Jelenko - "Myth of Malham"

This last bank holiday weekend, 136 yachts and 900 crewmembers from all over the world competed in the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Myth of Malham race, a 236 nautical mile classic. The course started from the Royal Yacht Squadron line at 0800 on the 25th May, the starts were staggered by 10 minute intervals with the IRC 4 Fleet leading the way, following on was IRC 3, 2 &1 (the fastest fleet). The course was simple round “Eddystone lighthouse” to port and finish at “North head buoy “ about a mile from Hurst castle.

A huge variety of boats took part including; hi-tech racing yachts, multihulls, performance cruising yachts and classic designs including a notable entry was the 53ft ketch Gipsy Moth IV, which will be raced by Ricky Chalmers. In 1966-67, Sir Francis Chichester circumnavigated with Gipsy Moth IV in 274 days, setting the fastest voyage around the world by any small vessel. World Class professional sailors and passionate Corinthians competed in a very challenging race. 36 teams also raced Two-Handed in what is becoming very popular amongst off shore yachtsmen.

Weather conditions were very light for the start of the race a high pressure system of 1020 mb brought light North westerly winds and only 2 hours of a ebbing tide remained before the fleet could clear Hurst castle. This was not the case however the wind backed to a westerly direction and increased to about 15 kts the entire fleet ended tacking towards the castle all biding for the shallow waters on the North shores of the Solent.

Throughout the 1st day once clear of Hurst the fleet spilt, tactical decisions were now the order of the day. We decided to play it safe and stay clear of St Albans! A mistake, maybe! And this became the trend, what do we do about the headlands and there are a few- Portland Bill, Start point all very strategic and important. To quote a very famous comment from Sir Robin “this is like playing a game of golf with lots of holes and even more bunkers”.

Eventually after a very long night beating towards the “Eddystone” we finally rounded at 11:43 on Sunday morning in 25 kts of breeze. The wind remained roughly the same from 270- 300 degrees, however the barometer had dropped 7 mb in 24 hrs so alarm bells were ringing! But confident that we were running away from a pending depression we hoisted our smallest spinnaker and began the 115-mile reach to the finish line. To say this was sporting was an under estimate, surfing on big seas with a boat speed in excess of 15 knots was a big adrenalin buzz but it does have its dangers. In two-handed sailing you are allowed to use the autopilot (AP) however we have learnt the limitations of this system. So above 15 kts of true wind its hands on the wheel, this is hard work constantly aware of the dangers of an inadvertent gybe.

Of note we have recently installed a gybe easy system, this works on the same principle as a rock climber’s abseil equipment in that by friction it slows down the gybe and eliminates the job of the mainsheet trimmer, this also acts as a preventer.

At 03:40 on Monday 27th May we crossed the finish line making 12 kts in the dark still flying our spinnaker. All that remained was to get the spinnaker down safely – not an easy thing to do double handed in moderate winds. We then turned “Jelenko” around and set course for Weymouth. Relief and satisfaction was the order of the day, we had achieved our goal completing 300 miles off shore racing in two of the major qualifying races for this years 2019 “Fastnet” race.

The results were almost immaterial but for the record “Jelenko” finished:

18/36 in the two handed race
23/37 IRC 3
79/134 Overall

A total of 9 boats retired from the race including a hot favourite French boat “Raging Bee 2”.

So what have we learnt?

1. Sleep management – we don’t keep a strict watch routine. Mainly because we both have other duties: Cooking/ Tactics Nav etc. What seems to work is we both do an hour on hour off routine – in quite times you could get 2 hrs off. However we are both aware of banking sleep credits, which is very important to reduce fatigue.

2. Food + Water intake. Can be easily forgotten, it is so important to eat and drink as much nutritious food as possible. Even more so as a double-handed crew – fruit and high-energy drinks seem to help.

3. Always brief major events before carrying them out, basically talk through everything – i.e. Tacks, Spinnaker hoists/drops –Gybes, knowing when to reef or shake them out. Take your time – you have to remember that you are not sailing around Weymouth bay with 7 other crewmembers on the boat – if we cock up we have to sort it out. So we tend to do things in a much more methodical way.

So “Fastnet 2019” August 03rd – why not take a trip to Portland Bill and wave at us on our way to the famous rock?

Al Doughty & Ian Cheke

Submitted on 29th May 2019