Every week we are thrilled to meet new people aboard Velvet Lady. We meet people from all walks of life who have a wide range of sailing experience. Some people come to learn and participate, others to sit back, relax and enjoy.
This week learning about speed and sail trim was high on the agenda. We spent a lot of time easing and winding the sheet winches and watching the instruments. We played with the staysail on different points of sailing and saw when it added to our speed and when it slowed us down. We saw that when it was time to put a reef in the main the boat went faster, and if we left it too long the boat slowed down. Velvet Lady is set up for cruising and so the good thing about all of these sail changes was that they were done from the comfort and safety of the cockpit with no need to fight the elements on the foredeck.
From the comfort of our cockpit the conversation changed to single handed yacht racing and the Vendee Globe in particular. To sail 24000 nm around the world in all weathers, is such an amazing achievement. I sailed with a crew of 17 when I raced around the world in the BT Global Challenge 2000/1. After the luxury of sailing with a full crew to help in sail changes I can only imagine how difficult it is on your own. I can think of 1001 jobs necessary to keep the boat going which are easier done with a second pair of hands. I have great admiration for all who take part.
Along with many of our guests, Richard and I have been following the progress of all the British entries in the current race. Congratulations to Sam, Dee and Brian who finished during this week, but my heart is still with ‘My Mate Steve’.
As I write Steve is 150 nm from the finish, being hindered by headwinds but due to arrive on Thursday. As in everything with Steve White’s project he seems to have more than his share of hard times. Steve sailed with me as my mate when I worked for the challenge business, and I would like to hope that I passed a tip or two onto him. Even then Steve knew he wanted to get into the world of single handed sailing and I watched him sympathetically as he struggled to find a sponsor. So determined was he to take part in the Vendee Globe this time that he bought himself (by remortgaging his house) a very old Open 60 and proceeded to sail it the required distance to get him to the start line.
I was so pleased and thrilled to hear that he signed a sponsor at the last minute, and have watched him avidly since. One of the things about long distance sailing (both racing and cruising) is you need to look after the boat. You can only get to the finish line if the boat stays in one bit! He is already planning his entry for 2012 and my fingers crossed for him that he comes up with a sponsor with enough money to buy a boat to do him justice.
In this last week on Velvet Lady we sailed 182 nm in winds ranging from Force 1 to Force 6, and managed to spend every evening in the comfort of a harbour or anchorage. We ate splendid home cooked meals and drank quite a lot of wine. We were visited most days by dolphins and found time to climb a volcano on La Graciosa. During that time Steve sailed 1200nm some of it beating to windward in 35 knots of wind and a large sea, surviving on very little sleep and freeze dried meals, whilst coaxing the best out of his boat. That is the difference between cruising and racing, thankfully not everyone is the same and there is room on the ocean for both cruisers and racers.
We are now just preparing for our 8 island dash. Very popular with the ladies this trip is, the crew are just starting to arrive and with 4 female guests and myself, Rich is seriously outnumbered. Watch out for next weeks blogs to see how he coped!
PS – Guests have now gone to bed and I’m checking up on Steve’s progress! Just found this great story on the Vendee Web Site – Enjoy reading it!