Yes, yes I know. I should be very ashamed of myself. I know I promised that I would post more often since my exams are completed but I haven’t. I’ve been busy with bits and bobs and I’m still at school so things haven’t quite died down as much as I hoped they would. However, I have just returned from my annual sailing trip and I wanted to tell you all about it.
This year, with the Ellen McArthur Cancer Trust, I took part in the Round the Island Yacht Race (the Isle of Wight that is – not England) and it was a truly extraordinary experience. I travelled to the Isle of Wight on Thursday (bonus – I missed two days of school) and on Friday, trained with my crew on our boat Morning Dew. We prepared for the big day by learning to tack and jibe on the yacht.This was very important as there were going to be over 1500 yachts taking part in the race so we had to know how to manoeuvre the boat quickly and effectively. We also prepared the man-over-board procedure and practised by rescuing ‘Freddie the fender’. It took us a while to stop the boat, find Freddie and eventually pull the small white buoy back onto the boat and we quickly learnt that going over board wasn’t a good idea. There were going to be so many boats on the water – the last place anyone would want to be was in it. It suddenly occurred to me that there was an element of danger in taking part in the race and although I knew I would most likely be safe and it was all for fun, this was serious business.
On Saturday morning, we were awoken bright and early at 7:00 a.m. by our skipper, Mark’s, iPod blasting out Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off. After a quick breakfast and a change into out water-proofs, we left the harbour at 8:00 a.m and made our way to the start line. There were five trust boats belonging to the Ellen McArthur Trust, each with a group of young survivors and volunteers on board so , in reality, we were all competing against each other. I mean there was little chance that any of us were going to come first out of 1500 plus boats.
Arriving at the start line, we knew we were going to be in for a tough ride. The water was already choppy and the wind was picking up. However, the sun was shining and we were all ready and raring to go. Waiting anxiously, Mark switched the boat’s engine off and at 9:10 the klaxon sounded. We were off!
The first few hours were bearable. The water was really choppy, but not so much that it dampened out spirits. Tacking (turning large lefts and rights) was minimal. Although we did encounter the odd boat that refused to move out of the way, our screaming “STARBOARD” quickly reminded them to move. We did have one very close call when a boat managed to turn out of the way within the nick of time, missing Morning Dew by less that a meter. With the first part of the race complete, Mark asked is if wanted to carry on. We all agreed; little did we know quite what we were letting ourselves in for. However, unharmed and still fresh faced, a few hours later, we reached the part of the race that we had all been dreading. THE NEEDLES! ♪♫ Duh duh DUHHHHHHHHH ♪♫.
Plainly and simply, The Needles are large rocks. But what do rocks and water equal? Waves. Very, very big waves. This is where, shall we say, things got a little bit messy. Essentially, we couldn’t manoeuvre the boat so the sails had to stay as they were. All we could do was steer it with the wheel allowing the waves to takes us along. Despite staying far away from where most of the boats had collected nearer to the rocks, the swell was immense and, to tell the truth, I was scared. The awesome power of nature could have chosen to throw us into the sea at any moment it wished. However, I trusted my skipper and crew so after the first half an hour or so, I began to get used to the motion. I ate a spot of lunch and even had a sleep (might I say it was the oddest and most exhilarating nap situation I have ever been in)!
Awakening God knows how long later, (it could have been minutes, hours or days for all I know) I found that not every one was able to cope with the unsteady waters as well as I could. You can probably imagine what I mean – I won’t go into to too much further detail. With one two crew members down (hanging off the back of the boat – safely tied on I might mention) and another on his way, everybody began to feel a little disheartened. We still had another few hours on this part of the race alone. But we muddled through, some more than others. We saw one trust boat, Moonspray, in front of us, which did eventually come first out of the five (however I will mention that they were honoured by having the real Dame Ellen McArthur, renowned sailor, on board, a pro-can’t-get any-better-sailor on the boat with them so they did have a slight unfair advantage). Then a couple of the other trust boats over took us and it was clear that we weren’t going to win this one. Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me one bit. I was so glad that I was even given the opportunity to take part in the race and we were nowhere near last out of the 1500 plus boats taking part in the race.
When we had finally overcome the The Needles, it was time to start tacking again. The water calmed down and from then on, the ride was a lot easier and slightly more comfortable. Within the the last hour, we spotted White Orca, another trust boat, just ahead. With one last push, we momentarily over took them but waters got rough again and we had to be careful, so our lead was short lived. Unfortunately, we were coming last. We gave the last few miles all we had left – we were drained, exhausted, wind swept and wet but we weren’t going to buckle at the last hurdle. The last leg of the race went far quicker than the first and although it took us about 10 hours in total to reach the finish line back where we had started, we eventually did at around 7.00 p.m. It was a victorious moment, especially when we managed to overtake the last trust boat and finish in fourth place!
We headed back to the harbour for some fish and chips, a much needed shower and games on each others’ boats. We caught up with the friends from the other boats to hear about their journeys. It turns out that a lot of people were sea sick, and to tell the truth I felt proud that I wasn’t affected at all – it turns out there is a medical condition that I don’t suffer from after all! On Sunday morning we rose early to pack our bags, clean our boats and head home after a jam-packed but awesome weekend. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone. Friends made in these kind of circumstances are the best kind.
The race was amazing and I’m so glad that I was given the opportunity by this incredible, life-changing charity to take part. Not only this, but I made new friends and tried things that I never thought I would. If you want to check out their page, please do. CLCK HERE!
Click here to learn more about the Isle of White Race Around The Island.
Thank you for reading and I really hope you enjoyed hearing about my adventure.
My last blog post is is here: The Five Stages of Exams!