30 Knot test for BSL off the Bay of Biscay

30 08 2011

Campbell Field’s latest blog as BSL and her crew head south to Palma.

We left Lymington a week ago, and had an uneventful and quick trip across the channel to Cherbourg where we met up with Halvard and Miranda who are competing against us in the GOR, and had a new pair of rudders fitted by the boats original builder Francois from FR Nautisme. We had intended going to Lorient where Francois is based however we were going to get a bit of a hammering around Ushant, so elected to take the opportunity to catch up with Halvard and Miranda and also with Josh Hall, race director of the GOR. Highlight of the trip was spending a night on board Halvards beautiful classic motor-yacht that he built and designed himself, however this was inside the boatbuilding shed! Lowlight, the All Blacks getting beaten by the Wallabies.

Leaving Lymington. Photo Credit: GOR

We departed Cherbourg on Sunday morning, with the weather looking interesting, a low off of Biscay gave us two options, reach across the bay and beat upwind down the coast of Spain/Portugal, or head offshore and around the western side of the low. Approx 350nm longer, but downwind all the way. Analysing the two options gave only hours of difference in passing Gibraltar, so after a record few seconds of deliberation we went for the downwind route. So after making our way along the northern coast of France, timed nicely with some great current pushes through the Guernsey/Sark channel and the inside channel of Ushant, we headed west in light airs crossing a high pressure ridge separating us form the low. By midday Monday the breeze started to fill in and we ran through the night with an A2 and full main in very settled conditions.
Come Tuesday morning the effect of the low started to be felt and before long we were running in solid 20’s which gave us a great opportunity to test some sail combinations. We found ourselves by mid afternoon in 25 to 30 with an A6 fractional spinnaker and one reef in the main and blasting along at a great rate of knots – having to remind ourselves that this is only a 40 footer after burying her a few times, but a great blast and a very steep learning curve as to how to handle this boat. We peaked at 20 knots of boatspeed and averaged over 15 knots for a number of hours. Bloody good fun and big grins all around, until we started seeing 30kts of wind and started to wonder how to get the spinnaker down, both being pretty green when it comes to Class40 sailing. We figured it out and our knowledge in how to mode the boat is growing every day.
We are slightly cutting the corner of the northern part of this low, in much more moderate conditions, and right now in the small hours of Weds morning we are beam reaching in around 12 knots, and within 12 hours will have reached the western side of the low and look forward to a couple of days of flat running in the mid 20’s south towards the med.
All good on board, all systems working great, freeze dried food novelty has worn off (only 150 odd days to go.), and Ross’s watch still beeping incessantly at midnight every night.

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