Monday, September 08, 2008
IT IS OK TO BE SCARED!
CLOSING BLOG FROM PHILIPPE
I was quite relieved on Monday night when Becki sat in the cockpit of Puma and announced to the team ‘for the first time ever aboard Puma I was scared.’ I was relieved as it was good to know that I was not alone in my own thought.
I have often been asked about my scariest moment at sea. I get the feeling that my normal response of ‘I have never been scared as such’ is met with a certain amount of scepticism and disbelief. However, that was the truth up until Monday night whilst sixteen mile West of Ushant. I have been anxious and apprehensive before about a situation; but never scared. Now I actually understand and appreciated what it is like to be scared at sea. I will be able to answer the question with honesty in the future.
The next question that I am sure many of you will immediately be asking is ‘so were you in danger?’ This is something that I have subsequently given careful consideration to. We learn from our own experiences and it is therefore very important to analyze the events that lead up to a situation provoking certain emotions and actions. Firstly I will give you the conclusion of my deliberations as I do not want you to be unnecessarily concerned. No is the answer, I do not believe Puma or anyone aboard her was in any danger at any moment.
‘So, how come I was scared then?’ That is a harder question to answer. Having a healthy respect for the sea is paramount in good seamanship. There is continual thought process that a skipper goes through when making tactical decisions combined with assessments of risk analysis and crew welfare. We all know that to race successfully means pushing slightly closer to the limits of safety than cruising requires. But we must determine what is reasonable and when the risk becomes too significant. It is the best balance of the two that separates success from disaster.
We were hurtling toward Ushant at speeds hitting just under twenty knots with one reef in the mainsail and a poled out no 3 jib. The wind speed was reaching nearly 40 knots (a full force 8 gale) and the sea state was very rough with waves in excess of five metres. It was pitch black and raining hard with poor visibility. We were on the edge and pushing hard, forever closing the deficit on Pen Azen.
I was considering reducing sail area to control the speed as with a lee shore rapidly approaching I was conscious of the safety issues. It was time to once again throttle back. We were 16 miles from Ushant when the lines that hold the spinnaker pole in place departed from the pole end. The consequence of this means that it is very difficult to get the jib to the other side of the boat (something we needed to do before any other manoeuvre was possible).
Poochie (Brighty’s latest and favoured nickname), Richard, Becki, Alan and myself were on deck. This situation needed some quick thinking with a safe and fast execution of whatever manoeuvre was decided upon. We all sat in the cockpit shining torches at the front of the boat for about ten minutes. Nothing was said; fairly indicative of the fact that none of us could think of a solution. The quietness of all of us was actually quite amusing and comforting in itself, a good sign that panic had not yet set in. We even had a laugh about the situation at one stage!
Then we started bouncing ideas around, we moved some lines around in a vein attempt to provoke a thought process. Clearly we had no answers that we knew would definitely work so we decided that the best way forward would be to cast off one line, pull another as hard and fast as we could, close our eyes and hope for the best! I was not entirely satisfied that we had a satisfactory solution to the problem and just before we started it I came up with another plan.
David just looked at me and said ‘that will not work!’ I responded ‘maybe not, but it is better than the current plan.’ Poochie retorted ‘ok, let’s give it a go and if it works you are a f*****g genius!’ We set up for it, breathed in and hoped. A few moments later Poochie looked at me and proclaimed me to be a F*****g genius. The problem was solved.
In total it took about 30 minutes to resolve our little predicament but in that time we had closed to within eight miles of Ushant. We had travelled eight miles in thirty minutes, an average speed of sixteen knots. For a thirty minute period we had not been able to control our speed when I felt it particularly necessary to do so. At that point I was scared! The elements had completely controlled us leaving very few options and we had to deal with it. Never before had I felt the sea to be so much in control of the situation which was a sobering reminder of the power of nature. That is why I was scared.
So why were Puma and the crew never in danger? Simply because we had planned far enough ahead to enable us to sort out any problems effectively and safely. We had the experience, knowledge, ability and most importantly time to analyze, plan and execute a remedy that would keep Puma out of danger. ‘TIME’ is the key issue. Whilst we had been pushing hard we had given ourselves time to sort out the problem and therefore I was satisfied that I had never put the team in danger.
The next 220 miles we covered in just 22 hours. I probably do not need to say too much about the sailing other than it was breathtaking with one of the biggest adrenaline rushes I have experienced. The speedo was reading 15 knots for sustained periods of time and peaking at 18.8 knots! The hull was resonating for much of the time and the loads were immense. I am sure you are fully aware of how hard Team Puma pushed right to the end. We were all at our mental and physical limits digging deeper and deeper into the reserves.
I do not fully understand how a team like ours can come and take on some of the best and most experienced teams around, possessing the belief that they can succeed. There is certainly a rare quality about the teams that sail offshore aboard Puma Logic and it is testimony that anything can be achieved with the right mindset. Puma Logic was very much the underdog in this battle but came out on top. This year there has been an undeniable commitment, incredible self belief and most importantly a huge respect for each other which has resulted in a morale and energy capable of taking the team to the top and conquering.
Sailing back into the Solent with the support RIB’s to greet us was a very special moment. At that stage we knew we had won the race and we had time to take it in and savour the moment. I cannot really recall my thoughts except the ones of relief at finishing the toughest yacht race I have competed in the euphoria of winning it. I will never forgot the moment we berthed in Cowes under sail power only. It was a sensational moment and the smiles, tears, laughter and hugs said it all. This concluded the best month of my life with a fairy tale endingâ€¦..beating the best yacht in the RORC championships in the toughest race. What more could anyone have asked for?
Monday, September 08, 2008
RORC Cherbourg Race - last outing of the season....
Puma Logic and Jaguar Logic set sail on Friday evening to race to Cherbourg with an expected fleet of 52 yachts. This race was the culmination of the RORC offshore series and Jaguar Logic, skippered by Sailing Logic's friend Pete Summers, came along to push Puma hard and also join in the celebrations in Cherbourg. The weather was appalling, and for once the forecast pretty accurate.
Only 18 yachts appeared on the start line, with the rest deciding that a Force 8 southerly wind on the nose wasn't going to be fun and decided to stay at home and watch the tennis.......I think perhaps they had the right idea!
Never to be daunted, the Logic yachts set off down the Western Solent and out of through the Needles and then across the Channel to Cherbourg. Puma Logic was trying to consolidate her second place in IRC 1 Class, and for that they needed to make sure that British Soldier were in sight at all times. The maths were that if British Soldier won the race and Puma had not taken part, then they would have overtaken Puma to claim second and push Puma to third. Pen Azen emerged just after day break in Cherbourg as the Class winners with British Soldier second and Puma Logic third.
Puma spent half of the race without a mainsail up, after a technical problem, which meant that even getting to Cherbourg in third place, and not too far behind Pen Azen and British Soldier was another great achievement. Jaguar Logic came a very creditable 4th place, after having half their crew drop out at the last minute after looking at the weather, and with the rest of the team being made up of first time offshore racers, hats off to them!
The obligatory few beers were drunk, a belated French breakfast eaten at the yacht club, and then onto a rice little restaurant...........mmmm.....we always enjoy Cherbourg!
The teams were met at the finish by a Logic groupies...namely Jane, Maire, Poochie, determined not to miss out on some fun time and a few drinks with the crew.
The yachts returned safely at Sunday lunchtime, and all is well.
Puma Logic has now been confirmed as coming 2nd in IRC Class 1 and also 2nd in IRC Overall which is a fantastic achievement for a team of relative novice offshore sailors, and a little sailing school yacht....we are VERY proud of you!!!
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
RORC Madeira-Cowes Race - Final report: It's official - Puma wins!!!
Fantastic news...RORC this afternoon have confirmed that Puma Logic and her team have won the Madeira-Cowes Race, by 2 hours and 23 minutes on corrected time...they have actually won twice; first in Class and first overall which means a double celebration. We have some exceptionally weary sailors here in our offices this afternoon, but the smiles and grins on their faces say it all....an fantastic achievement and what a fitting end to an amazing adventure.
When RORC advertised these two races back in December we were looking for a new adventure to fit into our calendar. Little did we know at the time that this adventure would turn into such a journey, and with such success. Not just the positions on the water at the end but the spirit of human endeavour, steadfastness and friendship. We have 12 people who normally would not meet in their everyday lives. We now have a team comprising of 12 sailors who will forever be joined together with their common experience, loyalty and achievement. Our yachts have never been in such weather conditions before and so far away from land. We are immensely proud that they stood up to this hard test and passed with almost flying colours. Puma does need a little bit of tlc after her journey but nothing that will stop her racing once again on Friday over to Cherbourg for the last race of the season.
There were grumblings this morning on the dock that with the weather forecast for this coming weekend being horrible, that maybe the team should stay in bed, and drink a beer or two just in Southampton. However, after a few hours sleep and some of Bernie and Kath's fantastic cooked breakfasts at the Waterfront Bar at Shamrock Quay, they are all raring to go again. We can now officially announce that they are all mad!
The biggest impetuous for racing again this weekend is the team want to meet their fellow Madeira race teams for a celebratory beer or two, and this is the last opportunity of the season. They weren't able to meet with the Pen Zen crew last night after finishing and the British Soldier team were long gone back to Gosport. There is also the little matter of the positions in the IRC 1 Class and the Offshore series overall to think about, probably the biggest impetuous to carry on sailing than the beer!
Anyway, rest assured the crew will give it their all as before and I hope that Ian from the RORC Race Office have warned the Cherbourg Yacht Club that Sailing Logic is coming back!
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
RORC Madeira-Cowes Race Report 12: Puma finish in dramatic style!!
02.14.50 hrs - Puma Logic finish the Madeira-Cowes Race....welcome home Puma!!
Pen Azen finished at 23.52, just 2 hours 22 minutes ahead of Puma after over 1500 miles of racing, amazingly close. We do not know yet where each yacht stands in the overall placing of the race but as soon as we do we will update you.
A fantastic night rib ride for the families of the crew met Puma as she skirted around the coast of the Isle of Wight and escorted her across the finish line and into Cowes fo a champagne reception. The yachts engine was restarted after their power failure 3 days ago, and the yacht is now heading back to her home port of Shamrock Quay for a little sleep and then a full English breakfast that they have been dreaming of since leaving the Solent in early August.
More to follow....
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
RORC Maderia-Cowes Race Report No 11: .....12 hours to go and counting....
Puma is nearly home - into the Channel they have stormed this morning and are still averaging 10 knots towards the finish line. Pen Azen have definitely got ahead of them further after the interesting night, but not far enough for comfort. We still believe that Puma has a chance of overhauling the handicap deficit and so please keep everything crossed even tighter. It will be very, very close and oh so very, very exciting!
We have heard from the yacht at lunchtime and they have the 0.75 oz spinnaker up and the sun is shining. The wind is still strong from the south west which means it is perfect for bringing them home as quickly as possible.
A few of the crew are having second thoughts about racing to Cherbourg this weekend, but I am sure after a few beers and a good nights sleep they will be raring to go again.....absolutely mad!
Unfortunately, singing and dancing to Queen cannot help them at the moment as they have no power but they have been trying to remember the words and the tune, so maybe its a good thing they are mid-channel and no-one can hear them! Spirits as ever are very high with everyone working exceptionally hard to get the yacht back to Cowes in record time.
ETA still the same - 0200-0400hrs Wed morning.