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.
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
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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 :)
Skipper Act of Defiance
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.
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.
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 www.rorc.org Click on races to get
the drop down menu Click on Around Britian Race this will take you to http://www.worldcruising.net/rorc/index.html
(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
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 www.rorc.org
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
- 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:
- Sleeping bag
- Travel pillow (optional)
- Deck shoes
- Middle layer
- Ear plugs
- 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
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
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.
Richard Houghton (skipper of Act of Defiance)
Copyright © London Corinthian Sailing Club, 6 Sep 2000