By Piers Hugh-Smith
As ready as we’ve ever been was a phrase that was thrown around a lot before we left the dock in Malta, and it’s meaning is more than skin deep. With a boat like Maverick, we are incredibly fortunate to be developing all the time, using new technology, from Voltsport’s innovative and cutting edge battery system to our real ‘showstopper’ (Hopefully that rings with you GBBO fans), our DSS foils- However, with development comes trial and error, hard work and an expectation for nothing to work ‘out of the box’. Olly, the skipper, and all the guys working on-shore have put in reams of hard work to make sure we are as developed as possible for each race, and to put it simply, the Maverick that started the Middle Sea was a few steps along from the Maverick before that started in Palermo. The atmosphere was palpably optimistic, and everyone, including myself, was itching to unleash the best Maverick we’ve had yet on the racecourse in Malta.
But before I get into the race, I’ll introduce myself if you didn’t catch my Palermo interview or my ill-fated backflip off the DSS foil! (Proud holder of highest number of Facebook hits). My name is Piers, I’m 21, sailing Maverick and campaigning a Diam24 Trimaran and in my spare time I’m an Economics undergraduate at the University of Portsmouth. On Maverick, I’m the bowman- dealing with the pointy end, the sail changes and if there’s every any reason to go up the rig, it’s me that goes! However offshore, I switch into a bit of an all-rounder mode, and can often be found behind the wheel or with a sheet in my hand in addition to my duties on the bow.
If I was going to go through the race turn by turn, not only would this blog seem more like a novel, but by the end of it the only person left reading would be my mum! So in the interests of your interests, I’m going to pick a few highs, lows and lessons and see how that goes for length.
The big one, having Volvo Ocean Race legend Stu Bannatyne on board. Stu was a real example on how to do things, and the attitude to performance was one of my key take-outs. The pace was relentless, always making adjustments, always thinking about that nth percent. I get the impression that ‘that’ll be good enough’ is not a phrase that features heavily in Stu’s vocab. This had big implications for me too with lots, and lots of sail changes, at one point we would have 3 sails up, 2 ready to go on the foredeck, and in the space of an hour would of changed to the 2 on the deck, and back again! The light transitional zones off the Mediterranean islands (Think Stromboli and Pantaleria etc you tracker watchers), really reward pushing through and always having the correct sail up, even if it’s only up for 20 minutes before a change to something else. I’m always learning on the bow, and the multiple sail changes, day and night, have really accelerated my confidence in manoeuvres. Other highs; foils! We got to use the foils a little more this race, a few hours. They are incredible, make a huge difference to speed and stability, and are worth all the hype. It was a real tease for what I hope the transatlantic will be like next month. Lastly, there was some other cool little sights on the way, having never seen an active Volcano, Stromboli was a peak (pun intended) and we were fortunate enough to see 2 sea turtles amongst the usual hordes of dolphins,
At risk of sounding like a cliché, there weren’t really any. Not apart from the usual offshore gripes - being woken up in the off-watch, being covered by a film of salt for 3 days and whilst Expedition’s freeze dried is actually quite tasty, the 1000 kcal ‘Extreme’ chicken korma was not quite like a Friday night curry and pint at my local, Dil Raj. (Tariq if you’re reading this I hope you’re happy for the shout-out). Maybe there was one jib-peel, involving some obscenities, a detonated lifejacket, a self-unfurling staysail and being very, very wet, (however my stellar Ocean Rodeo drysuit kept me bone dry underneath) where some team-mates may recall I found potentially less than ideal, but it’s all part of the fun.
To finish off
To come away from this event, the boat’s 3rd ever race, with a 3rd overall is just simply an honour. I don’t think any of us were expecting it, and coupled with a Class win in IRC 1, I’m immensely proud to be part of the team, and it’s a real testament to all the hard work that’s gone into the project so far. There’s a huge amount to learn still, but the boat is yet to unleash it’s full potential, and I cannot wait to see it!
Next stop Lanzarote for the RORC Transatlantic Race!