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With a group of twelve we sailed the Rolex Fastnet Race on the iconic Flyer that won the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1978. It’s a legendary race from Cowes, to the Fastnet Rock south of Ireland, to the Bishop Rock near the Scillies and back to Plymouth: approximately 610 miles (1100 km). There were 3000 sailors in more than 380 yachts. It took the fastest boat only 1 day and 4 hours (yes that’s an average of 40 km/hour in a sailboat!) and a new record was set.

We circumnavigated the rocks in 3.5 days and that gave us a postion mid fleet. Not bad, could be better. The experience was intense: for the first time in my life I got really seasick. For more than 12 hours I couldn’t fulfil my duties as helmsman. My teammates switched bunks (and sleeping bags) with me so that I wouldn’t make too much a mess of the boat and stepped in behind the rudder. I took a little too much Rcalm and that left me hallucinating. All kind of colours passed behind my eyes and there was a deep wish to leave me behind in Ireland. I was contemplating how I could step from board without anybody noticing it. After half a day in otherman’s bunk and empty inside, I took the helm again, saw the coast of Ireland in the far distance, got a huge wave in my face and felt better. It didn’t take long before we saw the Fastnet Rock and that is something special. It has a presence that’s amazing.

After we rounded it, we sailed downwind to Plymouth. A pretty easy ride. The smaller, lighter boats started planing and that looked amazing. This was not possible with our 35 tons of aluminium. To my surprise I started wondering if I shouldn’t race the next Fastnet in a smaller, faster boat. It’s strange how easily you forget all the suffering of a few hours before (although my wife wound’t agree, she was once 6 hours terribly seasick in the Irish Sea. But now I hold the record at home of being 🤢). Another personal record was wearing the same clothes (day and night) for 3.5 days. Merino wool is amazing, at least I didn’t smell myself.

The intensity of emotions, the bubble that you’re living in (we only knew that Max was second at the F1) makes sailing addictive. Living life to the fullest.

 

Yachting World made a video of the Flyer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYMDs3v9SR4

Video by Rolex of the Fastnet Race: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=8&v=755YmpU9Zck

 

What did I learn about teams?

  • Sailors take care of each other. They step in when others have a difficult time, without complaining. A task has to be done.
  • I was pretty nervous the morning of the start of the race, being the helmsman with the least hours in the boat. Everybody was telling me not to start early since it would be hard to get back to the line with the tide with us. During the night I was going over all the possible scenarios for the start. Early morning one of us woke us up with Nana Mouskouri over the speakers: Guten Morgen Sonnenschein. All stress was gone.
  • You can divide responsibilities but it is the informal leadership structure that’s being listened to. No matter what you’ve agreed upon beforehand. We made a video of a very successful drop of the Spinaker. All were happy how well it went. Only after replaying the video I noticed that 3 different people took leadership at what moment it should be dropped. There was only 1 we listened to.
  • How hard it is to get back after being sick for some time. Do you claim your position or do you keep your head low? The last option is less satisfying.

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