Wales Mile Builder: 29th May – 1st June 2014

Boat – Sigma 38, Rho
Skipper – Gareth
Crew – Anna, Simon, Fenton, Chris, Raz, George (the auto pilot)
Wind Strength – Max Force 5

Wales Mile builder waypoints

Thursday 29th May: Hamble

1000 – 0kn
The crew arrive and after packing their gear, a safety brief and some boat familiarisation we got the boat ready to leave, as our Wales mile builder would take at least 3 days we ensured that all gear was stowed properly.

Crew Leaving Hamble

1130 – 0kn
We slipped our lines and motored out into Southampton water where we hoisted our main sail and finally got our jib up.  With a positive tide and 7 – 8 knots of wind we had a great sail down the Solent.

Under Sail

1300 – 17kn
We had ‘goosed winged’ Rho to take advantage of the last of the dying wind as we passed Lymington with the tide sweeping us through The Needles. We reluctantly turned on the engine and had to motor once we had left the Solent.

1600 – 32kn
We dropped into our watches; Gareth, Anna and Raz went down below to try to get some sleep while Simon, Chris and Fenton let George take the helm while keeping an eye out.

George keeping us on course

1730 – 47kn
South East of Portland and with the tide against us, we plotted our course for 5 miles off the headland. George was doing a great job on the helm and Simon went down below to get the dinner on- chilli with rice was on the menu.

The rest of the day was uneventful, with little to no wind we kept motoring with George keeping on course and the crew keeping a good look out.

Friday 30th May: Midway between Portland Bill and Start Point

0140 – 85kn
We altered course to avoid a few fishing boats, we had practiced recognising lights the day before, which made identifying what we saw much easier.  We had rounded Portland by this stage and we altered course to stop going so far South and to get closer to Start Point- with the aim of the tide being with us when we got there.

0430 – 104kn
We passed Start Point and had enjoyed a cloudless sky and seen plenty of stars, but as the sun started to come up we got a light fog.  The fog had cleared by 0600 and as we listened to the Shipping Forecast and looked around it was hard to imagine the force 4-5 winds promised.

0800 – 118kn
Although it wasn’t force 4-5 there was enough wind to sail and turn the engine off.  The wind built through the morning and we ended up with a very nice force 4 from the North East- this put the wind just aft of the beam, fast and comfortable sailing.  With a boat speed of over 6 knots we were clocking up the miles.

Cup of Tea

0950 – 129kn
We received a Securite alert telling us that there was to be a live firing exercise off Eddystone Light House. As we were close by we gybed the boat and headed due south to stay out of the way.

Life on board

1500 – 161kn
We though that we had come far enough South and gybed to make of final approach to Lands End.  We had made great time to this point and we expected to be early for the tide gate, a double check of the tide showed a weak tide running close to the headland two hours earlier than the main tide.  With conditions so perfect we decided to go for the inshore route and gain a few extra miles before the tide turned.

2250 – 197kn
We rounded Lands End with a wonderful sunset, our timings worked and we were being driven up the coast with a fair tide. Unfortunately we were less lucky with the wind, it had dropped and George was now back on the helm. Next stop Wales.

Landsend Sunset

Saturday 31st May: Entering the Bristol Channel

0400 – 223kn
As we motored into the Bristol Channel the number of boats increased and we altered course to avoid a couple while practicing recognising lights.

0830 – 245kn
After a second long night under engine we had pancakes and bacon for breakfast, then with the wind starting to build from the North East we hoisted our jib and started to sail.  The wind was forecast to back through the day so we set off on a Starboard tack and planned to tack when the wind started to back to allow us to make the best course we could towards St David’s Head.

1030 – 257kn
The wind had backed as forecast and we were now sailing towards our waypoint. With some Ray Charles blasting from the cockpit speakers everyone was taking turns on the helm and the sun was out- perfect!

1700 – 292kn
We had an afternoon of music, birds, sun and DOLPHINS.  Gareth has local knowledge of St David’s Head and plotted our course to take advantage of an early back eddy, as we had arrived early for another tidal gate.  We sailed through in slack water and picked up a 6 knot tide pushing us North and towards Pwllheli.  The forecast was promising no wind until later the following day but with the fair tide and the light winds we were making 9 knots over the ground.  We had also managed to be 6 hours ahead of our original plan due to the early tide we had picked up around Lands End and the good wind coming across the Bristol Channel.


Sunday 1st June: North of St David’s Head
0000 – 333kn
As the tide started to weaken and with the wind almost from the South we made the decision to gybe inshore to get out of the impending strong tides and to keep sailing as long as the wind held.  The wind not only held but built slowly so we kept sailing.

0145 – 343kn
After some confusion we identified a ship over 50 meters, restricted in its ability to manoeuvre, towing with the length of tow over 200m.  From a few miles away the lights were simply a blur, but as we approached it became clear and we gybed to alter course behind it.

0550 – 369kn
Still under sail, and no requirement to use George, we all enjoyed the peace while on our off-watch.  As the sun came up we had a visit from even more dolphins, and with only 26 miles to go we were in good spirits.

More Great Sailing

1130 – 395kn
We arrived at Pwhelli while the Coast Guard were conducting an exercise involving 3 boats and a helicopter, it was great to watch.  We packed up and cleaned the boat before taking advantage of the local sailing clubs hospitality and a nice cold beer.

Our Wales mile builder was great and I hope everyone got what they wanted from it. Rho is now waiting for the Three Peaks Race team to prepare the boat before a short sail to Barmouth for the start of the race.

Follow Rho throughout the race using the Yellow Brick tracker on the 3 Peaks Yacht Race website

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