Fight­ing the wind from the So­lent to Scot­land

Yachting Monthly - - CRUISING LOG -

John Wel­bank and his new boat were put through their paces on a de­liv­ery trip from the Ham­ble to the Clyde in spring.

After 10 years with­out a boat it was about time my wife Sylvia and I fi­nally got our­selves a new ship. I spent around two years trawl­ing the In­ter­net for likely can­di­dates. The cri­te­ria were price, sail­ing abil­ity and size, and noth­ing too old. I wanted a proper sail­ing boat, not a float­ing car­a­van.

After a few highly spec­u­la­tive of­fers a sen­si­bly-priced Beneteau 40.7 from 2000 called Space Race came on the mar­ket. Al­though fully race kit­ted, she also had all the cruis­ing re­quire­ments; furl­ing jib, au­to­helm and nav sys­tem. She seemed to fit the bill.

The boat had been well used but the key com­po­nents of rig, en­gine and keel had all been well main­tained. The main hur­dle was that she was on the Ham­ble but my cho­sen cruis­ing ground was the Clyde in Scot­land as we live in North Lan­cashire. From view­ing the boat to the de­liv­ery trip was only three weeks, but get­ting any­thing done on the Ham­ble in April is near im­pos­si­ble. Our bro­ker used ev­ery con­tact he had to get mi­nor, pre-de­liv­ery trip works done be­fore Space

Race was launched. As a Scot­tish cruis­ing boat the one es­sen­tial I did re­quire was a spray­hood. Tec­sew man­aged to mea­sure, make and fit one for me within two weeks. In the end this proved crit­i­cal to the de­liv­ery trip, given the con­di­tions we faced. Launch day was Fri­day 28 April. The plan was for me to drive south on the Thurs­day night loaded up to the gun­wales with gear and food, launch the boat 0930, rig her mid-morn­ing, then head up to Ham­ble Point for the night to meet the crew. What could pos­si­bly go wrong?

In the end, mainly due to our bro­ker Si­mon Wal­worth, noth­ing ac­tu­ally did. The first leg crew, friends Dave and Char­lie, landed Fri­day night for a Satur­day morn­ing off, which, de­spite a few mi­nor tech­ni­cal issues, we achieved. The first day we had a full-on cham­pagne sail­ing run down the So­lent and on past Port­land Bill to Brix­ham: 105 miles av­er­ag­ing over eight knots. Not bad for a cruiser. Un­for­tu­nately this was about the last time the weather played ball.

Char­lie, a non-sailor, had his first taste of helm­ing, rat­tling along at up to nine knots down the So­lent. Un­for­tu­nately he also had his first ex­pe­ri­ence of mal de mer. Even a pod of dol­phins off the Nee­dles couldn’t dis­tract him for long.

That night the Met Of­fice was fore­cast­ing a gale from the south-west. Not want­ing to push our luck we stayed in Brix­ham. De­spite the pour­ing rain and the dis­trac­tion of the Brix­ham pi­rate fes­ti­val the gale never ma­te­ri­alised. We did, how­ever, sort var­i­ous mi­nor boat issues. Next day we set

‘It was go­ing to be un­pleas­ant but safe, so we crashed on’

off into a lively Force 5, which quickly built. By Start Point we were beat­ing into steep, four-me­tre swells. Three hours try­ing to round Start Point had the crew, if not the boat, suf­fer­ing. The plan was to head for Fal­mouth but that was ad­justed to a ten-hour run to Ply­mouth. This also al­lowed for a sim­pler crew change; Char­lie off and Richard and brother-in-law John on.

As we had al­ready lost a day in Brix­ham I was keen to push on. At 0400 we were off again. Con­di­tions were very be­nign with light winds and blue sky. A pleas­ant chug across to Land’s End saw us turn the cor­ner north by early evening. That night pro­vided a very pleas­ant mo­tor north into the Bris­tol Chan­nel but by the early hours the wind was build­ing again and as usual from the worst pos­si­ble di­rec­tion: this time, the north­east. The choices were ei­ther to run for Mil­ford Haven or keep bash­ing on to Holy­head in North Wales. It was a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion but the boat had clearly proved her sail­ing abil­i­ties. Al­though it would be un­pleas­ant it was still safe, so we crashed on, beat­ing up St Ge­orge’s Chan­nel took a fur­ther 24 hours, but we made Ply­mouth to Holy­head in 56 hours. Thank good­ness for Tec­sew’s spray­hood!

By the time we reached Holy­head we were ready for some proper food and a few hours’ sleep. I was go­ing to spend the night in Holy­head but a good fore­cast of easterly Force 4-5 spurred the crew on. Six hours after get­ting there, we were off again. The easterly 4-5 turned into a north-easterly Force 6-7. A triple-reefed main and a hand­ker­chief of jib saw us bowl­ing along at over seven knots to wind­ward. The boat was just in­cred­i­ble in these con­di­tions. That big, heavy keel not only re­duced lee­way but also nul­li­fied the worst of the mo­tion from some fairly steep, rolling seas. In the early hours, off the Isle of Man the wind fi­nally eased and we had a stun­ning and slightly more com­fort­able blast up the North Chan­nel un­der starry skies with three knots of tide.

After dodg­ing a few fer­ries com­ing out of Loch Ryan we fi­nally headed into the Clyde. Sur­prise sur­prise, the wind also turned the cor­ner and headed us all the way north but by this stage I didn’t care. Cloud­less blue skies over Ar­ran and a short chop weren’t go­ing to stop us now. We fi­nally picked up a moor­ing off Great Cum­brae Is­land at 2100 at the end of our 27-hour run. Cold beer and hot food on a flat ta­ble were very wel­come.

After an early start the next morn­ing, we fi­nally mo­tored into James Watt Docks in Greenock at 0900, ex­actly seven days and 641 miles since leav­ing the Ham­ble.

John gets to grips with his new Beneteau First 40.7

Brother in law John, with Long Ships in the back­ground

Ailsa Craig to port on the fi­nal leg

LEFT: Space

Race had proved her worth by Holy­head

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