The send off in Plymouth from the family and friends of the 8 Round Britain sailing trainees was phenomenal. There was a fair amount of emotion as Matt gave a short speech about the journey fundraising over the last 4 years and the journey ahead and the experiences the trainees would gain. They wouldn’t see their children again for 35 days.
After practising a man overboard drill with the trainees (we had run through this many times during our training weekend) and explaining to the trainees the reality of falling into the sea at this time of year, we set off for the Lizard. Although what happens would be pretty horrifying, they took it in their stride, asked lots of questions and we moved on. Our expected passage time was around 33 hours.
The new crew picked up the principles of tacking pretty quickly. With the winds moderate we had the mainsail, mizzen, No. 1 Yankee and staysail up together. We were only making 6 knots so swapped the No.1 Yankee for the No.1 genoa which was enormous. Dinner was served at 2100 – roast pork with crackling, roast potatoes, carrots and cauliflower cheese. Apple crumble for pudding (although we ended up having this the next day). I never thought I’d ever have have a Sunday roast at sea with 15 crew.
I went to bed at 2200 and came back on watch at 0200. The crew was operating two watches with a 4 hour on/off rota with Matt (skipper) and myself (1st mate) staggering ours by 2 hours so we each had coverage of both watches. Beth was on the helm and reported it was heavy so we organised the crew to reef the main (myself, Georgia and Iris). Pretty tiring for a fourteen year old but also a great way for her to warm up.
I went to bed before the sun rose and was up again at 1000. This was to be a long cold day and most of the trainees has been sick (a lot). The cold set in and by now, we had stronger winds (F5/6) behind us and we were gybing up the north Cornish coast and across the Bristol Channel. At around midday we had confirmed a problem with the batteries. Basically, the skippers bank (which are supposed to be dedicated to navigation equipment) were depleted and not recharging. Not good at all. I checked the tides for Padstow as a port of rufuge approximately 2 hours away but it would be too close to low water and with a falling tide far too risky.
Matt decided we would continue across to Wales with the engine to assist but we knew it would 8-9 hours. We had no other option and with 8 of those hours in daylight not dangerous – we had multiple iPads with Navionics running. We conserved battery power for the navigation lights. I also put an advisory call into the coastguard to them know our situation.
The rain and cold set in. The trainees and some of the Afterguard were worried about being sick again so they avoided putting layers on (which would mean a trip down below). Antonio & Georgia stuck it out for hours. Some of the trainees below were being ill and some able to sleep. It was long slog and Glenn woke me up at around 2000 with instructions from Matt to call the Milford Haven Port Authority on instruction from the coastguard. We were required to liaise with them on arrival and take the East Channel into the Haven.
We finally tied up at 0011 after 34 hours at sea and 208 miles.
The next morning after breakfast we had a crew de-brief and discussed what we had all learned. In particular, lack of hydration, avoiding putting on more layers to stay warm and staying on deck after your watch ends rather than going down below (which would mean being sick).
Eight teenagers sailed for a day and half, most had a pretty bad time of it and some were very ill. Everyone was cold. Not one complained – even once. Awe inspiring.