Rolex Fastnet 2023 – let the fun begin!
We are entering 3 yachts into the Rolex Fastnet 2023, the 50th edition of this iconic race. A Laurent Giles 44, and Farr 40 and a Challenger 72.
The 2023 Fastnet Crew for the Challenger 72, Challenger 3, joined the boat on Saturday for 5 days of training. The following are extracts from skipper Ricky Chalmers’ reports plus some thoughts from crew member Emilie.
Ship’s Captains Log plus a blog for crew member Emilie
Rolex Fastnet 2023 Training Day 1 – Saturday 29th April.
Today we’re starting out training for the Fastnet 2023. It’s 0932 BST – on my way to meet the team. Challenger 3 (72-foot sailing yacht) looks like nothing I’ve sailed before. It was built in 2000 and has been around the world twice. We have dropped our stuff off on our bunks and allocated storage boxes that all have an assigned number – my number is 18. After introduction and safety briefing from Ricky, we’re leaving Gunwharf Quays and heading out to the south of the Isle of Wight. We have dedicated the first day to revising some basics including the sail theory, tacks and reefing. It’s 2337 BST – we anchored at N 50.38.9 and W 001.09.0
The plan for the week and for today.
The forecast is for light winds so today we are going to depart this afternoon and sail out of the Eastern Solent down towards St Catherine and go through the upwind and downwind evolutions, reefs, MOB and hopefully Spinnakers tomorrow.
The current forecast is for the wind to die overnight. If it does we will anchor for the night (probably Sandown or Priory Bay) and start again in the morning. Good wind coming through on Tuesday/Wednesday and I will try and get upwind for a fast Spinnaker ride back downwind.
Aim to depart GWQ by 1600. Aim to be back at GWQ by 1600 Monday and to depart again 0800 Tuesday. Plan to stay out until 1400 on Thursday when we will return to GWQ.
Saturday evening. At anchor off the Isle of Wight.
Challenger 3 has anchored at 2315 in Sandown Bay off the end of the pier (50.38.927N 001.09.036W) in 10m water with a 2.4 drop until LW. Sandy bottom, 35m chain out. NE wind 3 knots, expected to be light E ish until morning.
Good days training. Full briefings in GWQ and left at 1600. Sailing, tacking, MOB, Reefs x2, Shake outs, Sails drops and finally anchoring. Some celestial sights (Sun and Moon) taken and basics explained, just for fun. Dinner a great success and looking forward to being gently rocked to sleep in a slight E swell.
Tomorrow plan to be up at 8 and to train with the spinnaker towards the needles. And to do an overnight watch based voyage if the wind holds out.
All good and happy on board.
Day 2 – Sunday 30th April. With prospect of a night time skirmish… for wool.
We woke up after a great night sleep off the southern coast of the Isle of White. Looking forward to another day of practicing sail hoists and trimming in preparation for the upcoming race.
The crew are all eager to learn and keen to help each other. The team is rapidly forming !
Looking forward to the next few days of sailing with our experienced and professional crew.
Good nights sleep had by all and blueberry pancakes for breakfast seem to have been scoffed.
A slightly hazy start to the day. Good holding overnight and Challenger 3 was gently rocked in an Easterly swell.
Plan is to do some pole training at anchor and then sail down to St Catherines and hoist the kite for a downwind run towards the Needles. Lots of Gybes and drops and a few MOB under kits planned. Forecast SE 2-4 Veering SW 2/3 then West or NW 2-4 later. Currently an Easterly. We will go with the wind shifts and will end up where we end up.
Change of Plan
We have had a very productive morning at anchor in Sandown Bay doing Pole Dances and talking through all things spinnakers. The spanner in the works of our plan for the day happened when we came to wool our newly constructed spinnaker (the ultra heavyweight rope kite) and couldn’t find the wool, of which I thought we had plenty.
After an exhaustive search of the boat and some phone calls, it appears that we are without wool. Some crew members wooly hats look suitable to unpick, but Challenger 2 has an excess and is not planning to knit any jumpers in the near future so we will nick some off them. It is going to be a late night sneaky operation, I have found out where they will be tonight and we will come alongside as quietly as we can and see if we can find their wool without being rumbled.
So Cowes tonight (probably 10pm) and we will reset and start again tomorrow with more spinnaker training and wool to make it happen. We have an already wooled kite so will be able to hoist, gybe, gybe, gybe, gybe and finally MOB drop by the Needles, but will put the big white and blue handkerchief into the bag unwooled until we have completed our night-time thieving.
Tomorrow we have to be back in GWQ to drop crew off who have to attend to their busy normal lives, so our “get out and stay out” is turning out to be bit more a series of day and late night sails.
Challenger 3 arrived Cowes. The wind died totally this afternoon and we decided there was no point in getting the kite up in 3 knots true. So we sis some racing sail changes, and mast climbs. Berthed alongside Challenger 2 and have some wool !
Day 3 – Monday 1st May. Lots of spinnaker practice in preparation for the Fastnet 2023
Forecast appears lighter today, especially in the Solent. I have a scheduled 5pm drop off in GWQ, so will attempt spinnaker training in the Western Solent.
Plan is to just do the drop off at GWQ, and to head out again and continue training.
We have stopped at GWQ (outer pontoon) to drop Alan off.
We had a good day’s Spinnaker training with an early start. Two hoists and about 4 gybes. A MOB drop and a frustrating drop in wind which shifted 180 degrees and forced me back into the shallows off Osbourne Bay. We had lunch there while we packed the Kite and had a great wind angle to Gilkicker Point. All going well – avoided a container ship by hiding on Ryde Middle and then the wind shifted and we headed back to Osbourne Bay. Tried a gybe back to Cowes but then it went flukey, the depth dropped and I was forced into another gybe and a drop in flukey and very light wind.
Good training though and we held a good poled out Yankee 1 back to Portsmouth. Did man over board recovery training from the pontoon before Alan departed at 1700.
Plan is to have dinner here, and go out after, break into watches and sail East through the night. Looking at launching the kite again tomorrow morning and sailing in watches back to Portsmouth with an arrival at about 1600 to drop David off.
Wednesday weather looks useable but Thursday looks very light or non-existent.
That’s all for now.
More details can be seen here about the Fastnet : Rolex Fastnet Sailing Race 2023 | First Class Sailing
The organisers are the Royal Ocean Racing Club
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