Rolex Fastnet Race Archives

Crew Member on Mardy Gras









Start: 12:40 09/08/09

  • Start – clear air, stayed Island side for best tide. Blew Spinnaker – repaired onboard
  • Went through Hurst, taking early advantage beating after 180 degree wind shift
  • Early advantage underlined with a bold early move from Needles Channel across Dolphin Banks
  • Continued driving forward for tidal gate at Portland Bill, wind dropped off dramatically, kedged off Shambles and ended up missing tidal gate.
  • Dropped from 1st in class and 12th overall, moving down fleet to 31st in class
  • Mounts Bay – attempted tactical manoeuvre to regain lost advantage but wind suddenly dropped off negating any potential gains
  • Rounded Lands End heading across to Scilly Isles chasing fleet
  • Tactical decision taken to head due 270 degrees to gain big lift from forecasted Westerlies which would have taken Mardy Gras on a lifting port tack all the way across to Fastnet Rock in an attempt to regain lost advantage over fleet
  • 02:00 11/08/09 – luff of blade ripped apart meaning that storm trysail would be required if #2 became overpowered.
  • 04:00 11/08/09 going well – MIGHTY BANG! – Lost section of rod rigging over port side ripping a baton out of the mainsail in the process
  • Quickly switched to starboard tack to save rig, continued racing until daybreak
  • At first light Mardy Gras was hove to and the crew brought out the lethal weapon, Jim Hepburn, 16 stone of prime Monmouthsire Beef – winched up the mast in a tough swell in the Celtic Sea to erect a jury rig
  • After 4 hrs of running repairs Mardy Gras regained course for Fastnet Rock.
  • At 07:30 13/08/09 Mardy Gras rounded Fastnet Rock, the elation of milestone completed was swiftly dampened by the news that the course of 125 degrees meant a continuation of the 4-day beat thus far endured
  • Tactical decision to stay West to pick up forecasted Westerlies was this time vindicated. After a lengthy spell in light airs, the wind filled and we enjoyed a fun reach (rather than beating) to the Bishop
  • 5 miles due West of Scilly Isles – electrical and navigational instrument failure. Endeavoured to start engine, no luck.
  • Decision taken to split crew, 3 to continue racing and 3 to resolve mechanical and electrical issues.
  • Solution: tried cranking engine with hand pull cord but more torque required so no joy. Moved onto creating a mechanical inertia starter motor – this was it make or break time!
  • A spare lightweight sheet was wound round a makeshift extension to the engine’s crankshaft. This was led up out of the companionway through a block stropped to the boom and then aft to another on the backstay. A line of three buckets were tied on to the free end and thrown over the transom, pulling the sheet through the pulleys and generating the required torque to spin the engine back into life. Engine on, systems on. race on.
  • Engine back on electrical systems up and running and the good girl Mardy Gras is still racing with a buoyant crew…