Our founder Quentin reviews the Maverick 2016 RORC Transatlantic Race...
The team had planned to join the RORC Transatlantic race 12 months prior and in a moment of mental frailty I folded to the dream of a trade wind fuelled blast to the Caribbean, average weather routing of about 9 to 10 days. I flew into Lanzarote with some trepidation. The latest forecast had a routing of 14 days and looked to be taking us to the Arctic. Not at all the warm water sled ride I had signed up for.
Our yacht Maverick is a 46ft race boat. Down below she is a mobile sail loft, all mod cons and creature comforts were designed out. On deck at speed, which is our preferred operational mode, the experience is akin to a wash down with a fire hose. All good fun for 3 days on the traditional 600 mile classics, but 14 days seemed a psychological bridge to far.
A beautiful first afternoon turned into a grim 24 hours as we had to beat in 20knts and sharp chop to clear the Canaries. You can roll with those punches if there is some fun to come, but that’s not to be our luck. We are mid Atlantic with 2,500 miles to go in a high pressure system taking us North when we want to go South having to use our mast head zero in 5knts of breeze. That’s when I knew it was going to be a long two weeks.
After about 8 days we finally found some trade winds and we were off. On this boat there is nothing quite as enjoyable as smashing out miles with easy speed, in a constant breeze on a long swell. After 2 or 3 days of enjoying ourselves we had given up all pretence of trying to stay dry, board shorts were on, it was warm and what could possibly go wrong.
It must be 48 years since I last had nappy rash. Thanks to RORC I have new found respect for crying babies. We were all struggling to a greater or lesser extent and despite having every conceivable bit of safety kit and extensive medical supplies for a Cat 1 rating, no one had remembered to pack the Sudocream.
Around day 11 our spirits were lifted as we crossed paths with a gentleman 4 weeks into his crossing (and still some 500 miles out) who expressed some surprise that we thought it sensible to be using a kite. Smug as we felt blasting away, expecting our pain to be over in about 2 days, his scepticism prove prophetic and within 24 hours we were quickly relived of all of our nylon.
As with all great adventures things got a bit tougher. One of the pins that hold our oversized bowsprit in place failed. A bit of frantic lashing and a winch handle were the best repair we could come up with; patently inadequate to deal with the loads on the sprit if the 2nd pin failed. After ten minutes of quite reflection on the relative importance of beer, shower, Sudocream, food and a bed (in any particular order) against the cost of replacing the sprit, it was no contest and up went the fractional zero (our last big sail) to the end of the prod. We kept a wary eye on the bowsprit which proceeded to move not 1 millimetre.
The last day was the usual roller coaster of emotions. The class win was there but we needed wind, which of course died. Resigned to a near miss we put in the gybe to set course for Grenada and from nowhere we had 20knts at 110 degrees. The yacht took off and within 7 or so hours we were tied up to a warm welcome from the RORC and Camper and Nicholsons team drinking the first of many cold beers. After 3000 miles of racing we pipped Leopard on handicap by about half an hour.
This was a proper race and not a crossing. It was a test of endurance for the boat and the team. As ever the organisation by RORC and the facilities provided by the marinas at both ends were first class. It is an event which we should be proud of and need to nurture because it offers a real test to those committed to offshore racing.
Would I go again; of course (just don’t tell my long suffering wife). However I might see if Mike Slade could spare a berth on Leopard, by all accounts a more comfortable experience.