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Britain and Ireland Race 2014 Reports

Army Yacht BRITISH SOLDIER Round Britain & Ireland Race 2014

Final Reports

As at 12:00 Saturday

British Soldier crossed the Royal Yacht Squadron line at 1718:08 on Fri 22 Aug - an elapsed time of 11 days 08 hours 38:08 minutes.

The last day's racing was frustrating - the Isle of Wight took a long time to round due to flukey winds and adverse tide, especially as we could taste the finish! We were delighted to be met by Jed Cunningham on his RIB with a Roger the photographer at Ryde for the final beat in, and they were kind enough to stick with us for the long beat to the Squadron line, handing us 2 bottles of champagne immediately after the finish which were rapidly dispatched!

We made our way to Trinity Landing where we prepared to come alongside a pontoon crowded with people - little did we know they were there to welcome us. As we neared, Relentless's crew gave a huge 3 cheers. The next 20 minutes was frenetic - Many photographs, handshakes and congratulations. The CEO of J boats worldwide seemed interested to hear our tale and the RORC team gave us a most generous welcome.  We were utterly humbled by the reception.

Most comments we received were along the lines of "only 5 crew, and in that boat!" With Relentless's 10 crew stood around us, admitting the pressure they had been under from us since seeing us sail straight through the gale and emerge ahead of them on the west coast of Ireland, and hounding them for 24 hours in the channel (they were nervously watching our speed which at times was 2 knots greater than theirs!), it gradually dawned on us that we had perhaps exceeded expectations.  At the very least we had had the race of a lifetime, certainly helped by the outstanding racing from Relentless in those last few days and hours.

Saga finished around midnight and having already had a few beers we gave them a raucous reception, and despite wanting to slip immediately for Hamble we managed to drag them to the pub for "one drink"! Rare finished as we slipped Cowes this morning and we paused to congratulate them. Never mind 5 crew, double handing (with no autohelm since Scotland) is an absolutely amazing achievement. Lula Belle was also on her way to the finish line this morning- another inspirational 2 handed performance.

So a final thank you, for all your support and encouragement. It really did make it easier to keep going knowing we were being rooted for!

Phil, Will, George, Joe, and Matt
RB&I 2014 British Soldier


As at Friday 0800

As at 0800 FRI
We started thursday with some welcome phone signal at the Scillies but also the disappointing news that Relentless had gone north of the line across the Irish sea and gone ahead. However, after a brief "sad-on" we rekindled our determination to catch up. The wind filled in yesterday afternoon and we started enjoying the sleigh ride home hoping that 'Mr Broach' or 'Mrs Wrap' did not rear their ugly heads.
The wind built to 20 knots from the west and we held our largest spinnaker, the A2, and began seeing speeds of 12-15 knots on the log - it was a question of hanging on hard in the gusts and trying to keep the boat straight and upright, maximising the blinding downwind speed the J111 is famed for. As dusk drew near we knew we were in for tough night to hold the kite; the sea had built up and winds were gusting 25 knots, and the night was pitch black. With all 5 required on deck for every gybe and more than a few wraps and broaches it was a busy night. Trimming and helming required 100% concentration throughout. Come dawn, we are all exhausted but with an average speed through the water of 9 knots overnight it was worth it - and we seem to have taken a valuable few miles from Relentless.
The finish line is in sight not although still a good few hours of sailing to go. The crew will need a health drive as we seem to have no ration breakfasts left but about 80 apples!
The race with Relentless has been relentless and they are proving to be tough opponents. Whatever happens we are looking forward to catching up with them for a beer at the end.


+ Report 8 as at Thurs 06:00

The wind frustrated us all of Wednesday. With the promise of 10 knots now and again, but mostly staying at 5-8, we have had our two spinnakers and the No.1 Jib up and down in a bid for boatspeed. Thanks to Team Army our new A2 looks great and is giving us every last drop of boat speed we can gain. Our slow progress has worried us, with the knowledge of Relentless hot on our heels. Meanwhile, crew are taking on a gradually more unkempt appearance. "Beardwatch" is a full time activity. George's Zoidberg wisp is coming along well; Barnesy has cultivated a ratty looking number; Will resembles a spanish drug smuggler, Joe's looks like the Team America Arab disguise - he is now known as "tufty", and the skipper's mexican tache is thickening daily. Our wispy beards and wild hair is now often paired with manical wild eyed bouts of hysterical laughter that occur regularly, over things that are perhaps not that hysterically funny. And we have run out of Ribena which has caused much angst among the younger members of the crew. 

Much sleeping has occurred thanks to calm conditions, which is seemingly not able to relieve the fatigue that is affecting us all now, perhaps as a result of the lull in the weather and general lower stress conditions. Ration consumption is high now due to boredom and the luxury of two extra man's rations; the daily haribo issue is consumed by 0900 every morning; and so for the loved ones expecting us to lose a few pounds on this trip, you may be in for a disappointment... !



+ Report 7 as at Tues 21:00

Dolphins, Spinnakers and sun! So the weather has finally turned in our favour and we had an early start with all crew on deck to pop the A5 and then the A2 spinnaker. We gradually got into routine and have managed to dry out significantly. The salt water strip washes are not for the faint hearted though! Phil's elite athlete stature was unfortunately seen by all! Skippers toothbrush also got used for second time of the trip, first being to try to clean salt from satphone circuit boards. Will has seen his feet for the first time in 4 days - stage 1 trenchfoot is an understatement! Barnsey has been working on his mahogany tan and generally looking gorgeous although very Zoolander. Joe has had a hard day trimming and holds the record for most ginger nuts eaten in one day. George has avoided aquatic life today however his aroma seems to have attracted many dolphins. Some great footage has been taken on the new ASA GoPro (Thanks Alan). Lunch today was a lovely chorizo and pasta with a garlic and tomato sauce by Will "Gordon" Naylor. Yum! What is not yum is the immense smell of feet in the cabin as everyone is drying their socks out.
Bottle of champagne at westerly point this evening. All recovered after a day sleeping and minimum manning on deck to trim the kite and steer. Ready for the next few days of hard trimming, reading the wind and driving carefully. All in a day of sun, dolphins, drying out and a bit of recovery ready for the final push.

the crew

dolphis chasing BRITISH SOLDIER

+ Report 6 as at 22:20 Monday

From 0336 Sat

It has been tough going since Muckle Flugga. As races go, the last 3 days have been some of the hardest for all of us, regardless of experience. We are glad to still be racing and we will also just be glad to complete the course. Having had no comms we have wondered how the other boats have fared and hope that none had difficulties in the bad weather. And having only just got signal we had no idea where anyone is in the fleet so are still sailing hard.....

We were beating from the outset on Saturday, and by late afternoon were hard on the wind with not much sail - storm jib and 3 reefs. seeing us through the rising 30 knots or so. Our light J boat was not built for punching headfirst into big offshore seas but nonetheless the old catchphrase "sail her like you stole her!" was wheeled out and the helm was urged to sail hard and fast! Sleep was a question of lying below in wet oilskins and deluding yourself for a few hours that you might be asleep. It was on Saturday the Satphone made a bid  for a small puddle of bilge water and falling off a large wave bounced it from its safe place - and despite being instantly fished out it was not happy. Even a gentle dry-out in the oven (some were highly amused at "baking the satphone") was not enough to coax it back into life, leaving us without communications. A serious error but with a forecast of NW gale arriving soon there were other issues closer to hand.

Early sunday morning saw the wind steadily rise from the NW. We held our storm jib and 3 reefs for as long as possible but at around 0900 off the Isle of Lewis it rose to 35 and we were broaching regularly - so the trysail quickly went up. NW winds of gale gusting severe gale threw up huge rolling seas seemingly to the masthead height (but were probably more like 10m). With everyone already tired from nearly two days of beating into a gale the skipper took the helm and headed SW, weaving in and out of big breaking seas which could have engulfed the boat if caught at the wrong angle.  At one point George, allowing Phil a quick break, managed to get taken off his feet by a wave, which in turn set off his lifejacket, much to everyone's amusement and his irritation! Reaching St Kilda (our turning point 30 miles NW of the Isle of Lewis) after ten hours and around 100 miles under trysail was an incredible sight. 40-45 knots of wind driving mountainous seas into these huge islands of rock wreathed in mist and spray was as terrifying as it was spectacular, as we surfed past at a cautious distance that felt far too close. To say we were relieved to turn downwind then having escaped injury or damage would be an understatement.


Now past St Kilda, we are finally able to drive off the wind for the longest time in a week - the boat is now not permanently sideways! Since then the winds have dropped steadily to a gusty 12- 20 knts, the orange sails are away and we are surfing our way down towards the western coast of Ireland. While putting away the trysail, a fish jumped out of the water and hit George in the face at the wheel which was a highlight of the day! Now all of his clothes smell of fish (as well as everything else they already smelt of). We have managed to get a new record speed for the trip as well at 18.4 knts! Morale is up now that the sun is finally out, and we start to think about the final days of the race and enjoy the ride downwind to Ireland. And as we tidy the boat a "lost property" box has been established, although mostly filled with only Will's kit so far..

Round Britain & Ireland race on board BRITISH SOLDIER

Round Britain & Ireland race on board BRITISH SOLDIER

Round Britain & Ireland race on board BRITISH SOLDIER

18th August 22:07

British Soldier Update,
The crew have made good time since the last update, they are approx. 40 miles from black rock in second place and only 4 miles behind the other IRC 2 boat to at this late stage all is to place for over the next few days.
The forecast is for lighter winds for the next 24 hours than they have really had for the whole race with a mild GF5 dropping to a 3-4 tomorrow (tuesday). This will hopefully allow then to get a few hours kip to recharge the batteries and sort any running repairs they may have to make to boat or crew.
The 7 days since the start will have the crew tired and aching from constantly being bettered and drenched and fighting to keep the boat alfoat and on course, they have achieved a truely impressive piece of sailing.
Nothing has been heard from the boat so we assume that they are concentrating on picking up the 4 miles between them and Relentless who managed to catch up this afternoon.
The Race is most definately ON

+ Report 6 as at 0336 Sat 16 Aug

We are at the top! after a lot of beating and some flukey winds we arrived at Muckle Flugga around 1630! The equivalent of 1 Fastnet down with 2  to go. Morale has been lifted with the opportunity to use our phones and check in with loved ones (apart from the driver - the luckless skipper). Also in light airs there has been a chance for a wash and a change of clothes. Most of the tidying below has been sorted although Phil's 'Eagle's Nest' (skipper's quarterberth) seems to have gone unattended. The crew also enjoyed their second bottle of champagne, and clocked the 10,000th mile on British Soldier, which was quite a moment for Phil and Will.
Since then the wind has gone west and up to 25 knots. We are sailing close to the wind under J4 and 2 reefs and are fairly hard pressed in some bumpy seas . Down below has returned to  swamp - a large item is floating at my feet under the chart table, not sure what. Spray is flung from bow to stern and even somehow flicks 180 degrees down the hatch - irksome to say the least! The wind looks set to blow over the next few days so we are bracing ourselves for more of these delights!


+ Report 5 as at 2359 13 Aug

The highlight of the day had to be the sumptious cheese board for lunch, including chutneys and tesco's finest biscuits. The smell from the fridge was overpowering even the smell of Will's feet so the cheese had to be eaten urgently! Life on a very bumpy port tack at 20 degrees heel heading into a 20-30 knot wind has taken its toll on living down below. Sitting at the chart table involves paddling in the puddle at your feet. Everything is wet including sleeping bags - not great for morale! Every 2 hours sees an olympic gymnastic performance from someone exiting their bunk and putting on waterproofs. Oh and there's still lots of tweaking of sails and reefing in and out being done too! On the plus side Matt Barnes hasn't been sick for 12 hours now... they don't make Paras like they used to. :-)
In other news the crew have now nicknamed Phil 'Sharpe' where most of his crew marches on paper while the chosen few march on to Scotland!



British Soldier



+ Report 4 as at 0400 Wed 13 Aug

It has been a busy 24 hours! The highlight was the run across the Thames Estuary very early Tuesday morning, where we hoisted the A5 spinnaker in 12 knots of breeze, only to enjoy a thrilling ride as it gradually increased to 28-29 knots knots. George stole the limelight with some inspired helming, keeping the boat 100% upright until we were forced to drop the kite when the tweaker line snapped. Despite us all having been on deck for 20 hours, with only 5 in number, and in 30 knots, the drop was perfect! We passed Lowestoft at 0800 and cracked a bottle of champagne for the most easterly point on the course - giving Neptune a measure as well. Since then we have endured multiple rainy squalls and winds from 8 - 30 knots - many sail changes/reefs. We're currently running in SW 20-30 knots in some very uncomfortable swell, but nonetheless making good progress - although 347 miles remain to Muckle Flugga. And with the future forecast not being particularly favourable our 6+7th man's water rations may well come in handy after all.... 

British Soldier

round Britain & Ireland race


+ Report 3

As at 1900hrs Monday 11th August:

So we're sailing along the English Channel downwind with 2 reefs and the 3.5 up, topping out at around 17 knots boatspeed, seeing wind speeds of 25-34 knots. The A5 was huge fun for the first few hours of the race but we couldn't carry it when the wind piped up to 30 knots.

It's been a mixed bag today; Craig unfortunately couldn't join us, due to a last minute commitment, and we're having to stop at Dover quickly to drop Andy at A+E as he has a dislocated shoulder after a heavy broach. So, we're down to 5 now, really disappointed to lose Andy and Craig but hoping that no more will leave us...!

We had a couple (!) of interesting broaches that have put a small tear in the mainsail that we are going to fix. The skipper is happy though as with 2 less crew we can lose 70kg of drinking water on board! Down below is already smelling 'aromatic' but morale is high and we're all looking forward to turning left and heading for the top.

Will Naylor
British Soldier

BRITISH SOLDIER round Britain & Ireland Race Aug 14


+ Report 2

Latest news: With the engine running and lines about to be cast off, we just heard that the race has been postponed to 0900 on Monday 11 Aug. The following was issued from the race office:
"The Race Committee have taken the decision to postpone the start of the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race 2014 by 21 hours. The new start time will be 0900 on the 11th August 2014. The Race Committee took this decision after receiving advice that the low pressure system known as Bertha is moving more slowly than previously predicted, with the result that the forecast winds for the start and the immediate period afterwards includes sustained winds of 40 knots with gusts in excess of 50 knots in the English Channel. The advice is that this delay will allow time for the severe winds to abate as the low pressure system moves North East. "
Therefore, the British Soldier crew are shortly relocating to the Anchor for a pub lunch! Although we will be heading out for a last practice sail this afternoon, to at least take the opportunity to put the storm sails up again. Whilst slightly frustrated at a delay, as we are all keen to get going, on the other hand there is a due sense that the postponement is probably sensible given the slightly stronger forecast.

Phil Caswell
British Soldier


+ Report 1

British Soldier – RB&I Race Report 1

We currently sit in Shepherd Wharf Marina, Cowes, listening to a lot of rain beating down on the decks! The race brief last night was short and to the point: the course has been reversed to anti clockwise, so instead of an initial slog to windward in a SW 6-8 we have the opposite; and it seems 3 low pressure systems are conspiring to give us some strong winds for the next 7 days or so. We are relishing the thought of a downwind  sleigh ride, at least for the first few days - the last time the boat was in these conditions under white sails alone we were surfing at 23 knots! Although some caution will be required, with gusts of severe gale 9 forecast in the channel. All in all, we can't wait to get started at 1200!

Phil Caswell
British Soldier

Race Tracker: 
Following the success of a tracking system for the entire fleet in 2010, all yachts will be fitted with a similar device. 

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Lt Col Tim Hill
Tel: 01923 955337

British Soldier with her Team Army Sail

thanks to Team Army the A2 sail us looking great

British Soldier

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