A First for All or Nothing by Simon Dipple

Posted by Mary Coles on 15 June 2018

Another racing weekend over for All or Nothing which certainly tested our skills and our patience.

This weekend’s (26 - 27 May) race was the RORC Myth of Malham race, from the Royal Yacht Squadron starting line off Cowes, to the West around Eddystone lighthouse off the South West UK coast near Plymouth and then back to Northead Buoy just off Hurst castle and the Needles Channel.

With a light easterly breeze our start was down wind and with the tide so we chose a cautious start to the north end of the line; With hindsight while our cautious start was sensible for a 240mile race the southerly committee end of the line would have given us a better run down the Solent nevertheless we remained with the pack gybing on our way out into the English Channel when, as always, the fleet takes different tactical routes.

In our preparations for this weekend’s race we had discussed taking an inshore route along the coast to Portland Bill and trying to make it before the tidal gate closed at Portland bill race or even taking the difficult inshore route inside the Race. Our boat speed was good across Poole bay and towards Portland, but after a team talk we agreed that the adverse tide around Portland and tight gybing downwind in the small gap between the hard stuff and Portland race was unwise, so we headed out of Lyme Bay to sea.

Late night across the channel tested our skills with multiple gybes with the light wind A2 Asymmetric spinnaker, however, as the night progressed the wind increased to a sustained force six (F6) with gusts up to 28knots, but we enjoyed the thrill of some wonderful downwind sailing hitting 14knots boat speed on a number of occasions.

With the winds easing to around F5 our gybing went well until it was dark and on possibly our last gybe into the mark we had a nasty Asymmetric wrap around the forestay which took us a few minutes to fix.

In the very early hours of Sunday morning and still dark, thunder & lightning struck up all around us and we decided to switch to the heavier A4 to prepare for any possible squalls which normally come with storms like this, but oddly and rather eerily whilst the sky lit up around us the wind dropped to under 5 knots and this resulted in our second Asymmetrical wrap of the weekend. Another 15 minutes lost but thankfully we recovered the situation just in time for a significant increase in wind strength again and we were off on another sleigh ride down the channel. In the mayhem of pitch black spinnaker changes, someone (possibly me) failed to attach the spinnaker bag to the rail properly which I hope promptly sank to the bottom of the channel rather than get washed up on a beach somewhere – sorry blue ocean – we are trying to be considerate to the environment as AON is probably the only boat in the RORC series with refillable water drinking bottles and a recycling station.

As we approached Eddystone lighthouse & outlying rocks in the darkness at 3am we took a slightly conservative route which cost us another 15 minutes however a smooth drop of the kite in preparation for the upwind leg home and a quick check of the pack leaders confirmed despite our issues we were within an hour of the leaders, so the race was still on.

Playing the tide all the way up the channel and with the wind varying from zero to 20knots we decided to make another attempt at the inshore route at Portland Bill. As you can see from the image below we were treated to a spectacular view and all was good with the world.

We were now 30 hours into racing and it was time to charge the boat’s batteries, so on with the engine (in neutral) and check for water….but none to be seen so off with the engine and we started our diagnostics, water intake seacock check, water filter primed check, impeller check, we were about to give in when we decided a manual blow through of the hose from the exhaust outlet to the impeller was worth a try, so with everything reassembled we gave it one more turn and to our great satisfaction (as can be seen on Chris’s face in the picture below) water came pumping out of the exhaust. Phew!

As we progressed along the Dorset coast the wind became even more fluky and at just 2-3 knots we struggled to keep AON moving but then thankfully while I was taking a break we hit a completely dead zone and so against an adverse tide Chris decided to kedge (anchor) in 40 meters I emerged to my watch with a rather grumpy bear on deck spouting that the kedge anchor was “about as much use as a chocolate tea pot”.

Despite the frustrations we battled on and now it was my turn to feel the pain of light or no wind but to add to that it became variable with 180 degree shifts which required my first ever single-handed gybe; So, when Chris appeared for his watch I dare say he encountered a rather grumpy panda on deck.


Despite all of this our tide management was working and we saw that we had closed the gap on the lead boats and by the time we’d rounded Anvil point we could clearly see them on AIS with less than an hour separating the top 5 boats in IRC4. As we headed into the final beat into Poole bay and the finish line we decided to prepare for another loss of wind and headed well up tide. With the heat of the day kicking in we found boats ‘parked’ all around the finish line in no wind but with ‘fairy feet’ and focused sail setting we managed to edge towards the finish line past a number of anchored boats who couldn’t battle the tide. Just as we thought we’d made it the wind died completely and we ran to the Danforth anchor to hold our ground. No sooner had the boat pulled on the anchor on the seabed than a wisp of wind blew across the deck of AON, I shouted at Chris to get to the helm and I hauled like crazy. We ghosted across the line barely missing the bows of Hot Pursuit another Sunfast 3200 who were anchored within few hundred meters of the finishing line.

So how did we do?

Pop the champagne! First in IRC4 from 11 boats, 13th from 46 in IRC overall and 5th in IRC 2 handed from 14.

Thanks to all of our families and friends that continue to support us in our challenge – this is our Mount Everest and we take great pride in achieving one of our goals.

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