Patience & History

After a great break in France, I was ready and keen for some more sailing. I’d signed up for a race from the UK to France and the return trip. It was with a different boat, not related to Clipper. The yacht was Wild Spirit, a smaller boat at 40’ and much more comfortable as it’s more of a cruising (designed for comfort, drinks and snacks) boat than a racing yacht (designed for speed and performance).

I met the team on Thursday night. It was a nice friendly group of people, quite a few who have sailed together before. They were welcoming though and made us new crew feel welcome. The regulars are currently working their way towards the Fastnet Race later this year. The Fastnet is the UK equivalent of the Sydney to Hobart. A tough event with a long history. This race was another step in their preparation.

We set off from Cowes on Friday around lunch time, in fairly light conditions. Although we hadn’t had much practice as a team, things we smoothly as we kept reasonable pace with the rest of the fleet. The only problem was the pace was slow, very slow. We were missing one key component of sailing, wind. There was a high pressure system over the UK, which was great for most people as it meant lovely sunny warm weather. For us though it meant we had to find a large amount of patience. Going nowhere is never fun, on a sailing boat it can be downright torture. When there is no breeze the sails hang limp, flapping as the boat sways from side to side on the swell. They make a slapping sound, which is akin to the dripping of a trap. A slow monotonous dripping, that can’t be stopped. A patience tester if ever there was one. I’m sure the race will serve up more than one test of my patience.

So after 9 hours and only about 1/8 of the distance covered the skipper made the decision to abandon the race. A disappointing but understandable decisions, when we faced an expected 26-30 hour journey taking up to 72 hours. Instead of heading straight back to port we salvaged something from the weekend by continuing to cross the channel and headed for Alderney. Alderney is one of the Channel Islands, and is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, a British Crown dependency. It has a long and varied history, being situated between Britain and France. Over the centuries it has changed hands many times and seen a lot of military development, including being occupied by the Nazis during World War II. The island is fairly isolated with the main means of arriving by boat, it’s also so small you can easily walk around it in a day.

So instead of an exciting racing I spent my weekend learning about patience and history. Not what I’d originally planned but very interesting none the less.