With a truly International crew, from Australia, US, Russia, Holland, Ireland, Germany and England there was no time for a dull moment. Immediately it was clear that the crew gelled together with great a spirit. The 2 days training gave us enough time to get the manoeuvre drills done and some sea sickness too!.
With the count down to the start, in 18-25 knots Northern Child had a first class start in clear wind and maximum power. We maintained a great position on the first beat up the windward side of Antigua. As we sailed to the Southern side of Nevis we saw the first night sailing and also the first flat water in the race, a welcome change after 12 hours of fairly windy wavy conditions. As daylight broke, we were heading up the beat to St Barts in rough windy conditions. The sea state made steering and living aboard quite tricky so when we finally round St Barts and bore away to St Martin it was a welcome change.
A spinnaker run to the SW corner of St Martin in beautiful conditions and a Chicken Curry for dinner, cooked in advance by Lucy, sheer bliss. Lucy was very popular that evening!! The beat up the Anguilla channel was superb, flat water, moderate winds and stunning scenery, sailing really doesn’t get better than that. We rounded the top of St Martin and headed off to St Barts, before bearing away onto the long reach to Guadeloupe. During the windy beat up to St Bart, the main hatch slider was broken when one of the crew accidentally slammed it and the runner broke. On the leg down to Guadeloupe, power reaching we had waves showering the yacht and unfortunately water cascaded through the broken slider hatch and onto the chart table. Tim and I darted below to attempt damage limitation but water had got into the B&G system and our wind instruments were no longer working. We dried as best we could and used the staysail to protect the chart table. We tried the best repair we could on the slider, but could not make a proper repair as the hatch needed to be removed to do so.
Rounding Guadeloupe is always a challenging part of the RORC 600. Inshore, offshore, decisions decisions. We approached the SW corner of the Island in good breeze, power reaching, but could see boats ahead becalmed. The temptation is to head out to sea, away from the Islands tall mountains and wind shadow, but often depending on the conditions and time of day, inshore can be a good option. We decided to head inshore based on some calculated decision and that very valuable old skill called ’observation’ and it paid. 6 hours later we were ahead of our fleet, 1st yacht in class on the water. The usual tough beat along the Southern side of Guadeloupe was now a very one sided beat in flat water and moderate winds. We sailed a great leg and held off the competition. Unfortunately things conspired against us and almost at the end of the leg to the SE side of the Island we realised we had several hundred litres of water in the bilges. The bilge pump had blocked and having been on deck steering for 12 hours I had not been below to notice. I handed the wheel to Watch B while Tim and I again went below to sort out the bilge pump and get the water out of the boat. This was essential as at the high heel angles water was in danger of getting close to other electrical systems. We had to keep flattening NC to allow the bilge pump to work and in addition hand pumped to remove the water. This process took about 2 hours and in having to keep flattening NC, we let a main rival past and another catch up.
As we rounded the North Sails buoy off Barbuda we knew 1st place was almost unattainable, but that 2nd and 3rd were very close between us and a Swan 44. We were at that point about an hour behind the Swan 44 on corrected time, and so the crew put in a momentous effort to chase them down. We sailed a text book final beat from Redonda and crossed the line just after 2100hrs after 3.5 days in NC’s quickest RORC Caribbean 600. Calculating the results in our head, we knew it would be close, but thought that we probably had 2nd.
We waited for the Swan 44 to finish and then another 2 pain staking hours, to find out that we had finished 3rd, beaten by 57 seconds!!!! IRC 2 was once again a close fleet with lots of position changes. A battle of the small boats, but a battle worthy of Titans. Northern Child and her crew worked hard to finish on the podium for the 3rd year running. A fantastic effort from all the crew and next year, we won’t be so easy on the rest of the fleet. We are gunning for 1st!!