Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race 2010Join the ASA Today

The Crew

BRITISH SOLDIER RACE BLOG
23 AUGUST 2010 – 5 SEPTEMBER 2010

D DAY MINUS 1 - SUN 22 AUG 10, 2000 HRS

British Soldier's all prepped and ready to go, except for a spot of last minute passage planning tonight in store for the navigator - it's all explained below! The new course (anti-clockwise) should make for a really fast downwind sail through the English Channel to Dover, where we'll gybe on to port for a blast across the Thames Estuary towards Lowestoft. Then it's more reaching across the North Sea through the oil fields. Provided the wind does as it is currently forecasted to do, we expect to be rounding top of the country on Friday. We shall see...

If you can listen to BFBS, then tune in to the Breakfast Show at 0945 hrs tomorrow to hear a live interview with the skipper. Race starts tomorrow at 1400 hrs.

Follow British Soldier's progress at: http://sevenstar.rorc.org/

PRESS ANNOUNCEMENT: CHANGE OF COURSE

1700: Cowes, Isle of Wight: At today’s Skipper’s Briefing for the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race, the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) announced a dramatic change to the race.

Due to a severe weather forecast for the west coast of Ireland for Thursday 26th August, the RORC have decided to reverse the course so that the fleet will race anti-clockwise around Britain and Ireland. The start remains unchanged from the Royal Yacht Squadron line to the east at 14.00. This should give the fleet a fast running start towards the forts in the Solent.

Andrew McIrvine, Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club explains why the club took the decision:

“The reason for changing the course is consideration for all the competitors. We have been monitoring the weather models for the last few days and they are all in agreement that a deep depression will be arriving to the west of Ireland at the same time as most of the fleet will be there. The RORC weather advisor Mike Broughton, believes that this will bring wind speeds of at least 40 knots, possibly as much as 50 knots on the nose. Worse than that, as the wind direction changes over 180º as the low passes through the sea state becomes very confused. Although the boats are very well prepared, these conditions could cause damage and retirements and the west coast of Ireland has very few places offering shelter. By going east about, the boats will avoid the worst of the depression and the confused sea state and will have far more shelter opportunities as there will be several ports that the boats can go into should they decide to do so.”

The Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race starts tomorrow at 1400 from the Royal Yacht Squadron Line, Cowes, Isle of Wight, England.

DAY 1 - MON 23 AUG 10, 1451 HRS

We're finally off! A great downwind start in 30 knots of breeze, with full Main and No 3. Surfing along at 12 - 13 knots. Grouparama (Volvo 70) surfed past doing 25 knots+. Watched a Class 40 drop her rig after 5 mins of kite - it's a long way to go and pity for them. Puma (our closest
rival) tried their kite but too breezy - thanks for the experiment guys!

Got to dash, just coming round the corner of the IoW out through the Forts and time for a reef...

Happy Skip

DAY 2 - TUE 24 AUG 10, 0225 HRS

Just cut the corner of Goodwin Sands with 1.5m under the keel - plenty! Great sailing so far; all downwind and not much below 10 knots. Max speed so far 15.2 knots. Mostly reaching and poled out jib downwind. Have just taken down the kite which was good stuff going past Dover. In the past 12 hrs we sailed 116 miles at an average speed of approx 9.6 knots. Hoping to do about 230 miles in the 24 hrs. Boil in the bag for supper - thank heavens for Army ORP! Everyone well and enjoying the sleigh ride.

Slightly concerned when I noticed that starboard watch had cornered someone from port in the aft cabin...

Next update off Lowestoft.

Skip

DAY 2 - TUE 24 AUG 10, 0920 HRS

Having a great blast up the east coast with one reef and the No 3. Wind's just forward of the beam so not quite kite weather. Should be off Lowestoft just before midday. A good first night last night - not too uncomfortable and now it's just a case of slipping into the routine. Much fun to be had listening to the irate Dover coastguard dishing out COLREGs b*ll*ckings to various straying yachts! Shame about Leopard as it would have been great to see them smash the record.

Fantastic weather today - blue skies and great breeze (20 knots+). ORP again for breakfast. A couple of yachts around - 2 off to starboard a couple of miles and slightly forward (no AIS?) and a few more on the horizon behind. So far we've done 172 NM on the log, with GPS showing 1622 NM left to run out of a total of 1802 NM (180 NM along the track complete).

Will celebrates his 29th Birthday today and unbeknownst to him, Port Watch has already hidden his secret stash of champagne!

Skip

P.S. Don't ever buy a rubber keyboard - invest in a decent cockpit hatch instead!

DAY 3 - WED 25 AUG 10

All's well on board British Soldier. If you're reading this then we're been successful in getting the steam driven satphone working! Hopefully there'll be a GRIB file waiting for us too.

After a busy and windy afternoon/night yesterday, with 40 knots+ in some of the squalls, we incurred some damage to the main resulting in it having to come down for a number of hours so the bolt rope could be stitched. Consequently we lost a number of hours whilst sailing with the trysail and No 4. Anyway it's been repaired and appears to be holding. Our luck seems to be better than Incisor who suffered a knockdown and we believe have had to retire.

Today we've been on a one sided beat pretty much all day into about 15 knots of wind. The breeze is reasonably unsteady at the moment so not much point tacking in the headers. Have caught up with Alicia (IRC0) who now sit about a mile off to starboard and sailing slightly deeper. Fingers crossed the wind will back round to the east so that we can start reaching again.

Just parallel to the entrance to the Firth of Forth (Edinburgh) and approx 90 miles offshore. Muckle Fludda (North Shetland) is approx 290 miles away.

Yesterday BS clocked up 223 miles in the 1st 24 hrs of the race, averaging 9.3 knots. In the 48 hrs since the race begun we have clocked 400 miles on the log. At the time of writing (by the time I've finished on this infernal rubber keyboard it will probably be considerably less) the GPS is telling us that we've only got 1385 NM to go.

That's it, other than to say that down below the boat is beginning to hum - too many wet bodies and too little space (and personal hygiene!).

Skip

DAY 4 - THU 26 AUG 10 - 0915 HRS

The upwind pounding continues with BS close hauled in 16 knots of breeze whist maintaining an average speed of 7.8 knots. Full main and Code 3. Currently 92 miles due east of Peterhead, with approx 196 miles to Muckle Fladda. GPS gives us an ETA of mid morning tomorrow. So far we've sailed 512 miles along the rhumb line with 1288 NM to go. Actually we've sailed slightly further though the water, clocking up 552 miles on the log.

Our porridge breakfast this morning was sabotaged by one of the crew who has refused to own up, although we have our suspicions. Porridge oats and bilge water had already combined to make an interesting mess which no-one was brave enough to try. If we catch the culprit, then a Court Martial is expected. No legal advice out here and no requirement for referral to Services' Prosecution Authority - we'll just make it up (who doesn't?)!. As a result, Day 14 breakfast has taken a hit - let's hope we don't need it.

Crew are in fine form and comfortably into that routine where the off watch read books in between sleep. First sign of a toothbrush last night and plenty of 'Glasgae showers' though!

Had an interesting trip through the oilfields last night. Plenty to look at and the guard ships call up for nothing more than a chat. Alicia still to starboard at 4 miles and slightly ahead, although considerably further downwind than we are. We should converge at the top, although we intend to tack back to the rhumb line later this afternoon in order to pick up the wind backing through to the west. Well that's the plan....

Skip

DAY 5 - FRI 27 AUG 2010 - 1000 HRS

We're back! Well, at least the satphone is. After launching itself across the saloon, bouncing off the galley stove and gently waking an off watch crewman, it has singularly failed to behave. Spread over the cabin sole in about a hundred bits, with a Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineering officer (who professes to have tinkered with motorbikes in the past) and a Troop leader from the Light Dragoons clutching a torque wrench claiming that he's a dab hand at replacing tracks thrown from his Scimitar light recce tank, somehow between them they managed to fix it.

A reasonably frustrating night last night waiting for an anticipated wind shift to back to the west which eventually materialised albeit 6 hours late. So much for free weather GRIB files - we want our money back! Currently laying Muckle Fludda on 310 degrees close hauled at 7.9 knots. GPS is giving us an ETA of early evening, although that's very much dependant on this wind holding out in strength and direction. Looking forward to the next leg - there's only a certain amount of oil rigs and harassing safety boats that you can take before it all becomes a tadge monotonous. A beamy/broad reach across the N Atlantic to St Kilda would be nice....

Conditions on board are pretty good, although we're all becoming adept at doing things with a permanent angle of heel whilst the boat pounds throw the waves. Foreheads wedged against the bulkhead in the heads is painful but prevents unnecessary spillage; swinging from grab rail to grab rail is pretty fast, whilst clinging on to the guardrail with your teeth has become standard practice. Suffice to say that the majority are becoming gymnasts, whilst the slightly older are creaking and groaning.
That's it - my fingers have numbed on this rubber keypad. So far we've logged 725 miles through the water in just under 4 days, whilst GPS shows us as having completed 647 NM with another 1153 to go. So if my infantry maffs is correct, that puts us just over a third of the way round.

Skip
(neither a gymnast nor contortionist)

DAY 6 - SAT 28 AUG 2010 - 1200 HRS

It's official - British Soldier rounded the top of the country (Muckle Fludda) early yesterday evening. Very beautiful and remote, although it could have been any point along the Devon/Cornish south coast, except it was freezing! Toasted the rounding with a cup of red wine with scoff (Army rations again) and whisky in the hot chocolate. Various bottles had to be carefully hidden just in case...

Rounded the top with Encore a couple of miles ahead. Over hauled them in next to no time and now they appear to have slipped behind over the horizon. Unless of course they've gone in search of more favourable wind? All we need to do is extend our lead over the water and get ahead of them on corrected time. We're perfectly happy where we are. Reaching along on Starboard doing approx 8.5 knots+ in 15 knots of NWstly breeze. Slightly to the left of the rhumb line although we're slowly converging. Should be at the next mark (Sula Sgeir) for supper tonight and then fingers crossed to St Kilda for breakfast tomorrow. So far we've covered 954 miles through the water, whilst the GPS shows us as having completed 837 miles with a further 965 NM to go. Sula Sgeir marks the halfway point.

First taste of porridge this morning following an earlier sabotage attempt. Most had it with treacle, but Paul, our first mate and resident jock on board, had it with Tabasco. Despite attempts to convince us that it tasted "great," no-one obliged. At least we can sympathise with hi Scottish counterpart, the Haggis - one leg longer than the other would definitely be an advantage to our helmsman. (Jamie - foot chocks please! Slip tape works great, but it's like constantly walking down a steep hill in a pair of 'great' Army boots. All helms are complaining of pressure sores and the occasional blister - ahh, bless 'em!).

It would appear that we have an international following. Riki, a Para currently serving in Afghanistan, sadly couldn't make it back to take part in the race, so is following us from Helmand instead when he's back in off patrol; Sheila (that's her real name honest!) is tracking us from down under, whilst Paul's friend is watching from Malta. To those of you who have emailed us on the boat, we have replied to every one, but we're led to believe that not all our replies are getting through. We'll keep trying.

That's all for the mo. Glorious sunshine and blue skies on deck, slightly cold, but great sailing conditions nevertheless. Is that Alicia (1st 50) we see on the horizon ahead? Next blog from the westernmost outpost of the British Army (St Kilda and the Air Defenders missile tracking station) except for the British Defence Liaison Staff in Washington. That would be too far...

Skip

DAY 8 - MON 30 AUG 10 - 2359 HRS

Well you couldn't get two better contrasting days. Yesterday was spent clinging on in white foamy seas trying to avoid the breakers, whilst today has been spent ghosting along in 2 knots of breeze counting jelly fish. After all the fun and excitement of the race so far, today was going to be a test for our concentration and light airs skills. Throughout the day we were fortunate enough to keep the boat moving in the right direction. We had elected to stay out further west because that's where the GRIB files had indicated slightly more breeze. The day was a useful reminder of what is meant by the term 'light and variable.' The crew were in high spirits, the banter relentless, whilst British Soldier resembled more of a washing line than a racing yacht. Suffice to say everything is dry, if not a little bit stale.
By 1900 hrs the new expected wind began to fill in from the east. Those boats on our left will probably proffer the most, although perhaps they had taken their hit during the day in thee lighter stuff. Anyway, we're now close hauled in about 12 knots with Black Rock some 50 miles off. It will be good to see the Irish coast. One third of the race to go and everything to play for!

Skip

DAY 9 - TUE 31 AUG 10 - 2000 HRS

Aagh! Another frustrating day on BS, ghosting along the coast of Ireland in little breeze and wondering how the opposition are fairing likewise. The only slight contrast to yesterday's bake in the sun is slightly more breeze and the beautiful Irish coastline to look at, although we're glad to see the back of the Black Rock! At the time of removing the skin from my finger tips on this rubber keypad, we're currently close hauled in 10 knots of breeze averaging approx 7 knots of boat speed.

Life remains on board relatively sane. No major concerns with regards to rations, gas or water, although some interesting combinations are beginning to appear which weren't listed on the original victualling plan. We're out of Tabasco (although Paul, the 1st Mate keeps producing his own reserve which looks decidedly like our missing spare bottle); coffee has been rationed to the over 28s (that's the skipper and 1st Mate only) and if we don't get in before Friday, then it's Vesta curry for breakfast, lunch and supper on Sat and Sun - nice!

So far we covered 1495 NM through the water. GPS says we've covered 1262 NM, with 540 NM to go. It's amazing how quickly time has flown and how comfortable the routine has become with all days blending into the next. No major incidents with the Watches today, although the usual banter continues and going on deck off watch has become a test of nerve for those willing to run the gauntlet.

That's it for the moment. We're looking forward to our 20 knot + bash across the Irish Sea and then up the Channel.

Skip

P.S. Someone tells me 'Playing Around Logic' has referred to us as 'Boy Soldier' on their blog. I hope they're not being unkind - with 5 Afghan tours, 12 Iraq tours and numerous other operational tours under our belts, there are NO boys on BS.

DAY 10 - WED 1 SEP 10 - 2300 HRS

Well here we are in familiar BS territory, approx 30 miles SW of the Fastnet Rock bashing into a south easterly Force 4 heading towards Bishop's Rock (Isles of Scilly) - nothing is very easy. The boat is behaving impeccably - full Main and No 3 and cracking along at average speeds of 7.5 knots+. GPS is telling us 385 NM to the finish. although we expect to cover a few more miles with this current forecast. Finish Sat pm?

The crew remain in high spirits and it's only after a while that you begin to identify individual and group idiosyncrasies/oddities. Port Watch, for example, like to start the day with a tube of Pringles, whilst Starboard have a particular penchant for personal hygiene, almost to a man insisting on taking a salt water shower every day, regardless of weather and angle of heel. What they do share in common is a mutual lack of trust; suspicious and accusing of the others every move, especially concerning food and the timing of sail changes which always seems to be left to the new oncoming watch.

I think that's enough from me - this isn't very comfortable and it's time to coax the Satphone out of it's cosy bag. Thanks Riki in Afghanistan for the offer of a missile strike on our closest rival. We'll have to turn you down on that one in case of infringement of Racing Rule of Sailing (RRS) 41 - No outside assistance permitted. Nice thought though - thanks.

Skip

DAY 11 - THU 2 SEP 10 - 2200 HRS

The longest beat in history? Well not quite, but definitely the longest beat of the race across the Irish Sea to Bishops Rock and the Isles of Scilly. Plenty of wind (uncanny that it chose the exact bearing of the rhumb line) and water to look at, but not much else. Life on BS continues at a pace - still driving the boat as fast as we can into the crashing seas. Everything down below is damp and following a mishap with the remaining coffee jar (almost inducing a near fit in the 1st Mate), coffee in the bilges means that BS has taken on a definitive coffee house aroma. Whilst this particular brand of frappucino is not my cup of tea, it has rather replaced the pungent odour of damp bodies and poor aiming drills in the heads.

Morale remains worrying high. Starboard watch are quietly reserved, with a steely professional edge above and below decks, whilst Starboard have become a tadge more rebellious, adopting a devil may care attitude, especially when serving up porridge/rice/pasta that may or may not (they refuse to cooperate) have been contaminated with bilge water. A coffee twang will surely give away their secret? Further, they have taken to singing loudly (and badly) a range of songs on the rail. Their repertoire includes songs from 1980's Children's TV programmes, the occasional poorly remembered song from Queen to the more traditional 'A vow to me thy country.' Singing was banned after their 2nd rendition of Christmas Carols....

So with 270 miles left out of this 1800 mile epic, we're looking forward to getting home. Who knows where the opposition are, but let's hope that wherever they are that we're pulling away.

Skip

DAY 12 - FRI 3 SEP 10 - 2100 HRS

The beating(s) continue! Having rounded Bishop's Rock and the Isles of Scilly to a stunning daybreak, the wind, relentless in its quest to remain in the east and head us at every opportunity, has done just that. So more beating in store for BS and her crew, with our eyes glued to the wind instruments to pick up the faintest sign of a shift that may benefit us in any way. Today has been immensely tactical, with many an hour spent pouring over the weather GRIB files and the tidal atlases. For us it's worked quite well as we rounded the Lizard with a favourable push before heading deep into Plymouth Bay in order to counter the fairer tides. We hope to do the same for Start Point later on tomorrow morning and then Lyme Bay, before making the final tidal gate of Portland Bill on Sat afternoon.

Life aboard BS remains decidedly (ab)normal. Relations between the two watches has changed from a distinctly cordial, to quiet resentment and now to near open hostility. Teas and coffees are regularly spiked with unpleasantries, oilskin trousers/jackets are routinely ransomed 5 mins before the unfortunate victim is due on deck, whilst the harshest trick of all was to rouse the off watch, prepare them for a move to the high side yawning and clutching sleeping bags, only to have been subjected to a 'bluff' tack. The on watch laughter went on annoyingly so for a good 3 hours. Suffice to say they weren't caught out again. The 1st Mate (now nicknamed 'Barnacle Paul' or 'Crustacean Paul' (depending on your Watch)) steadfastly refuses to get involved in inter-Watch politics, other than to grumble and groan which sets minds worrying. He's definitely not been the same since the coffee ran out. Indeed, most things are beginning to run out. In those early days when it looked like we were going to be round in 3ish days, ration bags Days 14 and backwards were confidently dipped into. 1st Mate put a stop to the looting when a member of Port was caught clutching a 9 pack of Kit Kats from Day 8 (and this was on Day 3!).

At 1600 hrs we had clocked 2000 miles on the log, although we have a suspicion that the log over reads on starboard, so how accurate that figure is remains to be seen. However, it won't be far off. This race has been a bit of an (enjoyable) slog. With the exception of the run down to Dover when it was too breezy to hold the kite, we've calculated that we've only flown the kite for approx 8 hours - saving us a fortune in sail loft repairs! The rest of the race has been white sail reaching or close hauled with more to follow.

That's all from me. Off to find my clearly marked sleeping bag ("Neither Port nor Starboard").

Skip

DAY 14 – SUN 5 SEP 10 – 0419:04 HRS

We’ve finished! On a breezy and dark Sunday morning, British Soldier finally crossed the Cowes Royal Yacht Squadron finishing line to take line honours in IRC Class 1. She had covered the 1802 nautical miles in 12 days 14 hours 19 minutes and 4 seconds, covering over 2300 miles through the water. Finishing nearly 3 hours ahead of Encore, her closest rival, once the time correction factor had been applied she had finished 2nd in class and 8th overall.

The race had been an epic, characterized by strong winds and heavy seas. At its worse, British Soldier was knocked down twice in 40 – 50 knot winds NW of the Outer Hebrides, resulting in all the safety gear being washed off the back of the yacht and one crewman breaking his wrist. Nevertheless undaunted, the major concern amongst the crew that morning was trying to get the gas oven working again (which they did!).

This now concludes the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) season. RORC is the world’s most competitive yacht racing and is a truly International class of racing. British Soldier, sailed by a variety of crews over the 12 races that make up the series, has finished 2nd overall out of 287 yachts that entered. The winning yacht was Tonnerre de Breskens 3, a Dutch Ker 45. British Soldier also claimed 2nd place in IRC Class 1.

British Soldier is now being prepared for a delivery to the Canaries ready for a race across the Atlantic starting on the 21 Nov 10. In 2011 she will take part in the Atlantic Ocean Racing Series, culminating in another transatlantic race from New York to the Lizard in the summer of 2011. Thereafter the yacht will take part in the biennial Fastnet race.


Offshore Racing Manager

Tim Hill Racing Manager for British Soldier

Lt Col Tim Hill
Tel: 01923 955337
Email: racing@sailarmy.co.uk