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News 1999

Round Britain

5th September: Our heroes have returned!

There is lots on this page!! Keep scrolling down, right to the end for Dawn's version, earlier articles and more photos.

The Skippers View

It seems a lifetime ago that I received an obscure e-mail from Dawn Saunders enquiring about the possibility of joining me on the 99 Fastnet race. One rather awkward and smoky yellow ceiling pub meeting later, she had signed on and set about luring me to Linden House.

A later visit to the club led to a chat with Chris Eade and although I have no conscious recollection of how it got there, my joining cheque had migrated to the till. Well, here I am some 18 short action packed months later writing an article about a group of ordinary people who had the courage faith and vision to take part in a truly extraordinary event called the RORC inaugural non stop 2000 mile Around Britain and Ireland yacht race.

As the AB programme progressed we collectively worked our way through issues like appropriate clothing, suitable food, sailing skills training, fog,heavy weather, watches, safety, tidiness, sea survival and the myriad of little things like how to tie a bowline, use of the loo and washing up. The qualifying races came and went and soon the big day was on us like the very shadow of Goliath.

During the evening of Saturday the 19th August we sat in the Red Duster in Cowes and the wine flowed far too easily as we ate and ate to belt straining plumpness. The atmosphere peppered with a cocktail of speculation, eager anticipation, anxiety, doubt and dread. Then we were off, and true to form despite all my previous well intentioned declarations of shooting the line and luffing the big buggers, we were sadly 5 minutes late for the line. I guessed all was not well when the blurred numbers on my watch made no sense and the man on the committee boat frantically mexican waved us towards the Yacht Squadron start line. I should now say that we were late for every race start of the season and in the interests of not unnecessarily alarming the crew I didn't want this race start to be any different. Anyhow, once over we made good time and caught the rest of the fleet by a windless, tide creaking sail flapping Bembridge Ledge buoy.

As night fell we lost sight of the other boats and settled into the routine of eight people living in a tiny space crammed with sails, food, oilies, wellies and the much loved warm welcoming sleeping bags. We had two watches with Chris Eade as watch leader with Valentin Nedyilkov as principle helm and I had Dawn Saunders as boat matron. Rod Eames, Martin Oeslner, Andrea Thompson and Ian Styles swapped watches as required. We had a slow isolated sometimes windy drudge to the Scillies learning on route that one of our competitors had been run down by a ship, another had put into port with a crewmember nursing a ruptured spleen and yet another boat had also retired to port with a crewmember who had a suspected broken back. I am delighted to say that it later transpired the said crewmember had a severely bruised spine which will heal okay.

As we started up the Celtic Sea towards the South West corner of Ireland a gale built and we suffered our first major broach in 36 knots of apparent wind. The storm jib came out and the mainsail was bedded for the night. The gale blew throughout the night and most of the next day and we surfed along in the force 8 to 9 at 9 knots + with the little orange storm jib pulling like an eager puppy. Later we learnt that Predator another competitor in a different class had seriously broached at 25 knots boat speed and had damaged their rig and bent the rudder. This served to endorse my maxim that in order to get a finishing place you have to firstly finish the course.

We then endured almost seven days of light airs as a big stubborn high pressure system sat over the UK and we eaked our way firstly along the Irish coast and then due north in search of the BBC political weather party promised South Westerlies which never ever ever came. We sat there day after day chanting the ancient mariner while watching inquisitive sea birds paddle around the boat. It must be said that it can be quite demoralising to watch a sea bird leisurely paddle faster than the boat. Of course once we realised the same birds were uttering a Macbeth witches cackle we came to the obvious and logical conclusion that the birds were in fact dead sailors demons damming us to a decade of the dead sea drift. Eventually the Hebrides snailed by and we ended up due west of the Shetlands in four knots of wind. The past painfully slow seven incommunicado days had taken their toll and moral had ebbed to it's lowest level in the race. Talk of retiring burbled in covered corners and tiny tiny meaningless issues took on disproportionate importance. However, a VHF call to the coastguard revealed that we were in the thick of the fleet and it was all still to play for. The same day a fishing lure caught five Mackerel and Valentin set about creating the most delicious fish soup ever to grace the dribbling gobs of the jolly rogered crew of Act of Defiance. A pan baked fresh loaf of bread with lashings of butter complimented the soup erotica a' la Valentin and with the wine from the gods (well water actually) we celebrated in fine style. Jesus didn't quite join us but when Valentin was dishing up he did look like a reasonable stand in as a bit part in the Life of Brian. This was without doubt the turning point because during the following cold quiet windless funeral parlour night we slid past the northern most point of the British Isles called Muckle Flugga. In the distance we could hear the ominous woosh of water sucking through boat breaking rocks like a giant sucking between his teeth while contemplating a meal. I felt sure I could hear the bubbling sounds of davy deep salt encrusted barnacled Bill sailors bubble bellowing words of warning. "It was the tide that got us, bear away, bear away," Then someone tugged at my arm and just as I thought MY GOD THEY HAVE COME FOR ME, I recognised Dawn saying bear away you are to much on the wind. Well, it has to be said that after this experience I was a bit windy but fortunately a short while later we were clear and turned for home. Brrrrrr a strange place that Muckle Flugga. Then we ran out of gas!

The following morning the wind started to build and continued to do so throughout the day and that night we beat south in a 6 to 7 through the blackest coldest rain spattered misery that I have witnessed in many a year.

The day after Rod and Martin felt that progress had been so slow that we were unlikely to finish the race in the predicted 16 days. Pressing work issues together with my agreement that a 16 day finish looked unlikely and thus it was agreed that we had to let them off. We made for a little fishing port called Fraserburgh and said goodbye to our good friends.

There then followed a blistering beam reach down the North sea that often saw the boat hovering around 10 to 11 knots and occasionally in the 12+knot range. The boat surfed like a laser and we loved it. Day and night we surfed the sea's in a force 6 to 7 turning 50 mile loss between us and the next boat into a 5 mile lead. These were glorious days of exciting sailing spiced with sea spattered oil dragons snorting their gas flames high into the sky. Ships, ferries and buoys added ever present navigational hazards necessitating intense, draining, constant, concentration.

Dover came and went followed by light to zero winds near Dungeness. Stealth (our main competitor) caught us up and as night fell we duelled in darkness around the Owers buoy. The dawn discovered us stealing our way into the eastern Solent where the wind died to a miserly 2 to 3 knots. Luckily we had the tide with us as we crept towards the finish line discovering that Stealth had taken us by a mile and crossed the line some 15 minutes before us. Once over we motored up river to pick up our beer stash and found a lovely wishing us well, bottle of quality Champagne kindly donated by Martin. We then headed into the marina where we were met by a party of champagne wielding race organisers. The crew of Stealth came to join us and we all staggered down Cowes High Street smelling quite unpleasant for a 9am much fantasised about Beatles Cafe special breakfast. What a fantastic experience and what a great crew.

Chris Eade who led my opposite watch, was chief moral boosting officer, no job too small, no job too big, always first on watch and last to go down pillar of strength, commitment and ships diplomat. Totaly reliable and a good choice for that very responsible difficult role.

Valentin Nedyilkov is a tough tenacious good quality helm who I often relied on at the most difficult of times. His enthusiasm to squeeze the last ounce of speed from the boat was inspirational. His predilection to stuffing a microphone under your nose every time you looked as though you might say something was somewhat irritating but equally was a small price to pay for such a talented crew.

Martin Oeslner came onto the team quite late on but slotted in as though he had always been there. He also turned out to be a very good helm, good fun and ever willing to take on any task. He was one of the few that saw that the toilet bilge needed doing and just got on with this most unpleasant job without being asked. He also had a remarkable ability to always look as fres as the day we had started the race. He secretly shaved, often washed and somehow always looked smart. An all round excellent crewmember.

Rod Eames is a star. He is great fun and knows his way around the foredeck. Never one to shy away from the crapiest wettest task, Rod was always there doing what was required. It was a shame that he had to leave the boat but as with Martin, Rod was a team player and had earned my respect and thanks for all that he did.

Ian Styles again never shirked away from any job. He knows the foredeck well and he and Rod made a great team. I never once heard Ian complain about anything because he's not that kind of guy. In fact he was a little ill during the North sea bit and we started to get concerned about him. But he bit the bullet and even though he felt like crap he still humped sails around the foredeck without complaint. Another talented team player and a star in the making.

Dawn Saunders was indeed boat matron. She kept a level of discipline and hygiene aboard the boat that allowed us to finish the race in fine fettle. Dawn was the one to frequently cook and clean, tidy and chastise. She was the backroom backbone of a successful race and operated as crew boss in an exemplary manner.

The crew were team players and helped and considered others at sometimes great inconvenience to themselves. It was this positive and considerate attitude more than anything else, that helped us finish the race, and they have earned the right to say that they did their bit and earned my endorsement in full, as excellent crew. The race credential speaks for itself.

I guess I could mention some of the awsome moments like the Celtic gale when 10,000 tons of wave breaking water picked up the boat and tossed it around like a small toy. The night time tumbling diamonds of disturbed bioluminessence sparkling in the wake and the hundreds of shooting stars triggering millions of wishes from those that looked on.

Finally this report would not be complete without a thank you to the following two persons who operated as shore crew sometimes in the most difficult of circumstances:

Maggy Eade who supplied us with the tastiest home cooked and then frozen supplies which we gorged on for the first few days. Also for acting as shore crew and keeping us informed about weather data (as per the relaxation in the rules).

Phil Moore who also operated as shore contact and offered great encouragement during telephone calls made seeking weather info (again as per the relaxation in the rules).

As for me, well I will just say one thing. This is a great achievement for the above team and a great feather in the cap of the London Corinthian Sailing Club, who as far as I know, are the first and only sailing club ever to have entered a team into an event of this magnitude, and that is special :)

Never Again.

Richard Houghton
Skipper Act of Defiance

Dawn's Story

It is with imense pride that we completed the Around Britain and Ireland race at 07.26hrs Tues 5th September. After 16 days racing we came first in class and 6th overall. It's a fantastic feeling not only to have finished, given the number of boats that didn't, but to have done so well.

We sailed 2060 miles, and had conditions ranging from no wind to gales. Fantastic sailing moments when the boat reached 12.3 knots, surfing down the north sea in between the oil rigs, and desolote moments when there was no wind and the seagulls were paddling faster than we were sailing, and looking at us very bemused. We saw dolphins, seals, a whale (apparantly) and lots of different types of birds. The crew caught 5 mackeral and made the most amazing fish soup, and the skipper baked bread in a saucepan - it was delicious. It was also the last supper, as the next day the gas ran out and we spent 5 days with no hot food or drinks, although pasta soaked for hours in sea water with chilli, cheese, olives and mayonnaise is not a bad meal!

The North Atlantic - the source of all my pre race fears - was as flat as a pancake, and the Irish Sea, travelled last year on the Fastnet race, wet and wild with up to 42 knots of wind. So many memories, some amazing moments, and some hairy moments, but overall the achievement and experience of a lifetime.

I would like to thank all of those who offered to sponsor me for taking part. To date I have received 500 and the money will be going to the RNLI. For all those who have been kind enough to sponsor me, I would be grateful if you could please send me a cheque made out to the LCSC, the money will all be collected through the sailing club and I hope to organise a "media event" in the near future when a cheque will be handed over to the RNLI.

For those who missed out on the deadline, and are inclined to now offer sponsorship, please feel free.

Many thanks for your support


See also: Press release


Calm after the storm

Daily watermaking ritual

No more washing up


Approx 14 days, 1800 miles Round Britain and Ireland

To celebrate 75 years of RORC. There are qualification races beforehand. Start Cowes 20th August 2000.

LCSC has already put together one team for the 2000 event.

Act of Defiance - GBR 4218

Watch the progress of the race:

Go to Click on races to get the drop down menu Click on Around Britian Race this will take you to (I guess you could go here first) you then get asked to download some software - say yes it's all then very self explanatory - (Webmaster: I failed to get this to work!)

Criterion Around Britain and Ireland Race - the countdown begins

This inaugral gruelling non-stop 1760 mile race, will start and finish at Cowes on the Isle of Wight and takes in Ireland, the Hebrides and the Shetlands before negotiating the East coat and then home. What makes this race particulaly difficult is that it is almost all coastal and thus dangerous and it is a logistical nightmare catering for a full crew for two weeks.

The yachts will be continually tracked by satellite with real-time positions and progress available on the website at enabling both the media and public to watch and track the drama unfold on the world-wide web, as the yachts battle around the two coasts.

With under a week to go I guess we are all starting to get a little excited, or in some cases, maybe even apprehensive. Since April the Around Britain crew have been through some races together starting with the Ouistreham race where we had a mixed bag of calms and windward blows before spinning around on the line and heading back home to give us a big hike towards the required qualifying mileage. That followed with the fog bound Alderney race and then the Morgan Cup channel race drainathon. The light wind training weekend gave us a chance to talk over things and clear up some confusion about certain stuff and in addition to that most of us have also sailed on the boat for the odd weekend or delivery.

During these prep weekends We learnt that the critical ingredients for a successful race are a sound strategy, good sail trimming, attentive helming, tidiness, consideration for each other and the often-neglected weight issue. We know that our success will proportional to how well we work together and at the end of the day we will all depend on each other and need to look after each other and consider each others well being. The boat will be our mother and for two weeks the crew will be our brothers and sisters and the boat and the crew will be the only thing between ourselves and hell.

The watches will be as follows:

  • Richard Houghton (skipper)
  • Rod Eames
  • Ian Styles
  • Dawn Saunders

Other watch

  • Chris Eade
  • Martin Oelsner
  • Val Andrea Thomson

We will be doing 4 hour watches and a dog leg in the afternoon. Between 4pm and 8pm one watch will cook and wash up and the other will clean and tidy the inside of the boat including drying the bilge's and cleaning the toilet. The cook will not have to wash up.

Chris has acquired some freeze dried food which will be a constant and light source of sustenance and we will also be taking lots of dried onions, garlic and other spices and stuff to boost it up. For the first few days we will be on fresh stuff and we will take some hard fruit, plus smoked bacon, salami, tinned pate, rice, smash, some tinned tomatoes and fish plus lots of picks, crisps, nuts, dried fruit chocolate and so on. Water will be supplied via our newly installed water maker.

From race start day the aft cabins will be used for sail and supply stowage and will not be available for sleeping. The off watches sleep on the four bunks in the main cabin.

This is tough sailing.

Weight and space is a serious issue for us and also boat clutter is another one. None of us will be bringing a bag and we are limited to what we can fit into our storage pods.

We will each be taking:

  1. Sleeping bag
  2. Travel pillow (optional)
  3. Oilies
  4. Wellingtons
  5. Deck shoes
  6. Gloves
  7. Middle layer
  8. Ear plugs
  9. Eye shade

In addition: sunglasses, hat or snood, two base thermal layers, sailing trousers, one T shirt, two pairs of socks, two sets of underwear, toothbrush and sports towel, shorts, personal knife (need one for the rules), head torch (need one to do our job), medication including contact lens stuff

In the interests of not having a smelly crew shower stuff, sun lotion, vaseline intensive care lotion, roll on anti perspirant, wet wipes, toothpaste and two waterproof disposable camera's will be provided by the skipper. Also a sea bath by the Hebrides is compulsory.

I think you will agree that this is a pretty tough ordeal and Andrea and myself are doing this race as a sponsored event and between us to date have raised over a thousand pounds. We would be very gratefull if having shown an interest by reading this article that you would like to sponsor us by leaving your donation at the club with Maggy. If you would like to guess the actual mileage we do, then write it on some paper with your name and donation and the person who guesses the nearest will be able to chose which charity the money goes to.

Cerificates of sanity are available on request.
Happy sailing and please cheer loudly for us

Dawn Saunders
August 2000

Skippers comments.

I think you have to be a very special person or mad to embark on a race of this nature. It has never been done before and the RORC are watching with eager anticipation to see how the crews fair. When you think of the prospect of 8 people being couped up on the smallest boat in the fleet with 2 thousand miles of tough sailing ahead of them it deserves some recognition. The fact that Andrea and Dawn of their own volition have so far collected over 1000 in sponsorship is a remarkable achievement and I will certainly support them and nominate the RNLI as the recipient. I hope you also sponsor them and either send in a donation by cheque made out to the London Corinthian Sailing Club with a note nominating your charity or pop some dosh over the bar to Maggie.

Good luck

Richard Houghton (skipper of Act of Defiance)

Copyright © London Corinthian Sailing Club, 6 Sep 2000