RWYC TWO-HANDED ROUND BRITAIN & IRELAND RACE IN A MAXI 1100
by Guy Warner
I bought my Maxi 1100 Blue Demon new last year and specified a number of cruising gear items that added weight – eg extra tankage, batteries, cupboards & fridge.
It was perhaps not surprising that our results in the RSYC’s two-handed races were poor. A longer race was needed to show Blue Demon’s true potential and so, rather rashly, I entered the RWYC two-handed RBI – clockwise from Plymouth leaving Great Britain & Ireland to starboard (except for Rockall) with 4 compulsory 48 hour stops at Kinsale, Barra, Lerwick & Lowestoft. A 300M qualifier had to be completed by 1 May. Suitably chastened by the roller coaster experience in a F6-8 but heartened by the superb performance of my co-skipper Nicki Crutchfield, Blue Demon duly arrived at Queen Ann’s Battery Marina on Tue 6 June to prepare for the start at noon on Sun 11 June.
There were 40 entries ranging from lightweight catamarans/trimarans, through Open 40s and J109s to a few souped up cruising yachts. They all had one thing in common – they were light and fast.
My competitors were mostly experienced long distance racers (including Pete Goss) who all moaned about having to carry a dinghy – the stop at Barra necessitated having to anchor in Castlebay and get ashore by one’s own means. We were the only yacht with a sprayhood and dodgers – the sprayhood is down in the photo but I left the dodgers up throughout the race! There were 6 classes – 2 multihulls, 1 open 40 and 3 IRC. We were in IRC class 2 with a handicap of 1.014. We should have been in class 3 (under 1.000) but I was carrying both the 105% jib & the 143% genoa as well as a self-tacking staysail on an inner forestay.
The first leg to Kinsale was characterised by very light winds. It was a struggle to get round the Lizard and Bishop Rock and then a beat across the Bristol Channel. We finished at 1257 on Wed 14 June having sailed 288M with almost zero wind for the last few hours. The next leg west of Ireland duly started for us at 1257 on Friday 16 June. This was light winds again for the first 36 hours but it picked up to F5 and we had a fine reach up to Barra (489M) arriving at 0115 on Tues 20 Jun and picking our way gingerly into the already crowded anchorage.
The following day it blew F10 through the bay causing havoc among the yachts with one badly damaged after having to be pulled off rocks by the local lifeboat who did a sterling job. Blue Demon dragged her anchor as well but we took refuge in an adjoining bay which was less crowded. Most yachts stayed in harbour even though they were due to sail. One brave Dutch crew left only to be pitchpoled off St Kilda and rescued by the lifeboat.
We crossed the restart line at 1135 on Thu 22 Jun, some 10 hours late having waited for the wave height off Barra Head to subside from 30 metres to about 5 metres! It was a rough ride out to St Kilda but the Maxi coped well and it was not the yacht’s fault that we shredded the main spinnaker having foolishly put it up to celebrate the wind being behind us at last. However, we then had a rollicking ride straight up to the Shetlands with the F6/7 wind about 70P. The 143% genoa did a great job – assisted by having the leads right back and the barber haulers on to adjust the leech tension. We arrived in Lerwick having rounded Muckle Flugga at the top of the Shetlands (see photo) in fine style to find ourselves 2nd in class on the leg as the faster yachts had lost time from hunkering in Barra being due to leave well before us. We used the 105% jib to tack up the Sound into Lerwick as it is easier to pull through the staysail slot and better close on the wind. We finished at 0208 on Mon 26 Jun after 523M.
The North Sea leg was a long one for us with the lightish wind bang on the nose throughout. We covered 726M from Wed 28 Jun (0208) to Mon 3 Jul (1639). It was a frustrating sail dodging the many oil rigs and hoping for a wind shift. In retrospect we would have done better with the 105% jib up and more hand steering! We did this on the last leg starting at 0208 on Wed 5 Jul but the wind was again on the nose and shifted from S to SW as we went through the Dover Strait. However, my radar was very useful in avoiding the numerous ships encountered; I think we were the only yacht to carry it!
We finally made Plymouth at 0544 on Sun 9 Jul having had to battle through a F8 off Start Point.
We had raced over 2500M in 4 weeks with 4 stops of 2 days each. Our average speed was about 5.5 kts which reflects the predominantly very light winds. Our overall position was 30th out of 40 although there were 4 retirements. The boat performed superbly in all the variety of conditions we faced and there were only a few minor defects. Moreover, it proved to me that the Maxi 1100 is a very capable offshore yacht able to undertake ocean passages in most weathers without problems.
Reprinted from Maxi News, Autumn 2006