Rick Tomlinson Photography / www.rick-tomlinson.com

Myth of Malham filling loosener

Only three boats finished the RORC's race to the Eddystone and back

Monday June 25th 2012, Author: Louay Habib, Location: United Kingdom

The 2012 RORC season so far the 230-mile Myth of Malham (Round Eddystone) Race was certainly the harshest to date.

With a forecast of 30 knots of wind and big seas, many yachts took the decision not to race. 15 yachts did make the start. 12 subsequently retired, mostly with sail damage, however, the entire fleet made it back to harbour. While crew no doubt suffered bumps and bruises, there were no reports of injuries requiring medical attention and the coastguard received no requests for assistance.

Nick Elliott, Racing Manager for the Royal Ocean Racing Club, commented on the decision to go ahead with the race: "Safety is of primary concern to the Royal Ocean Racing Club but ultimately the decision to race is entirely up to the skipper of each yacht and the RORC Race Committee do not wish to take that right away from them.

"We decided to delay the race for three hours, as the conditions were due to abate somewhat, which they did. Many competitors got a taste of heavy weather sailing in the Solent and the course for the race allowed for many ports of call, should teams wish to retire. There is absolutely no pressure put upon anyone to race but the RORC are extremely strict about compliance with safety and there are no exceptions to that. Of course we are concerned when conditions are rough but the RORC manage races such as the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland, where sailing in 40 knots of wind is common and on the West Coast of Ireland there are few places to go for shelter. The Myth of Malham race was a far more controlled environment and those that decided to brave the weather will have learnt a lot about their yachts and their own abilities in rough seas."

Harry Heijst's S&S 41 Winsome completed the race winning IRC 4 and coming second overall. Winsome's efforts have lifted them to the pole position in the RORC Season's Points Championship, both in class and overall.

"I am 67 years of age and I have done a lot of racing; round Britain and Ireland, the Fastnet, the Sydney Hobart and I remember a very tough St. Malo Race but I have to say that was the hardest race Winsome has ever done. The waves were five metres high going past The Needles and the cockpit filled up with water on several occasions. We ate nothing but peanuts and crisps upwind but did enjoy a fine macaroni supper on the way back. I think that the RORC were correct in starting the race, at the end of the day it is up to the skipper and that is the way it should be."

Andrew Pearce's Ker 40 Magnum III took line honours for the race and a win in IRC One. Olympic and America's Cup helmsman Andy Beadsworth was on board for his first offshore with the Magnum III team prior to the forthcoming Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup.

"As tough a RORC race as I can remember," commented Pearce. "I'm convinced we had more water inside the boat than out, it was just crashing over the decks. The Solent exit was interesting, the Needles Bridge was something else; standing waves had us pointing skywards and then crashing down the other side only to hit the next one. Luckily we have experience and we plugged on, knowing that this would not last for ever.

"We started with a single reef and No. 4 and very quickly put a second reef in and bedded down and dug deep for the first 8 hours. By daybreak Saturday, we were throwing out the reefs and moving up to the No. 3 and life began to return to some normality for an offshore race. By this time however, we were now thoroughly soaked inside and out and crew management was important. What kept us going was the thought of the downhill rush that we were going to have once round Eddystone. We were not disappointed. We charged along regularly maintaining 15-17 knots of boat speed. Our return was less than half the time it took us to get to the lighthouse, a handsome reward for the tough conditions.

"By Portland the wind had softened to 14 knots and we made steady progress into Poole Bay, where the winds strengthened again and it started to rain heavily, not that we could get any wetter. A very tough race, one that we were pleased to have finished with the boat and crew coping well in trying conditions."

Although Magnum III took line honours, the Myth of Malham Race was won by J/105 Voador. What makes the victory so admirable is that Voador was raced Two Handed by a father and daughter team of Simon and Nikki Curwen.

Simon Curwen is a veteran of short-handed racing, in 2001 he came second in the Mini Transat, however, his daughter Nikki is just 23 and after graduating from University works in Bournemouth in the media industry.

"More than likely that is the toughest race that I have done," commented Nikki. "It was very rough right from the start and really a battle to get through the strong winds but we knew what was coming, we knew what we were in for and it was more a race for survival than speed. Once we left the Solent there were very big waves, it was important to keep the boat going; bearing away down the wave into the trough to pick up speed, otherwise you stop dead.

"The waves were big and powerful, you have to treat them with respect. We were getting absolutely drenched, upwind in a J/105 is the worst point of sail. After exiting the Solent we stayed inshore heading for Studland Bay, we were beating into strong winds but inside the shelter of the bay the breeze was down to about 20 knots and we had much flatter water.

"After that the wind did come down a little, we were experiencing 20-25 knots with the occasional gust up to 35 but the mind set was to get to Eddystone so that we could have some real fun on the way home! We rounded the Eddystone Lighthouse at 1810, then the kite went up and it was even better but with a spinnaker up both of us needed to be on deck the whole time. At first we couldn't make Start Point, so we had to take the kite down again, which was a little frustrating.

"We unfurled the headsail, blew the tack line on the spinnaker completely and some of the halyard so that it was just touching the water then pulled it down the main hatch as we eased the halyard. This meant that neither of us had to leave the cockpit during the manoeuvre. After clearing Start Point we put the kite back up and after about 2300 the wind started to pick back up again, the expected strong winds came in a little earlier than predicted. During the night we hit a top boat speed of 17.2 knots but the wind was now constantly over 30 knots and we decided it wasn't a good idea to have the kite up, so down it came.

"I haven't done much two handed sailing with my father but this weekend he has taught me so much about sailing in heavy weather. However, the main thing that I learnt was that you can do anything if you put your mind to it. It was really good fun; when we went through the finish line and found out that we had won it really was the cherry on the top, but the most important thing for me was to get around the course. Would I do it again? Definitely, it was great fun."

The RORC Season's Points Championship continues with the Round Ireland Race, which started on Sunday 24 June. The next race of the series will start on Friday 29 June with the East Coast Race from West Mersea across the North Sea to Breskens.

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