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Friday, August 28, 2009


Testing new blog address.

My favourite pub and a windy day near Hurst Castle.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Barnacle baffle

We lifted Berri in the slings for an hour this morning in the drizzle and bleah. 'Orrible! Stuck a venturi onto each of the cockpit drain outlets - the originals had all fallen off and they really do make a difference. And a clamp around the anode. And put some antifoul under the counter - whole new look, not noticeable when Berri launched again unless you look closely but obvious and a bit daunting - I hope - to the relatives of all the barnacles we took to Hobart from here last time. That's the top pic.

And it's all winding up. I'm off to Hamble tomoz to collect the (I hope) repaired wind generator and all the other stuff we left there to lighten Berri for the Fastnet and then we start sorting and loading all the gear in Jeremy's shed and Anne's lockup (150 cans of Murphys and a modicum of medicinal potion from a certain Cork distillery of Dry liquids).

And collect the Cape Town charts...

And buy lots of diesel and almost all of Tesco's and Asda...

And we'll go - perhaps 10 days or so to get it all done.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Some hair gel for Drake?

Seagull poo, for the biologically challenged, consists almost entirely of Araldite and cornflakes. Just try getting it off your decks. Sir Francis will need more than a haircut.

Back in Falmouth getting ready for the off. It was four years ago today that we set off last time, but then we had a pretty fierce deadline. This time, we are aiming to leave by September 7th at the latest. That should give us heaps of time. Berri is being lifted out of the water for a few hours on Saturday morning to attach a missing venturi to a cockpit drain and to apply copious antifoul under her counter to deter the Falmouth barnacles.

Then I have to drive back to Hamble to collect the repaired wind generator and some other stuff we left there in the interests of going fast and visit a few friends on the way who have helped us. Then lots of tedious loading, shopping, last minute fixes, goodbyes and we're away. The plan is Cape Town, but that's still in very wet concrete.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sliding down the old picket fence

Pete noticed that we have achieved a remarkable coincidence of fencepost numbers by sailing in this Fastnet gig. In 2005 in Berri, we came 11th overall. This year we were 111th overall (What a backslide - should have retired when in front...) and 11th in the 2 handed division and 11th in class 3b. Is the examiner trying to tell us something?

We are still in Plymouth trying to get the nav light problem fixed. We think it is probably a defective circuit board in the LED light fitting at the masthead but it is an early version of the fitting and the later versions are not compatible so we have to wait until the local rigger can fit in a trip up the mast with the right tools to change the fitting. Should happen today. If so, back to Falmouth tomorrow. And some discussion with Aquasignal about their circuit boards.

Brian S - check your email - I'm getting non delivery messages...And thanks everyone for your messages - it's lovely to know that there are people out there still reading this guff.

An in-joke for the initiated but there's a new chapter for the HGTTG on the Survival of a subspecies of Pachycephalosaur in draft and ready for Proofreading and Due Process by the Consultant., the Surgeon, the Examiner and the Censor. A formidable team.

PS - nav light exchanged for new version and problem fixed. Now for the discussion with Aquasignal.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Finger trouble

This is Leopard. And one looking towards the Needles in the Solent.

Fastnet wrap

Turned out a bit better than we thought - a respectable set of results and I think we only owe beer to Peggsy in Voador. Amazing ride back from the Rock - actually from Pantaenius - cracking 8's and 9's under first the flat kite and then the full blown Katherine's purple and gold kite. Bleak, Bering Sea weather with drizzle and very low vis and really difficult steering at night with no frame of reference - stars, lights etc - except the compass and the boat rolling all over the ocean in the swell. And for old farts who can't read the compass at night without glasses - just have to try to focus on a particular blob and hope its the right one. It often isn't because you also have to look around the blurry horizon every now and again and then have to re-identify your particular blob So things start to go pearshaped and it's recovery time...Tiring and a bit stressful.

The photos
Aerial shot of the Fastnet looking NW towards Clear Island at sunset, courtesy of Con Crowley, RNLI, Crosshaven - thanks Con
Looking back at the later starters in the Solent
Anchored - in interesting company - the Bristol Pilot Cutter Morwenna
A floating apartment block that visited us - not quite a Vogon yellow ship but I bet they have better poets
Leopard going for the finishabout 80 miles ahead just east of the Scillies - we had four days at least to go
Approaching the Rock from the NE under Berri's (and Katherine's) special kite
The Fastnet in Daylight - yay!
Out of focus rocks south of the Scillies near Bishop Rock light

We're in Plymouth till tomoz then back to Falmouth for last minute fixes and reloading...Much rushing around required.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Flat kite, 12 knots of breeze on the beam, boat speed and VMG 7+ knots. Noice! AGW, Bishop Rock during the prizegiving tonight and finish time lunchtimeish tomoz.

Keep em crossed, all y'all.

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Of silly old farts and sealing wax, of a cabbage for a king

So - 48 years after first trying, I have finally seen the Fastnet Rock in daylight. For me, apart from Cape Horn and perhaps Tasman Island and the Iron Pot, the only race mark worth the effort of getting there every time. And get there we did, photos to follow - not another competitor in sight and so we must by now be way, way out the back of the race. A comprehensive cock up by anyone's standards. As Eeyore might say, "That's just what WOULD happen to a couple of silly old geriatrics with ideas above their station" but at least we can play the old farts card - "Yacht race? What yacht race? How interesting! Are we really in a yacht race? Gosh - now where did I leave my woolly socks..."

More mizzly murk in the Celtic Sea, but this time with phosphorescence- all the little dinoflagellates out to play - yay! And the moon posing for Turner. Sadly, the force 7 rocket blast to get us to the finish that Valencia Radio has been warning everyone about just ain't going to happen according to my latest GRIB. We'll get a little feel of it tonight, perhaps, but the good bit wont arrive until lateish tomorrow, far too late for us. Pity - might have redeemed the cock up just a bit!

And for this pair of SOG's, the Fastnet is also the turning mark for the way home to Oz, just like last time. This time we don't have the deadline pressure of trying to get back for the Sydney - Hobart start, so we may be a bit more leisurely about it. Cape Town, South Georgia, even Kerguelen perhaps? All interesting places we had to sail past last time.

Some messages - Sarah, Pete's Pot is doing its job with panache - and to the RCC - so is the one you so kindly sent me.
Sue - consumables depleting as per flight plan - thanks! ZBD tipsy bouncer. Steves various - continued thanks. And Fenwick, decrepit sailor with Kingly aspirations - you're a silly old fart too.

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Fastnet to Fastnet - via the world

Some time in the next couple of hours Berri will achieve a small and unique milestone - a Fastnet Rock to Fastnet Rock circumnavigation started four years ago within a day or two and including Falmouth, the Cape of Good Hope, Hobart, Sydney, the Pacific from south to north, the Aleutians and Dutch Harbour, the North West Passage, Greenland, the North Atlantic (bleah!) and Falmouth. We'll be a bit busy at the Rock, so I'm writing and sending this now. There will be a Special Consultation at some stage when the deed is done.

There is a forecast of force 6 -7 from the SW for this evening, so with a bit of luck, we'll fly back to the Lizard.

Appendages crossed please - we need a break!

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Little dramas to pass the time

Why we love 2 handing there I was, middle of the Celtic Sea, middle of the night, all alone in the cockpit. Dismal night - low indeterminate cloudbase, mizzly rain, Iguacu to leeward, no noticeable vmg towards the Fastnet. Conditions a bit like the Bering Sea but without the ethereal and utterly exhilarating glimpses of snow covered volcanoes through the murk.

Time to get rid of the reef. Attach autopilot. Unroll self from cockpit seat, dodge the torrent, hook on to the jackline and start undoing the strop and the knitting. Rain down neck. Headsail backs - autopiloy beeps madly - race back to cockpit - what the hell is going on. Roll in headsail, finish the reef and try to work out what has happened. Wind down to nothing, Then a smidge - unroll heady and try to sail. Sails drenched and shapeless - no want to work. Small small movement through the water, steerage way - to the north. Even worse than before but - but - a tack would point us directly at the Fastnet. One armed paperhanger act with sheets, tweakers, recalcitrant autopilot everything dripping wet, velcro in cuffs undone by winching, water up sleeves - and Berri eventually, slowly, turns through the tack. More mayhem and trimming and - magic - we're pointing at the bottom left corner of Ireland instead of Birmingham.

Time to wake Pete...

You can probably see where it all happened on the tracker. And you may want to ask why, unlike the rest of the fleet, I expect, I did not know the change was coming and anticipate it. Good question, long story but basically relying on 3 day old weather info and then misinterpreting it...Geriatricity and technology and no excuse.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Falls of Iguacu and other stuff

Offshore sailors may recognise The Iguacu Effect - the best place to steer the boat from on the wind is usually the leeward cockpit seat from where you can see the whole headsail and react to telltale talk almost by instinct. However, when it's raining or when there's lots of blowing spray - now, like..., the mainsail becomes a catchment area the size of Brazil and the end of the boom, just above your head, is the source of the Iguacu torrent. Usually down inside the WWG collar and there's nowt to do but squirm away. We have a couple of very sexy helmets with visors which may cure the symptoms but in the interest of weight saving, I left them behind in Hamble. Stooopid!

The ghosts of cuppas and McQ's North West Passage coffee: we have 2 huge conical mugs bought in Falmouth first time around but, being plastic, the remnant of the contents tends to stick to the inside and the next cuppa tastes of old soup, toothpaste, general grot and nasties. I've just scoured off the brownwash - wow, you should have seen the colour and consistency of the resulting mixture. Just add tabasco?

we're not likely to get anywhere close to the Fastnet trophy cookie jar this time I'm afraid - about 10 hours anchored or going backwards and sideways in the tide at Land's end avoiding the Runnel Stone and the separation zone have fixed that. And now the wind is dead ahead...back to Crosshaven, perhaps.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"with a spoonful of tabasco..."

Doesn't scan like the original but it's amazing what a guinness and bacon sando brekky with lashings of tabasco does for the morale. Plus having been lifted so we are pointing directly at the Lizard. May the Examiner be praised and the devil take the vogons.

Almost time to wake Pete. Kettle stations and fire up the frying pan for more bacon. Don't suppose he'll want a guiness but you never know.


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A pastiche

Have had trouble with propagation and transmission

Now just south of Dartmouth heqadbanging again - awful lumpy SW swell. Soup from freshly squeezed english cbannel earlier,

Now daily con with Pete & dr Gordon. Noice. Here are earlier blogs not sent - first last night, second some days ag0.

Reasonable start amongst the usual mayhem and purple and gold kite down to big hole off Yarmouth. Out almost over the Shingles, con with Dr G at 1700 and then falling breeze not enough to carry us over the incoming tide. Anchored in 125 ft of water, about 3kts of tide. Pete on anchor watch and I'm going to try to get some sleep. We drifter back 250 metres before we decided to anchor.

Maybe this will be the first from the boat. We left Falmouth at 1700 on Wednesday and now (0930 Thursday) we are about 5 miles west of the light at Portland Bill, planning to go in close and pass north of the Shambles. Will give us a look at the geography for the Fastnet...

Not enough battery power to work the HF so no send...

Now it's Saturday and we had a massive hoon to Hamble - 25 and a quarter hours jetty to jetty and we fluked the tides too. 25 knots into theNeedles Channel and 2 knots of tide under us. Lovely sailing.

Let's see whether this one goes...

Steve - getting yours - tks Hi Sue ZBD onto Dr G too. Flapjacks great tks

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

A word from the publisher

At the briefing we were asked to emphasise to both of our fans that, should Berri disappear from the tracking site during the race, it is not the end of the world, nor is it likely to be the end of Berri. Please don't ring RORC or the Coastguard or President Obama - just hang in there and we will get to the finish eventually, carrying a dud tracker. I will try to keep the blogs going but it does get a bit intense and I might just flunk occasionally.

Looks like a softish race but with some wind most of the way around. I think it will be a beat from the start to the Fastnet and a soft reach back to Plymouth. If we can finish by Friday, we are doing well.

Our start is at 1220 british summer time or 1120 UTC. We go off second, after the IMOCA 60's and in front of all the others. There's an entry list on the fastnet website with handicaps etc.

Hope we can keep it moving...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Trapped by a phalanx or two

I have just poked my nose into the RORC office to make sure we have nothing else to do bfore the start and the media were there in phalanxes. I did three interviews one after the other - tricky trying to be original, but the interviewers were good and I hope it was ok

One interview will be available on the Fastnet website and another on the Rolex Regatta News site (I think) and the third was live to Cowes Radio. And I met Carlo Borlenghi, ace photographer and Giles, ace journo, on the way out - just like old times! Google Carlo - his website is awesome.


Tonight is the last night of Cowes Week and it's all happening. There was a real Sea Vixen doing gentle aerobatics earlier and the Red Arrows have just finished. Fireworks to come.

Briefing tomoz and we're going to dinner afterwards with the Winsome mob who we met in Sydney at Christmas. Then it's into business suits and The Project. For those who don't know where to look, play around with the links here Looks like a big boat race this year with good winds for the first few days then going light after the big boat have finished.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Please read this! There will be Exam Questions later.

To all three of our fans out there - when Speedy joined W.O.B. in heaven, he took the passwords to this blog and the website with him and we haven't been able to crack it so we have no control over my mistakes and other peoples' hacks. We need both, so there will be a new blog address without a website this time and a public email address  instead of the gustbook for Fenwick to send us abuse and the rest of you to send nicer messages. The old website and the gustbook will still work and messages on the gustbook will get to us, but perhaps less frequently than before. I will post blogs to both blog spots until we leave for Oz and after that, just to the new one.

The new blog is here:   and the email address to send us messages will be

Steve Withnall will look after the blog and the email addres from Sydney - THANKS Steve! We will post directly to the blog from the boat and Steve will monitor the email address and the old gustbook and edit any messages and send them to us via

We can't make our sailmail address public because if we get spammed, the whole thing falls over.

Meantime, we're in Cowes! YAY! Massive relief - the wonderful mob at Golden Arrow found us a damper plate and Mark came over to Hamble in the pouring rain  at about 1800 yesterday after a long day in Poole fixing someone else's donk and worked until late getting Berri back together again. Thanks Mark, thanks Ken both from Golden Arrow for having the right stuff and doing the job.They are at Shamrock Quay in Southampton if any of you need fixes.

My phone charger has died so no photos until I can download from Pete's camera.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Reverse assembly - again

Church packed for the memorial service. Moving occasion - coulda' been us.

Followed by an interesting cultural experience. Definitely needed my blue towel and The Guide..I think we drafted a whole new chapter.

And now we're back with the gearbox off - I've been concerned for some time about the noises coming from the back of the engine and I asked the wonderful people at Golden Arrow Marine in Swampton whether they could spare the time to come and have a listen. As I rather suspected, serious problem and disassemblement required once again - not exactly sure how it occurred but the torsional impact damper plate on the flywheel was completely stuffed. And I don't mean just a bit stuffed - bits of the rubber shock absorbent material everywhere and the two metal plates about to self destruct. So a new one ordered and might arrive today. Or might not, but it means that we can't go over to Cowes until it is fitted. Golden Arrow terriffic.

And Paul Peggs, our good mate and significant rival in the 2 Handed division arrives today so there will be serious consultation. Paul lent us his boat, Audacious, for the last Fastnet while he sailed Voador to an overall 2 handed division win. Big co-incidence - Paul sold Audacious last year and Bruno who sailed the Hobart with us a couple of years ago, is half her crew for this Fastnet.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Just an update

The countdown begins - Berri is looking good, with a new pinky mascot from Sue and surrounded by swans and cygnets and huge greasy mullet. She's never been so light and it just could be a light wind race - see - last minute electrical glitches needed sorting today and seem to be under control .Engineer coming tomoz to listen to engine and gearbox and advise. Safety stuff being checked - and over to Cowes by RIB tomorrow courtesy of a generous friend for the 1979 memorial service and the RORC party

We will take Berri across to E. Cowes Marina late Thursday or early Friday all going well. Stickers yet to go on and briefing on Saturday.

Dinner tonight with friends at the Dodgy Eater aka La Dolce Vita. Noice.

I'll try to do pics tomorrow. Berri so light that I don't even have a camera - just the phone. And we are only taking a foot of dental floss to share and recycle - that should sort any hygeine problems.  And military rations of loo paper. Berri rocks!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Heading East

Maybe this will be the first from the boat. We left Falmouth at 1700 on Wednesday and now (0930 Thursday) we are about 5 miles west of the light at Portland Bill, planning to go in close and pass north of the Shambles. Will give us a look at the geography for the Fastnet...

Not enough battery power to work the HF so no send...

Now it's Saturday and we had a massive hoon to Hamble - 25 and a quarter hours jetty to jetty and we fluked the tides too. 25 knots into theNeedles Channel and 2 knots of tide under us. Lovely sailing.

Let's see whether this one goes...

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