Race 1 of the Tall Ships Races 2015

After a few days of being tugged away in York Dock in Belfast; it was a relief to be out on the water again. We left Belfast on the 5th of July, setting sail for the startline, almost 75 miles north west of Belfast.

By sailing on for too long, with too little speed, we missed the tide at Ratlin Island and so spend 2 hours getting to our anchorage, which was 3 miles in distance.. We anchored off Ballycastle and set sail the next morning. Or rather made our way to the start, 20NM ahead, under engine until there was enough wind to set sail. This was only 1 hour before the race start for class A, and when it picked up, it kept increasing to a force 4 to 5 bf from the south west.

Just before the start we started setting our topsails and with speed of 8 to 9 knots we crossed the start line together with the Gallant. We were in a hurry, not only because of the race, but also because the wind would decrease and turn into the north, to then increase to an uncomfortable force 6 or 7, gusting 8 bf.

Choices, choices, choices, what to do and when to do it. We choose to go through the Minch and stay between the island. Giving us less waves, but also less space to tack. We expected a lot of wind, but also spells of no wind at all, and then the normal westerly swell on the west side of the Hebrides, did not seem like a good idea..

As we goth into the North Minch, we had to reef down. Our first time with a new crew on board. It took a little longer then planned, and we spotted a few holes in the mainsail that needed stitching. To keep the sail from flapping we had to bear away from the wind.. in doing so, we lost a lot of hight. We had the mainsail down for a few hours for repair and not to break it in the gusts… but this did not really help. Other ships around us had gone to anchor in a bay.. we continued in the hope to gain some miles on them.. but with the reefing taking so long, we hardly won anything that night, except for knowledge. We tacked a few times and waited for the wind to change into the north west and then south west.

When it finally turned we had sped out of the north minch with 7 knots, straight into a becalmed piece of water.. we were dead in the water with most sails down for 6 hours.. When the wind picked up it was time for choices again.. go in between the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands, or take the west coast of the Shetlands. As we lost speed trying to get through the gap on a close hauled course, we decided on the West Coast. And what a choice it was! We raced along with 8 to 9 knots, hitting the 10,5 knots as we had no waves and a lot of wind to play with. With the Gulden Leeuw just next to us, we lost track of the rest of the fleet and were just hoping our choice was ok.

As we closed in on the last bits of the Shetlands, we reefed the mainsail to her 2nd reef as the wind has gradually increased to a nice force 6 or even 7 bf. We altered course for Norway and all seemed to be well. The wind decreased and we shook out our reefs and got the big jib up again. Our race mood was on! Until a big OEUHMFFF … GRRRRRRRRRRRSSS – the mainsail ripped through the middle, a seam had torn, 7 meters of sowing to be done and the aft leach was destroyed.. nothing to be done about it.. We needed a sail maker…

With only our mizzen, forestaysail and big jib left up, we still made our way to the finish.. until we got becalmed and had to take all the sails down to be sure the other sails would not break as well. We were rocking all night, side to side, waiting for the wind to return. In the morning it did,.. we set our sails again, except for the mainsail of course.. and made our way back to the finish, we had drifted backwards 7 miles..

After the finish we looked for an anchorage. We found a nice one close to Kvalsvik, a small town. Here we hoped for plenty of room for a nice walk and maybe a climb to have a good lookout spot.

We dropped anchor, got ready for a celebration drink, when a small boat came out of the harbour asking if we would not like to be moored alongside. We asked how deep it was.. he did not know. Charts showed a depth somewhere between 2,5 and 5 meters, a bit risky.. Our new friend called another friend and came back to us saying, he had no idea how deep, but, deep enough. We smiled and said we would come in.. slowly.

We did and got an amazing spot alongside an old key. We made new friends instantly. A local offered to take us to a spa, with swimmingpool, sauna, bubble bath, the works! He then got us in for free… AND came back with a bag full of crab paws as a gift! We got invited for dinner in their local tent, where we had lovely shrimps, bread and sausages. We got some amazing drone pictures and felt like celebrities as we were greeted everywhere and sometimes even stared at! It was amazing!

Next morning we slept in a little and as we left were parted with another gift of air dried fish. Our time in Norway had started off really well! Time to go check out Alesund!