NEWS 18th Jan 2011

Kay, Kevin and Draig o'r Mor's Fantastic Fastnet

Draig O'r Mor crew 2011
Draig O'r Mor crew 2011
Draig O'R Mor has finished 14th in class. Results from the IRC4A class can be found on the Offical Rolex Fastnet Race website

Kay's story of competing in the 2011 Fastnet in her own words...

I expect you have all heard the problems Draig O'r Mor suffered with a broken mast with just weeks to go before the Fastnet Race in the qualifier round Eddystone rock. We were delighted by the swift response from both manufacturers Selden and Riggers Atlantic Marine not to forget Monkey Marine who repaired and enlarged the deck entry. We were finally ready to sail 10 days before the race so an intensive race programme was put together and the sailors of WSC and CCSC joined us in our quest to familiarise ourselves with the new spar's characteristics.

With races Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday each day sailing with a different team with even a guest appearance from Edley from Twickenham on his way to Salcombe. We were delighted and amazed at the efforts friends made to help us - thank you. Fastnet crew Nic moved in on Draig and if you remember during that time we experienced all extremes from 30 knots down to 2 so we really had a good opportunity to try everything out. Taking Wednesday and Thursday off to vittle the boat and recheck emergency equipment. The Last Supper on Friday evening was scheduled at WSC where a raffle and cake auction (thank you Aunty Linda) and Burgee display (don't encourage him) raised over £300 for our Campaign Charity Sail 4 Cancer.

With all crew on board, save Albert, our planned departure was 2 am Saturday, but with the wind whistling down the harbour we had another hour in bed and I despatched Kevin at 4 (accompanied by Neal so I stayed in bed - yeah) It sounded quite a fast downwind sail and I must say I'm glad I did not take part in the darkness.

At daybreak was dozing in my bunk when I looked up and saw, horror of horrors, the top spreader poking through the mainsail! Well I was soon up on deck and we reefed. We had forgotten to put the new spreader patches on. An uneventful sail under small spinnaker round North head we met a Poole racer (Dan?) and were soon tied up in Cowes Yacht Haven after the Cowes week yachts had departed. A trip to the sail makers in Cowes was called for and the mainsail problem soon rectified. Albert arrived and our team was complete. 7 of us: Kay and Kevin Stibbs, Helen Middleton-Stewart, Nic Findlay, Mickey Carter, Neal Yeoell and Albert De Heer.

The RORC briefing meeting at 4pm was one of life's moments. Every skipper from the smallest to the most extreme super yacht was represented. With the press flashes and briefing videoed, the tension mounted with everyone excited at the prospect of the week ahead. The drama as Ian Loffhagen wished us a good Fastnet 2011 and the meteorologist described the weather patterns we were to experience. I must admit to shedding a tear as I remembered this moment 2 years ago and all that had happened in between.

After a quiet run ashore and an early night we awoke early Sunday 14th August to gentle breezes. A final crew breakfast/team talk and last minute panic buying of more eggs and tomatoes. We hanked on our storm sails for the identity gate, Kevin shouted 'everyone on board?' and cast off. Well we were just about to leave the marina when we heard a shout from the pontoon. Albert had been for a pee and got left behind. Perhaps we need to recap on counting to 7.

The start was manic. The IMOCAs and Multihulls were first to start with our class 4 the first of the IRC starts at 1130. It was very frustrating that, even at this experienced level, yachts from other classes failed to keep clear of the line. RORC had scheduled the starts 20 minutes apart to prevent the slower boats getting swamped by the faster classes, yet the classes ahead were late and those behind were too eager to start. With 65 in our class we fought to near the favoured Squadron end of the line but only managed a moderately good start. Draig was soon doing her thing, beating in a brisk 20 knot headwind overtaking boats but sadly we watched the powerful Swan, Winsome extend their lead.

Draig O'r Mor

At Hurst Castle an amateur photographer took this splendid shot of us overtaking an X34. The passage through the Needles was rather rough and we met a Class 40 yacht, dismasted, returning towards the Solent. We beat on into the night in company with Longue Pierre who slipped away to leeward and then tacked and tacked again - they were behind us, hooray, one of our biggest competitors. We marvelled at having the breeze hold up as in the 2009 Fastnet, boats ended up anchored of Portland Bill. Some yachts went inshore but for us the offshore, stronger wind, strategy paid off and we raced off towards the Lizard. Our 7 strong team worked well together with me flitting between helm and navigator while the others in pairs worked 6 hours on and 3 hours off watch. I probably got more sleep than most but made it a priority to keep a watch out for those who looked like they were struggling and needed an extra hour off watch.

A well earned break

The weather forecasting was spot on, to the hour, for the whole week. Later on Monday the winds increased but still in the South West and we had to reef Draig in steep seas to pass through the shipping lanes off Lands End. It was very busy on the VHF radio with reports of yachts retiring and breakages and EPIRBS being activated accidentally. Falmouth Coastguard were coordinating and desperately trying to contact yachts to make sure they were not in any genuine distress. We heard Scherzo's call and we guessed that she was retiring and the same for Pyxis double handed ladies team on an X332. The AIS requirement for this year's race meant we could monitor boats within a 10 mile radius and it was reassuring to be in good company as we crossed the Celtic Sea.

Beating through the night the wind decreased and veered into the North West. It was a challenge to round the Fastnet rock as we got within grasping distance with the lack of breeze the spinnaker collapsed and we ghosted round at 0830 Wednesday in a 'seal scattering' manoeuvre overtaking Marta ( Sigma 38) Jambo ( J109) and many other class 2 boats. The broad reach, under spinnaker to the Pantaenius spreader mark was delight but short lived as we then had to beat back across the Celtic Sea. With this one sided beat it became rather a procession but we held our own against a HOD 35 (until they lost their rudder and had to retire) and a J109 (Jambo who we vied with all the way to the finish).

We rounded Bishops Rock south of the Scilly Isles at dawn Thursday. This is where things got rather interesting. Albert (the Irish Dutchman) warned us of the 1999 Fastnet where the fleet became becalmed off the Lizard. Heeding this warning we hoisted our asymmetric spinnaker and sailed offshore circling a large fleet who, as predicted, were stuck inshore with no wind. We met Hephzibah who had the same idea and was well offshore too. It was wonderful, then everyone got breeze simultaneously and it was a sprint for the finish. We were behind, alongside, then in front of Astarte the First 34.7 one of our arch rivals who has to give us time (hooray). As darkness fell we overtook Longue Pierre who appeared from nowhere - more of a moral victory as we have to give them time.

Because of the pile up at the Lizard there must have been 100 boats due to finish simultaneously through the narrow gap in the Plymouth Breakwater. The Race Officer announced that there was a ferry due to depart and a yacht had gone aground on the finish line - good game, good game. In the dead of night everyone spoke in hushed tones and the air was magical with hundreds of navigation lights floating in the light airs as we ghosted to the finish. We overtook many boats as we sailed to windward launching our code Zero with our team eager to compete where other just seemed happy to float across the line to finish, exhausted.

At 30 yards from the finish line - which is actually inside the breakwater - Draig's keel hit the deep water, strong tide and although we were still sailing at 2 knots (at times) we were making no progress over the ground against the tide. We sat frustrated trying all angles and launching our symmetrical spinnaker in order to try and struggle those final yards. Even worse, somehow a lot of yachts managed to creep forwards on us and re-take all those places we had gained from our manoeuvres at the Lizard and in the dash to the finish. We finally crossed the finish line at 0230 on Friday August 19th.

After 608 miles of racing we had gone from 5th place to 14th in our class in the final 30 yards. That's racing for you. Our final places were 14/32 in class 4A 28/65 IRC 4 97/350 overall. It was an incredible journey. During our 4 days and 15 hours at sea we got to experience all extremes of weather conditions from Cowes past Lands' End to the Fastnet Rock and back South of the Scilly Isles finishing at Plymouth. You can still replay the tracker and see the whole race here>

We had a great run ashore starting in the early hours and seeing the sunrise from the beer tent. After drying the boat out and the Draigy crew bus returning the rest of the team to Weymouth. Draig had a relaxing few days cruising Fowey and Dartmouth with the kids.

If you have enjoyed this tale and would like to hear more about the Fastnet race Kathy Claydon (Arcsine) and I will be describing more of the intricacies of the race at Weymouth Sailing Club on October 15th. All proceeds from the raffle will to go to Sail 4 Cancer. Our campaign to date has raised £4,318 with more donations coming in by the day. Please help support this marvellous charity that sends cancer patients and their families on respite sailing holidays.

It's not too late to sponsor Kay, Kevin and their team using the donation form below.
Please note that all money raised will go to Sail 4 Cancer and will not be used to fund the race.

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Donors & messages of support


+ £28.64
Gift Aid
Thank you so much to Michelle & Sam ( Bride & Groom), Phil & Daphne ( proud dad & mum) for arranging a sweepstake of the length of speeches at their wedding
From s k mead


+ £50.00
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Well done to Kay and team from Rick and Paul
From S Bruton


+ £1.25
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Well done on your fantastic achievement. Both beating cancer and a fab race!
From Mrs Amy Hadgett

Amazing result in the race guys, superb
From np findlay


+ £2.50
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Good luck Team Draig
From Mr G L May


+ £6.25
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good luck


+ £12.50
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Best of British you lot. Wish I could be with you!. x
From Mr Peter Colquitt


+ £10.00
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A donation from mike carter at the last last supper
From mrs k mead


+ £25.00
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good luck K & K will follow your progress as usual
From Mr Brian COLQUITT

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