This time last year I was sat mid Atlantic on an 80 foot luxury superyacht owned by a Russian oligarch sailing from Gran Canaria to St Maarten. I recall writing a blog about the contrasting living conditions between that yacht and what I was used to on small racing yachts!
I was enjoying the luxuries of an en-suite cabin with hot shower, a double bed with 100% cotton sheets whilst the kitchen consisted of two freezers, fridges and even an automatic coffee maker! The saloon was blessed with sofas, dvd player with surround sound and the air conditioning kept us at a bearable temperature.
I also remember barrelling along at speeds of 10 – 14 knots under main only, kites are not allowed to be used on billionaires yachts for deliveries! One of my most vivid memories was the yearning to sail properly, fast and competitively. I felt the need for speed and exhilaration so when Peter offered me a place on Quokka for the ARC I jumped at the opportunity.
The ARC always promises (in the brochure so it must be true) blue skies, gentle trade winds, sunshine and ‘gin & tonic’ sailing! Indeed some of my regular team mates have shunned this race as ‘not interesting or serious enough.’ For those guilty culprits let me tell you that after 36 hours of this race I had decided for one last time that offshore racing really was not for me and all sailing plans for 2013 were firmly on hold!
For a couple of days I was wishing I was back on the luxury superyacht which would hardly have even noticed the unpleasant conditions. Today I am singing to myself ‘What a difference a day makes’ as we power along at speeds of 10 – 13 knots in glorious sunshine in the promised trade winds.
The sunrise this morning was quite special as it appeared in a gap in the clouds that were one of the feared squalls! The contrasting colours of the blackness of the rain in the base of the cloud, the white fluffy cumulus surrounding it and the deep orange sun as it broke through was only interrupted by the dancing dolphins, the sound of the winches grinding and the surging water as Quokka carved her groove through the Atlantic swells.
Morale is gradually on the increase as everyone settles in to the daily routine which more reluctantly includes the laborious domestic duties, in addition to pushing hard with continual sail changes and tweaking for speed. The scrambled eggs with delicious French cheese, supplied by Philippe my namesake who is actually a real French man to cause confusion, and cooked by Scottish Steve was the best I have ever had!
The big decisions of the day are when to take the kite down as the squalls approach and bring winds beyond the limits we set. It has been up and down a dozen times already in the last day but keeping Quokka under control, safe and in good shape is of paramount importance, we still have 2150 mile to go!. It has just as I type been dropped very cleanly in a 29 knot gust just as James broke the ARC boat speed record of 15 knots!
As we approach the point in the race that is equivalent to a Fastnet Race in distance the conversations have already begun about the sail wardrobe requirements for next years Fastnet Race. It appears that everyone on board shared my feelings about their offshore racing futures, including Peter (so he is human afterall!). The only difference now is that the Fastnet is referred to as a sprint!
For me my much dwindled love affair with sailing and the ocean has been restored to the maximum. I no longer have the urge to be back on a superyacht and I am left pondering about the concept of the speed of our changing emotions out here and how they affect all of us, the phycology of it is fascinating, but you have to be here to understand.
Finally, I have to confess that the legacy of my time on the superyacht has rubbed of on me and I sneaked one small luxury on board! My big white fluffy pillow is just amazing as I fall into a comfortable and blissful sleep! I did have the cunning sense to bring a spare with me to give to Peter, therefore ensuring that mine stayed safely on board, but that is our little secret and not to be shared!
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