Class 40 - 40 Degrees in Carribean RORC 600

Double and Solo Racing Group member Michael Boyd is currently taking part in the Carribean RORC 600 miles race (official site: http://caribbean600.rorc.org/) on board Class 40 Forty Degrees with a crew of 4.

Michael has chartered 40 Degrees to take part in WSC Round Ireland Race next June as a 2-handed entry and is “learning” the boat…

Crew John Patrick Cunnigham sent this report “live” from the boat on February 23rd at 0400 local time.

After a morning of final preparations and sturdy breakfasts, 40 Degrees set out to English Harbour for the RORC 600 start at 1230. The start was close in to land, beneath Shirley Heights, just off Fort Charlotte and the spectacular Pillars of Hercules. All 24 competitors were present and sailing well in the 12-15 knot breeze from the South East. After a stirring pre-race speech by Niall, he and Michael orchestrated a strong start on starboard tack, after which we stayed closer to shore than the remainder of the fleet.

In the pre-start sequence, a finger of one unnamed crew member found its way into the runner jam cleat. His cheery reaction to the (luckily) minor cut and bruising was ‘Don’t worry, I have nine more where that came from’.

As we rounded the bottom of Antigua, several heads of land seemed
unmakeable, but Michael was adamant at each one, and indeed 40 Degrees carried us cleanly around, avoiding Mamora Reef, Wicked Will Reef and Man of War Point, amongst several charmingly named hazards. This put us in strong position for the first leg to Barbuda.

THE FIRST LEG

As we rounded the South East corner of Antigua, we turned North (and
slightly West) for a run up to Barbuda. We flew the spinnaker and quickly found separation amongst the fleet. We found ourselves ahead of one other Class 40, Ocean Warrior, but the other, Tradition Guadeloupe – a double-hander – closed ground on us. Winds were consistently 12-15 knots from the South, which kept us moving nicely. After four hours, we found our way to the mark off the West coast of Barbuda. Niall steered us round it cleanly and closely, and we dropped the chute in favour of the Solent, as we would now reach for Nevis. Michael again guided tactics, and Miranda and John worked hard at the foredeck.

THE SECOND LEG

As the sun set below an orange sky, 40 Degrees headed out South and West for the rounding of Nevis and St. Kitts. We made strong time throughout the early evening, flying primarily the gennaker in the slightly building 12-17 knot winds. We remained on one tack for this five-hour push, and we were pleased to widen the gap between ourselves and several boats behind, in addition to overtaking a few boats that had performed better in the first downwind leg. Despite these positive notes, we believe the double-hander pulled ahead of us during this time (though darkness prevents our certainty here). Nonetheless, we continued sailing strong as we reached Nevis under a
bright moon and shooting stars.

THE THIRD LEG

As our practice sail had taken us to the South of Nevis previously, we
benefitted from this experience as we rounded well off to make North West for Saba. With the wind now from the South East, we have been jibing this downwind leg and enjoying the building winds that are now approaching 20 knots. May they continue to build. At the time of writing, we have passed Nevis and the Western side of St. Kitts and jibed to sail West of St. Eustatius before crossing the 20 mile channel to Saba. We believe that we are second of the three Class 40s but haven’t yet opened our satellite phone to check on the RORC tracker.

The wee hours of the morning and our tactical hard work have brought with them fatigue, but under a crystal canopy of stars, with phosphorescence foaming at our stern and playful dolphins now alongside, we are reminded of the adventurer who wrote, “one must labour for beauty, as for bread, here as elsewhere.”

John Patrick Cunningham
0400
23 February 2010

Arrived from the crew of Class40 40 Degrees at 1505 GMT 26/02:

With heavy hearts, the crew of GBR90 40 Degrees announced its retirement
from the RORC 600 Caribbean race at 0800 local (1200 GMT) on Friday, 26 February 2010 off the North coast of Guadeloupe with some 140 miles to go.

Another mariner wrote of the wind that, “to be rich is a fine thing, to be
poor is a fine thing, but to be prospectively rich, that is a torment.”
Such a notion summarises our last five days: we spent a fine and glorious
two days in rich winds, a calm and engaged day in poor winds, but we have
since been tormented by the prospect of rich air amidst our windless
poverty.

Last evening passed with more great beauty, as we made a sunset round of La
Desiderade and began what we hoped would be a 90 mile run North West to
Barbuda. After a number of fruitless but energetic sail changes, we had
leisure to enjoy the splendour of the evening, as the sailing (or floating,
more properly put) did not demand the strictest attention. Short-lived
gusts of 6-7 knots gave our optimism cause to ignore the more common 2-3
knot wind speed average. When rosy dawn awoke, her brilliance reflected
cleanly across a glassy sea. This utter calm made clear that we would not
finish the race before Sunday or Monday. This reality, a fate leading some
to consider putting Michael out to sea with an albatross about his neck, was
as unacceptable as the alternative of retirement. Caught between our own
emotional Scylla and Charybdis, the crew held together and in fine spirits
decided as a team to retire. This challenging decision gave way to much
banter, raucous humour and a soul and body cleansing swim in the deep and
still azure below. The stunningly clear water (1500 feet beneath us) gave a
view of the beautiful keel and rudders of 40 Degrees, and the sight of such
a fine boat lying so motionless was grave indeed.

Thus determined, we have begun to motor home to Falmouth Harbour and the
warm welcome of the peerless RORC team and the embrace of the homely Antigua
Yacht Club. Niall has kept our spirits up by describing menus of future
meals that will hopefully best our biscuits and peanuts fare of last
evening. Inevitably, our focus must move to shore matters, such as where to
see Ireland beat England at Twickenham tomorrow and how many rum punches it
takes to transition from amusing companion to slobbering idiot at tonight’s
prize-giving party

Our first task ashore will be to sign up for the next running of this
magnificent race and to thank everyone who so kindly made our participation
possible. Our boat captain, our mermaid, Miranda Merron, is top of our list
of admiration and appreciation for her supreme skills, endless patience and
constant good humour. We are also grateful to Peter Harding, who kindly
lent us this stunning vessel, and to Sam Goodchild who had her in immaculate
condition.

Thank you to you all, our faithful supporters and interested readers.

Congratulations to the first-to-finish Region Guadeloupe and Beau Geste and
to all competitors – finishers especially.

Thank you especially to Niall Dowling, our inspiring leader, and John
Patrick Cunningham, our poet and philosopher. You have proved true the
saying of La Rouchfoucauld, we think it was, that ‘… the land divides, the
sea unites’.

Michael, Niall, John, Miranda

Arrived at 10:00GMT 24/02 from Miranda Merron onboard Class40 40 Degrees:

We left you last night with dolphins, somewhere off St Kitts. Since then, we
have been busy on our sightseeing tour (thank you to RORC for providing such
a scenic course!). We continued our downiwnd run to Saba, arriving just
after dawn, and rounded quite close to the spectacular, steep-sided island.
The peak, Mt Scenery, is over 900 metres high, which creates quite a wind
shadow. We were allowed to pass without slowing down too much.
The next leg to St Barts was a fast reach, and once past the southeast
corner, we were treated to some exhilirating downwind sailing, with the wind
gusting to 25 knots from time to time, flying along at 15 knots to St
Martin, which we rounded to starboard. The final mark in the northern part
of the race course is the island of Tintamarre. All good things come to an
end, and it was here that we began the long upwind slog to Guadeloupe.
We are now about half way, and the wind has gone into the southwest, so our
course to Guadeloupe is quite respectable at the moment. However, the wind
has dropped, which is hampering progress as the boat slams gently into the
oncoming waves. We must avoid the wind shadow and volcanic ash of
Montserrat.
We are not sure of the whereabouts of our fellow Class40 playmates. A few
miles away, we hope.

Miranda Merron
0300
24.02.2010

From Michael Boyd (all replies to: michaelb@landell-mills.com):

Post Script from 40 Degrees The RORC website records the full results of the race (www.rorc.orc) and Tim Wright has taken many beautiful photos (www.photoaction.com). We should complete the story of 40 Degrees by relaying the events following our arrival in Falmouth Harbour and our respective returns to colder and wetter climates. First, though, two other events that we omitted to mention in our log took place at the beginning and end of our stay.  During our practice, we rounded Montserrat, getting close to the still smouldering volcano.  Its Georgian era capital city of Plymouth was destroyed and two-thirds of the island’s population were forced to flee abroad by an eruption of the previously dormant Soufriere Hills volcano that began on July 18, 1995.  The eruption continues today on a much reduced scale but the lava still smokes and one can smell the acrid fumes when downwind of the summit. An exclusion zone extending from the south coast of the island north has been imposed because of an increase in the size of the existing volcanic dome. The extent of the lava flow is awesome. Montserrat’s ash can sometimes reach Antigua – we were told that, ten days before, “day had turned into night” there.  As if this wasn’t enough, there had been a minor earthquake in St. John’s, Antigua’s capital, during our absence. Later between Antigua and Guadeloupe, just before we retired, the eerie quiet of the totally still sea was broken by the sinister sound of the unmistakeable whine of an unlit, high-powered, petrol-driven, speed boat.  We felt a chill, speculating on its passage, cargo and crew in this place at this time (0200)… Eventually ashore, we were greeted at the dock with some cold cans of beer by Miranda’s beau, Halvard, later supplemented by the RORC’s gift of a further two dozen bottles of beer and a bottle of rum. We took our extremely necessary showers, feasted on Libby’s delicious chicken kebab and crashed out for a couple of hours before going to the, necessarily short, prize-giving. Charlie Pitcher, who we had modestly sponsored, had completed his epic rowing race across the Atlantic in 55 days and was the presenter of the prizes at a ceremony handled adroitly by RORC’s CEO, Eddie Warden Owen.  Claude Thelier & John Burnie’s ORMA 60 trimaran, Region Guadeloupe took line honours and Carl Kwok’s Farr 80, Beau Geste was the IRC Overall Winner.  The ever-elegant AYC Commodore, Elizabeth Jordan, made a persuasive plea for support for the new Antigua Sailing Academy and the winners spoke well – Kwok touching about how much the race meant to him and Burnie doing a brilliant impression of a Frenchman seeking to avenge Nelson’s conquests in the region. In our class, Tradition Guadeloupe will persist, alone, for a further 30 hours and win the event at 0130 on Sunday morning – a fully deserved award for dogged persistence and six days at sea. At the prize-giving we kept our promise to Siobhan Geraghty, RORC’s membership secretary, and sought new recruits to the club amongst the fetching 30-somethings of Lloyds Insurance Yacht Club. After prize-giving we had a quiet dinner at Trappas with Charlie Pitcher’s faithful team – Kate and Richard Power, and the statuesque digital chronicler of Charlie’s heroic campaign, Olivia Chenevix-Trench. Our walk home enabled us to accompany a world-renowned yachting journalist on his jaunty return to the Pineapple House and we passed out soon afterwards to the sound of his gentle snoring. That same snoring woke us up several hours later for our final day in Antigua – a relatively relaxed one, with a notable exception.  It began with a hike along the goat trail at English Harbour and a good chat about possible future offshore adventures, a swim at Pigeon Beach, a breakfast at the ever-generous Libby’s and a quick visit to the West side of the island through the rain forest and past the pineapple estate to see Jolly Harbour and the new hotel/spa development at Sugar Ridge.  Back at the Yacht Club, we watched England v Ireland from Twickenham in a bar where the Irish formed a decided but vocal minority. An exciting game in poor conditions saw England with all the possession/territory and Ireland with all the glory, Tommy Bowe’s rapier cutting past Wilkinson and straight through English hearts. From there to a delicious lunch in the exquisite Harmony Hall, overlooking the Dragons racing in Brown’s Bay and being entertained by Halvard’s stories of his fellow French legends – Tabarly, Moitessier, Morvan, Plisson and so on. We part from Halvard and Miranda at the unprepossessing petrol and car wash station, bequeathing to her our liquid prizes and asking that she toast our health at sunset each day as they steer 40 Degrees to the Azores and on to France.  2000 miles must be passed before they can paint the image of our sturdy boat on the harbour wall at Horta. Our destiny is the so-called real world – airport check-in, security, the squalor of Gatwick, rain, fog, cold… Our polymath, John Patrick is now back at his academy in Cambridge studying how the human brain can manipulate artificial limbs; Niall has restored the FTSE to strength after one day in Canary Wharf; and Michael has commuted by bicycle along the frozen Avon and Kennet canal to his office in Wiltshire, a slow puncture adding to his misery.  The hazy moon is our only link with the magical ocean – same earth, different world. Before going to bed we think of our mermaid and her gentle giant as they inch 40 Degrees Eastwards across the wide Atlantic. At night, we wake with a start from our bachelor beds ready to go on watch but there are no stars on the ceiling ten feet above.  What will guide us now? Outside the window, we find the steadying moon and two new stars. Perhaps these are  Sean Haughey and Phyllis Knight, taken to heaven during our week at sea.  They will be our guides. May they rest in peace! But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Kahlil Gibran

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