Offshore sailing. It’s something very special. Firstly you need to choose very carefully the team you have around you. Inevitably life on a race yacht you are in each others personal space for much of the time. You need a good bunch of friends who know when to joke, support or just say nothing. Some days can be incredibly hard mentally & physically so you have to be focussed and driven to ensure you always perform within the team, this always helps to keep the positivity between the crew which is so important.
But no matter how hard some days can be you can have a day where the sea is flat the night sky is a wash with thousands of stars and you feel like you have been dropped inside a snow globe, the only way you know where your horizons are, from where the stars finish. It’s a very pure feeling of escapism, your world has no politics or news and money has no value. It’s you, your boat and nature, and for that moment in time, life is as basic as it can be, all in all its awesome.
MOD70 Atlantic Style
Getting thrown around in a three dimensional box for 4 hours, that’s the down time, a time to rest the mind & body. To help you relax is the sound of the ocean rushing past the carbon hull at 30+ knots, then silence… the silence is the scary part as it means your accommodation is no longer connected to the ocean. Naturally you will brace for some kind of impact, will it be the silent acceleration indicated by your head now pressed against the carbon bulkhead or will it be the rapid deceleration as the three bows of Phaedo3 pile into the back of the next wave, this is indicated by the movement of you and your sleeping bag down the bunk feet hitting the forward bulkhead & concertina effect on your body. Repeat this every few minutes for the duration of the off watch, yet somehow your body copes and your mind allows short sleeps.
“Pete, Pete…. Its time for your watch mate” Paul Allen the opposite trimmer on watch wakes me up, quick check of the time 23.52. Its amazing in the pitch black inside the hull and the aggressive movement of a 70ft trimaran charging across the Atlantic just how hard getting dressed into extra thermals & our Musto HPX gear is. It would take me less than a minute on dry land yet it takes the full 10 minutes to move between brace positions with every item of clothing.
As I’m dressing I can see by the water dripping down the hatch from the protected pod on deck, it’s going to be a wet one. Whilst dressing being briefed on the weather & boats sail configuration. Safety gear on, its up the ladder and into the pod to be greeted by the two lads coming off watch, they are soaked & tired from 4 hours either driving or trimming, we exchange a few gag’s, the classic “you boys off out anywhere nice tonight” and then its down to business. Sam Goodchild and I both arrive into the “pod” which is the protected cuddy on the middle hull where you get a little respite from the elements when working on deck.
Lack of sleep
After working out neither got much sleep off watch its who wants to take the helm first. “I’ll take it if you will make some coffee” I offer.
Neoprene balaclava & hat pulled on its time to head across to the helms seat, picking a break in the waves you have to look at every hand hold, it sounds dramatic but sometimes you have to cross on your knees!
Brian gives the brief on the helm “Hello Pedro, it’s a bit wild, trying to sail a course of 65 but the breeze is gusty and shifty so been at 120 TWA to keep things calm.” Looking forward at the B&G displays I smile as Brian is keeping it calm at 34knots boat speed.
“Ok Brian, I’ve got it” as we change helm. Quick adjustment to the seat & protective spray window and its all on. Pitch black you are instantly fixated on the display’s, trying to keep the course. TWA & boat speed in check whilst using the feeling in the chair to know where the center hull is.
Time to get reckless
It’s a record attempt so we have to keep charging but without getting reckless. You only get one chance at reckless; there is no broach option on this boat!! Tiller in your left hand, traveller in the right, foot in the mainsheet hydraulic release stirrup….. That’s you for the next 40 minutes so enjoy. The adrenaline is amazing, within 30seconds at the helm you are wide awake and I mean wide awake, the first wave has slapped you in the face, you have seen the boat speed well over 30knots and your heart and mind are locked in, it’s a slightly scared buzz that is impossible to explain but its addictive for sure.
It’s a strange mission, sail an extremely fast, wet and uncomfortable boat across the Atlantic. It wouldn’t work if you did not have the right crew. Lead by Lloyd Thornburg and Brian Thompson we have an extremely talented crew made up of great multihull offshore sailors, that’s the talent but the real key is the personalities. We are all like-minded individuals, we like to win and succeed at what we set out to achieve but we deal with what ever gets thrown at us with a smile & good humor, that’s the common link between all of us and why the crew has evolved into the team we have today.
With our loyal girl “Phaedo3” now getting some well deserved “Shed Time” after smashing the Bermuda – Plymouth record and a long season racing in the Caribbean including setting a new RORC Caribbean600 race record. She will have a full make over and come out sparkling for our next challenge the Round Ireland Race in June.
Once again I remind myself. It’s you, your boat and nature, and for that moment in time, life is as basic as it can be.
Phaedo3 Bermuda – Plymouth Record: 5 Days 11 Hours
Pete Cumming: Sailor onboard Phaedo3, husband and father of two.
Photo Credit: Rachel Fallon Langdon