Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Dun Laoghaire to Dingle 2013 "Rollercoaster"


Lula Belle centre after start


 A 1600 hours start and low water at 17.30 had most people worried about the start of the 2013 Dun Loaghaire to Dingle race. On Lula Belle we were also well concerned. This very late start through up several problems. A very warm afternoon with only 8 knots of wind forecast from the northeast. The race would start downwind with only about 4 or 5 knots apparent wind. Then the tide turning in an hour to fight against. And finally this made rounding Tuskar before the second tide turn very difficult. All the talk on the marina was having to make that second tide at Tuskar, which would be crucial in this race.
 Now at 15.45 Tuskar was well gone from our minds. We had seen the entry list and invariable we pick out the boats we race regularly and note each of them. For Lula belle usually it’s Adelie a 34.7 but with a very big kite and we knew would be fast down wind. Then the four J109`s. Normally in a fetch or upwind we will not compete with these boats but recently we had changed Lula Belle from symmetrical kites to asymmetrical kite with very impressive results. We felt if we had a long run downwind we could give these J109`s a good battle. Now our forecast was showing lots of downwind this looked favourable to us.
As for the others the, faster boats such as Antix, WoW, and Aquelina, we would not know much about them so tend not to concern ourselves with them. These fast boats will have their race, for us we like to concentrate on the boats we feel we ought to be ahead of on the water and those we feel with some good work we could be ahead of. Despite not been concerned about these boats when you roll up to that start line you can’t help admire them. Antix was racing up past the 40 foot furling and unfurling a code zero. A beautiful and graceful sight. They had it out and in 2 or 3 times with no effort. This year we had managed to stretch out budget enough to invest in a code zero but the furler was still out of our range. “This time next year Fla, we`ll have one”. I have to admit I am always envious of the fully crewed boats at this stage hoisting kites and code zeros with 15 minutes to go to start. If Fla and I hoisted our code zero it would take 15 minutes to have it ready to go again and we would probably miss the race start.


 With five minutes to go boats were taking positions with most people having different preferred options for the start. Brian and I had agreed the pin end to stay in clean air in the north easterlies was the best place. Again been two handed we decided not to use a jib as we would lose too much time dropping it and hoisting kite. We opted for a kite start. This proved tricky as with the winds light the main only did not give much power but we got where we wanted to be and at the one minute mark we hoisted about 100mtr from the line and hoped we had judged it correctly. We had and got a great start on the windward side of White tiger and Rockabill V. Having past them and with clean air we got enough speed up to slip between Ruth and Legally Blonde who had started on jibs and now changing to kites allowed us slip past. We were very happy with start when suddenly the wind started to play up. Having broken clear with only 4 boats ahead and Mojito off to the port we nearly stopped. We followed every bit of wind and even though our course was 180 I think at one point we were heading at 60 degrees. I explained to Brian I did not care if we were heading to Belfast I just was afraid to let the boat stop as we may not get her going again.
There off
This move paid off and been more east we had more wind. We noticed Mojito got it first and then us and we keep Ruth to our stern and passed Discover Ireland who with the symmetrical kite was parked. Suddenly we were clear of Muglins and fifth boat on the water to pass this mark. Only Antix, WoW, Aquelina and Mojito ahead of us. Good company to be in. Our plan was to get inside under Wicklow head as soon as we passed Muglins to avoid the rising tide, however given wind conditions it soon became clear this was not possible, the best path to be on for the moment was south east. We had started on our A5 sail but now needed the A2, again this is where the two handed disadvantage comes in, with a halyard problem and not enough power under the main to use the auto pilot cost us in time and allowed Ruth and Discover Ireland guided past us. Had they beaten us off the start and we were behind them we would have taken that to be in 7th on water at this point but loosing places like this was cruel.
We got our A2 set and started following the leading boats. This was the first time we flew this kite and it took a bit of work to get her set correctly. Once set we felt we seemed to be gaining on some of the front boats and we worked hard to make up lost time. Looking back we soon realised the fleet had split and only 8 boats had got out from Behind Muglins. It was now important to make as much gains as possible on this leg. We were 2 miles clear of Muglins before Joker and Jedi cleared it and came chasing after us. Our A2 was heavy and we soon discovered with apparent wind below 9/10knts we were very slow but above 10knts we were quick. Now however Jedi were bearing down on us at 6.5 knots while we could only manage 3.8 knots. This was torture watching our lead slip away. Jedi had got within a few hundred yards of our stern when the wind picked up more. We were up to speed again and able to keep Jedi and Joker behind us. We could still see Mojito ahead of us to but they were we thought sailing very high. Discover Ireland lower but we were holding on to them.
The wind had now headed us and our bearing to Tuskar was 230 but we were doing 140 and we were worried we were heading to far east. Brian on checking charts confirmed we were 6 miles east of Wicklow head now and that was 10 miles east of Tuskar. This was 16miles that had to be made up again. Discover Ireland (DI) was first to go followed by Jedi. They were now heading at 250 while Tuskar was now at 230 so that tack looked the way to go we followed, but to our surprise Discover Ireland now had jibed back out. Then Jedi jibed back out. Jedi going in were astern of us and a few minutes later came back out 200mtrs ahead of our bow. It was clear the 240 heading was the gaining one and if to confirm DI came out about a half mile ahead of us from been level. Now we were the only boat doing 220 course while all others were on 170. Our software told us the other tack was the better and the wind would come round easterly and bring us to Tuskar but this wind shift did not come and we decided to forget expedition and head south west. At this stage been the only boat on this tack you start wrecking your head why is no one else doing this. All signs told us we were correct so we ploughed on. 40 minutes later Mojito followed then Joker and Ruth.
We jibed in at 2200 hours and by midnight all had followed except WoW and Aquelina. This really paid off for us so by 03.30 passing Tuskar we were now up to fourth on the water and top of the leader board. Then, been top of the leader board at this stage means little however having constant wind from 14knots to 18 knots we had gone from two miles behind the J boats to been ahead of them on the water. We were very happy at this point when the problems hit again. On our new A2 we had discovered we had no tack stick to hold sheet to do an outside jibe so we had to do an inside jibe.  We have a small bow spirit and only about a half metre from the tack to the forestay which leaves a very small area to jibe a 106sq m kite. In the lighter winds it had been fine but at Tuskar the wind was up to 18knts and we got a wrap around the forestay. This took about 5 minutes to sort out at which stage we let DI, Chancer and Ruth ahead of us.

Lula Belle leading at Tuskar


A2 flying well again we now had to work of getting to the Fastnet rock. Again software suggested south was the way to go but to start wind there suggested south-west. We headed south-west to start with. We got a great run again downwind from Tuskar west. We rounded Tuskar at 03.45 and kept wind and speeds of between 5 and 7 knots constantly till 17.00 on day 2 and had got to south of cork before we hit light winds. The forecast we had showed we would hit light winds at 17.30 and it hit exactly as forecast. Again expedition suggested south but looking at it Brian and I thought the wind south was 5 hours south or 25miles south of the rum line. The hole was forecast to last for 4 hours.  Although hard to do the best option was sail right into hole and wait for the wind. That’s how we decided to go. We used the tide to drift our way and with little patches of wind we worked our way back north to the Rum line while others stayed south. Again this was a major decision and split the front group.
Then like clockwork as forecast at 21.30, four hours later the wind kicked in again. This whole leg so far we were very happy with Lula Belle and with full wind all day we had kept Mojito and Jedi behind us and Ruth and DI just ahead of us. Now however as the wind filled in Mojito managed to get it first and just got ahead of us. Then at 23.30 the wind died totally not forecasted on our models. We tried to use tide and any patches we could to keep moving. We worked hard all night sail changing everything to try to keep boat moving. We were alongside Mojito now and sometime they would get one mile ahead then we would, but we stayed neck and neck all night. After a few false starts we finally got full wind again at 10.00 on the 3rd day we now had 90 miles left and the race to round the Fastnet was on. With 20 miles to the Fastnet we were now 5th again on the water. Antix, WoW, And White Tiger followed by Mojito then us. Again staying close to the rum line during the night paid off and DI, Ruth and Aquelina were now off our stern. We wanted to see if we could keep them there by the Fastnet.
Lula Belle (white) 5th on water
at Fastnet
 Again with the wind strong Lula Belle went great and we were not only delighted but could hardly believe it rounding the Fastnet at 14.00 hours Aquelina were 3 miles behind us and Di were 2 miles off our stern. Now with 66 miles to go it suddenly hit us we could win this race.
Most of the boats around us no matter what they did now with 60 miles to go could not beat us as we passed Mizzen we started to look at Mojito. The wind filled in strong now and we were heading North West fast now. Brian and I did our calculations and with 50 miles to go we would have a jibe to get to washer woman rock and then jib up for a fetch to Dingle. All we needed to do was finish within 40 minutes of Mojito. All we needed now to do was cover them.  Mojito under Vicky and Peter had been very impressive this year and had well beaten us in all but one race this year, but now in preparation for the Fastnet they had Steven Tudor, skipper of the winning J109 boat in last year’s ISORA series and Peter Ryan winner of many Wolf head Trophy’s on Tsunami on board. Brian and I were calling them the Dream team. We knew they would be doing the same calculations and knowing they were now 2.5 miles ahead of us only needed another couple of miles to get us and had 50 miles to pull out a further 2 miles. We were aware Amazing Grace was coming strong but all we could do now was beat Mojito and see what happens then with other boats.
Still leading after Fastnet And great VMG

 Due to the angle of wind we were forgetting about gull rock and focusing on washer woman rock off Skellig Michael. At 19.00 hours Mojito made the first move and jibed for washerwoman. While we wanted to cover them passing their stern we knew they would not make the rock. We decided to wait a further few minutes and felt a later jibe would save us two jibes later. The wind was now at 14 and due to go to 25knts and we did not fancy jibing this kite at over 15knts of breeze. We waited till 19.20 to make our jibe sure we could clear Washerwoman rock. Then Disaster again. The Kite wrapped around the forestay again. As Brian tried to unwrap it I headed up wind and downwind all over to try to help. Then RIPP it tore apart, with 40 miles to go we had lost our A2. This Kite had been up since Muglins and 225 miles later it was gone, shredded. And Mojito was pulling away. We got it down but when there is an unplanned change its much longer and much longer when there are only 2 on board.
In this race we felt we had an advantage downwind with only 2 on board due to the less weight however time lost at sail changes and Jibes would seem to cancel out the gains made in other parts. Who knows but what we did know with 30 miles to go to Washerwoman Rock, and now only a small A5 to use we charged on after mojito. They seemed a long distance ahead now but we could not really tell as dusk was setting in and the visibility was dropping anyway. But we felt in our hearts it was blown now. The feeling of adrenaline that had been pumped had gone and now a silence fell over Lula Belle. Had we come so close to blow it on a jibe? How cruel this sport could be. And to add injury to insult all the messing to get the A5 up we had lost the advantage now of the extra 20 minutes before the last jibe and we were now also not making the Washerwoman rock. We were also going to have to put in two more Jibes. Then we knew whatever advantage we had downwind would now shift to the fully crewed Mojito. They had their big kite up to the rock and then they would have a full crew on the rail for the fetch into Dingle bay 24 miles or so from Washerwoman rock. We knew up wind in any wind over 16 knots Lula Belle really missed the weight on the rails. She would be very giddy on that leg. We had no doubt it was now Mojito`s race.
We headed under the A5 to Washerwoman rock at speeds of 7 and 8 knots while mojito clocked 9`s and 10`s. All we could do was watch for when they hardened up to know when they were passing washerwoman rock then we would know how far behind we were. We figured we would be doing about 7 knots to Dingle so for a 40 minute gap we would need to be within 4 miles of them. They passed the rock and we were 5 miles off it with a jibe still to do. Now our heads really dropped. While when the kite ripped we knew we were in trouble. Now it had been confirmed and we were now sure of the distance, we knew and they had the stronger leg to dingle to come.
Passing Washerwoman/ Skellig Michael
By the time they would be in dingle they would be 7miles ahead we thought. Mood down and feeling a bit sorry for ourselves we passed the rock and not concentrating we hardened up to soon past Skellig Michael. With the wind blowing 25knts from the south we sailed right across the north face, HUGH mistake. What was I thinking? On the North side of this with a southerly wind blowing the wind comes from the east west and above. I wondered is that why they called the small rock washerwoman as it feels like you have sailed into a washing machine? You realised how small your boat is as it gets tossed I all directions. After a few minutes been tossed around not knowing what was going to happen we seemed to be moving east. we could see flatter water a few yards ahead. As we approached the east of the Skellig we got hit by the blast coming through to gap and over the boat went in a broach. I was holding the wheel and was standing vertically on the port side with water above my knees waiting for the boat to right its self. Let go of the sheet Brian I thought to myself when I noticed Brian could not as that was all he had a grip on was the sheet. Finally we righted only to have been thrown back behind the rock. The kite was filled with wind from the west and out the starboard side while the main was filled with wind from the east and out the port side. We were goose winged and no wind was behind us only Skellig Michael 100 metres off the Stern. The boat lurched East west then north. When sails were not flapping they were filling in opposite directions. The engine had been running luckily to charge the batteries and at least I knew I could stick it in gear if needed. Suddenly with sails filled opposite ways, we inched forward, northwards.
I had realised we could not come out of this mess east or west of the Skellig Michael we had to exit north. I see the tracker shows us at 5 knots of speed here and we know it averages readings every 10 minutes and we were hitting 9 after I presume we were only in this for 6 or 7 minutes but it felt a life time. Now we exited to the north and we should have dropped the A5 and hoisted the Jib. The wind was from 170 and the course was 27 degrees to Dingle bay, a nice reach in. I explained to Brian we should keep the kite up. We could now not see any of the boats ahead as it was 2200 and the sky was very black now. Winds were 25 gusting 30plus. With the A5 we could only point to 10 degrees but I explained to Brian as Dingle bay was so wide we could cross 30% of the bay then point for dingle later. After a brief chat we decided we had nothing to lose. As I said to Brian we were 20 miles or 3 hours from a chance to win the D2D race. When in our life’s could we be in that position again. (We knew nothing of Amazing Grace’s great sail at this stage and thought just beat Mojito to win it.) It was highly unlikely we could beat Mojito but we had to try everything. I thought this is what makes the difference. putting it all out there, really pushing to the edge. I said to Brian I did not think we could catch them but at least let us stand on that marina, having lost, not been able to say what if we did something else. Brian agreed.
We kept the A5 up and sailed a course of 10 degrees as we crossed the bay this lifted to 15, but it was tough. We broached again, and it brought back the phrase the previously owner of the boat said to me when he sold me the boat. He said “she broaches like a lady”, a phrase I never really understood until this night. While I was on the wheel, downwind it does not always look as bad as it might be. We keep the wind instruments at apparent while downwind so even though we were doing 12 knots the apparent wind was only reading 15 to 18 knots of wind on the clock. Not too bad. And as the wind is blowing from behind and it was dark night the sea looks nice and flat, you could feel and surf the waves but not see them. However when we rounded up or broached I got a view of the sea behind us with a dirty black sky and big white waves it looked like a night only a madman would be out in. and also with the round up you got the full blast of wind and strength. It was a scary sight. Quickly we reset the boat and ploughed on. It was much better looking forward and ignore the horrible sea behind us. In the dark the sea in front was grand. Broaching again Brian was now getting the sheet off and we`d right nice and quickly, only feet in water now while I was avoiding looking behind. At one point the Boat held 13knts for about a minute which we knew was not surfing we were blasting across the bay. Brian was on the sheet ready for a quick release and at one point he turned and looked at me and while he was just confirming in his mind his co skipper was mad I think he was loving it also, but I could not make out what the look was. In our team Brian would certainly be the best sailor and working on boats really knows a lot about them. I felt this look was what are you doing.
I explained to him again I was sure it was not the way the boat should be sailed and most people would not keep a full main and A5 in 30knts gusts, but we had to do something. After 3 years in many storms with Lula belle I was fully confident she could handle these seas and she blasted on. After an hour and with Brian constantly checking the plotter we got to where the course for dingle was now 40 degrees which would leave us now 40 degrees to the wind so we dared not go any further or we would be beating up wind. After dropping the kite we hoisted the no 3 jib and had to put two reefs into the main as we had no weight for the rail. Even so Lula Belle charged for the finish at 8.5 knots. We had managed 10 of the 23 miles from Washerwoman in an hour despite getting stuck behind the Skellig. Now only 13 to the finish doing 8knts. Maybe we could pull this off. Again hopes were up.
Then disappointment again with 10 miles to go Aquelina called in to Race finish. Maybe it’s just the 5 mile call in but he clearly told the finish that 3 boats were approaching the finish together. That had to be them and DI and Mojito. Hearts crushed again. Can’t believe it. How were they alongside Aquelina what had happened? Well we ploughed on. Then with 4 miles to go Aquelina called in again. The last call was the 5 mile call in, but now he mentioned only he and DI were at the finish line, where was Mojito. We knew the race finisher was on a hand held VHF as we could only here the Aquelina Radio. Where was Mojito? We heard nothing. Could they have finished ahead of Aquelina, Maybe we were now within 4 miles of them so they may have had a problem. Disappointments, excitement, hope, despair was there anything else from this night.
We finished and in the dark and not sure of the bay we had a bit of a panic trying to get the sails down and it was even blowing 20 knots in parts of the bay and tide running, it was a bit stressful getting in and getting sails down we did not have time to worry about the race. Then approaching the Marina there was Mojito looking all tied up and empty. I said to Brian we have had it, all gone. Then he noticed they were still on board. We tied up and Peter Ryan and Stephen Tudor congratulated us on beating them. We said we did not think we had got them. They were also not sure as they said they were 1 mile from the finish when we called in the 5 mile from finish. They told us they thought we were probably 10 miles back messing as they had left us so far behind at the rock. Now none of us knew. We were wet and exhausted as we had taken no sleep brakes that day to finish, we were drenched from the broaching. We made our way to the race office to hand in our finish papers and while standing there, I noticed a white board on the wall where the finisher was calling in the finish times. There the last finisher was Lula Belle at 01.01.32, and the boat above us was Mojito at 00.27.25. Exhausted the mind worked slowly. 3minutes to half past, 30 minutes to the hour that’s 33minutes and 1 past the hour. That’s 34 minutes difference, we just needed 40.
Could we have done it? We had been through so many disappointments I even whispered to Brian “look at the board” , I said it slowly as thought it could change or had I miss read it. Is that 34minutes difference I said? Brian confirmed after a few seconds. While we did not dance about the place the feeling inside was indescribable. In what sport can you have such a roller coaster of emotions that lasts so long. From 13 hours earlier when we rounded the Fastnet we had won and lost this race so many times. We were up and down. We now knew pending a disaster Amazing Grace had won the race and Spindrift was finishing strong. At that point we might have ended up 10th but that was not important to us now. On passing Skellig Michael we set ourselves a goal to finish within 3 miles of Mojito and that we had done and nothing was going to change that. This was not down to light winds this was not down to any different conditions. They had 3 miles ahead of us with 60 miles to go and after shredding our big kite and getting caught up in the Washer woman’s washing machine we still finished within three miles of them was as good as an Olympic gold to us. Probably as we respect the boat Mojito as a great boat, the crew as a very competent crew and the added expertise of Stephen and Peter with Vicky and Peter is the reason it means so much. They will more than likely hammer us next time out. But we had a great race and it’s the kind of race that just gets you hooked on offshore racing and why we spend so long drifting some days in lite airs,waiting for these really exciting times. The evening was topped off nicely when the Crew of Mojito joined us on Lula Belle for Drinks later, showing the great spirit of Offshore.
Brian With Prizes. Winner 2 handed classand 3rd overall.
A super Boat




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