We boarded Antara on Thursday, loading her with food and personal effects, including a special 'selfie' type stick (a bit of wood out of the garage) for our Action Cam, intended to enable us to take excellent photo and video footage. Sadly the camera failed under first test and will need to be sent back to the suppliers. The team intended to practise handling the yacht during Thursday and Friday preceding the race but due to the absence of wind on those days practise was very limited. On Saturday, the day of the race, the crew rose at 4.00am and it was still dark as we motored out of Gosport at 0445 to reach the race start line off Cowes in good time. We came across a pod of dolphins off Cowes, swimming next to us and diving under the boat; was this a good omen? Perhaps they were wishing Antara and her crew a good race and trying to show us the way? Before the start Cliff filmed the first of his 'facebook live' videos for supporters of Team Antara - you can see all of Cliff's reports on the Video page of this website. A good NNW wind was blowing, gusting over 20 knots, and we considered starting with a reefed mainsail but eventually decided against this. It proved to be the right decision. Most other yachts were also under full mainsail and started the race from the northern waiting area, but Antara opted for the southern waiting area, where there were far fewer yachts and it was easier to sail close inshore, a slightly shorter racing course perhaps, and in the centre of the strong favourable tidal stream. The plan seemed to pay off and Antara was in the leading group of turquoise flag boats that started the race at 0640. We were still in an excellent position by the time the Needles were abeam of us after a single starboard tack reach down the western Solent, the crew 'hiked out' sitting on the starboard rail to keep Antara upright as much as possible. All crew had particular responsibilities: First Mate Richard controlled the mainsheet and traveller, and was also Chef and kept the team well supplied with porridge, bacon sandwiches, teas, coffees, biscuits etc. (there was also a delicious quiche which the ship's chef said had been provided by someone called Lorraine, which was very kind of her, but we never did meet her to say thank you), Rob was Head of Winching and oversaw the work of the younger members brought in to supply muscle power - Cliff (port winch) and Ash (starboard winch). Cliff doubled up as Head of PR and Media, doing live video interviews on Facebook and for BBC Radio Stoke, whilst Ash doubled up as Head of Camera Work. (Do other boats have crew positions with these responsibilities?). I was Skipper and responsible for all successful aspects of the project (were there any?). I felt it important that there was a 'no blame' culture on board, and informed the crew that there would be annual, or more frequent, crew appraisals as a motivating feature where the following could be discussed: Cliff's inability to wrap the rope around the winch in the right direction, Ash's choice of camera subject matter and winching speed, Rob's bad back, Richard's slow dropping of the mainsheet traveller, etc. Then I realised that for a proper appraisal system it would need to be a '360 degrees' system in which the crew appraised me too! Hmmm, maybe not such a good idea? A better approach might be to instigate floggings of any crew member whose morale seemed below par? Floggings could continue until crew morale improved. On the southern side of the island, a down-wind leg, the plan was to make best use of our headsail by poling it out, which we had practised on Friday. We made reasonable progress but many boats with spinnakers and cruising chutes passed us. Sadly we did not have either on board Antara. Just after St Catherine's Point we were abeam of the Ellen MacArthur Trust boat. 'Who was skippering it?' I hear you ask. A quick check through the 'bins' confirmed that it was unclear whether it was Ellen MacArthur, in fact it may have been a male skipper. Still, there was a slim chance that it WAS Ellen MacArthur and this chance soon metamorphosed into certainty via a process called wishful thinking, since by now we were edging ahead! Wow, fancy that! We were beating Ellen MacArthur! By the time we rounded Bembridge Ledge buoy we were towards the back of the fleet. (We have convinced ourselves that this was entirely due to the absence of a spinnaker and nothing to do with any shortage of sailing ability of the crew. Point of information: during Friday's practising we noted that Antara did not have a particularly good speed under engine and we surmised that either there was damage to the propeller or perhaps the keel had snagged on a supermarket trolley dumped in the marina by careless vandals? It could have been that it was this same supermarket trolley that slowed us down on the southern side of the island? :-)). South of the island Cliff gave a live interview for Radio Stoke, also on video; this was a follow-up to the interview given by Cliff and Mike when attending Radio Stoke some months earlier. The race from Bembridge to the finish line was very exciting as we tacked repeatedly into the headwind, still blowing from the NNW. Since there were hundreds of boats in front of us by this time we suspected that we were not in line to receive any line honours awards! Even so, we had our own 'race within a race' with the nearby boats. Our tacks repeatedly crossed those of Hayley Louise (another Bavaria 36), Gemini (a Bavaria 37), Arun Rockall and several other yachts. Sometimes we were ahead and sometimes just behind, but who was going to be the first over the finish line? The finish line was very busy, as usual, and some boats misjudged their intended final tack over the line and had to put in another tack, but not us! We crossed the line ahead of Hayley Louise and Gemini! We had won! (Well....sort of). More importantly the boat and crew were safe and had had a great time, and thanks to our supporters over £3k had been raised for the CF Trust! Fantastic! Time to sail back to Gosport for dinner and a celebratory drink!
If you have enjoyed reading about Team Antara and the 2017 Round The Island Race, please consider making a donation to the CF Trust via this website. Thank you to everyone who has helped us to raise money for the trust!
Michael Goodwin (Skipper)
PS We don't want the facts to get in the way of our version of the truth but, for those interested, Antara finished about 3/4 of the way down the fleet of over 1200 boats taking part. Wow! What a team!
|Team Antara: L to R back -Ash, Mike, Cliff; front Richard, Rob|