Our 2017 race season was in essence a build up to the ROLEX Fastnet race. The crew had trained hard on Rho and were more than ready for the challenge ahead.
Our qualifying races and training weekends have been a mixture of very light winds with a few days of very strong winds. Our last qualifying race was our most challenging in terms of wind speed but the crew learnt a lot about themselves and the boat and the race proved to be a welcome training experience.
There is no free ride onboard Rho, the crew that sign up learn to sail the boat in all conditions, the skipper is there to make the navigation and tactical calls rather than sail the boat, watch leaders are chosen from the crew during the training and qualifying races to keep the boat sailing as fast as possible. Everyone must work together to create a solid ‘crew’.
It is very satisfying to see a novice offshore race crew develop their sailing skills as the campaign progresses. What some would deem impossible for them to do at the beginning of the race campaign is something that becomes completely achievable and part of a normal race experience by the end.
The race was due to start at 1120 on Sunday 6th August 2017. The crew met on Saturday to make final preparations onboard, store the food (very important), service the winches and remove excess equipment. This allowed family members to come and have a look at the boat, before we headed to the Victory in Hamble for our final meal ashore.
The forecast for the first couple of days of the race was a South Westerly 3-5 (10 – 20 knots) backing North Westerly around the same strength. This meant that it would be an upwind race to the Fastnet Rock, some 350 miles away, and it would take about 3 days.
We left the pontoon around 0900 on Sunday, hoisted our storm sails and made our way to the identity gate as per the race instructions, before stowing the storm sails and preparing the sails for the race while heading to the start area to watch the trimarans, Open 60’s and the Class 40’s start before us.