few sail changes. I think it was November - so it was pretty cold and there were bigger waves, which makes a big difference compared to what we had today."
It is interesting how Darvelid, a Swede who now lives in Salcombe, sees the difference between the spritely Maiden II and the ball-busting PlayStation. "This boat is very nimble, very manoeuvrable, while Playstation is a bit more like a truck: you can keep speeds for longer [on PlayStation] and you don't have to steer it that much, you can steer it more in a straight line, which has its advantages as well. This boat [ Maiden 2] is very manoeuvrable, and it's a fun boat to sail - you are flying a hull, you're easing off and trimming back on again - it is very, very sensitive compared to PlayStation where you've got less feel from the action and movement of the boat and the speed and everything. At the same time it can truck along - they're just completely different."
Like everyone, Darvelid looks forward to the day when Maiden 2 lines up against PlayStation and Olivier de Kersauson's maxi-trimaran Geronimo.
On board today the crew was only slightly different compared to the Round Britain line-up. Adrienne Cahalan was back in the nav chair replacing Sue Crafer, while Kini Parade was staying ashore looking after her child, allowing her spouse, the rather experienced Herve Jan to go for a sail. Jan sailed this boat in The Race with Grant Dalton and most recently was on ASSA ABLOY in the Volvo Ocean Race.
Tracy Edwards was once again unable to sail due to more meetings finalising her forthcoming sponsorship for Maiden 2's Jules Verne attempt this winter. This was particularly galling as Edwards has always joked about this record being 'hers'. "We were happy to get this one back, because we held it for so long on Royal & Sun Alliance," confirmed Cahalan.
In the last four months Maiden 2 has already established three world records; a rather tenuous one from Antigua to Newport record, but the very much more impressive 24 hour speed record and most recently the Round Britain and Ireland record. Today's record is their fourth. Next up is the around the Isle of Wight record and the Fastnet race course record.