Round the Island Race 2017
This year there was a Dart Sailability official-unofficial team entry for the Round The Island Race, raced on Saturday 1 July, organised by the Island Sailing Club. This is reputed to be the fourth largest participation sport activity in the United Kingdom, attracting some 1,600 entries with an estimated 16,500 individual sailors taking part. And in 2017 our new member Keith White, fresh from his triumphant solo circumnavigation of the British Isles (marks to starboard!) entered the Marathon to race the 50+ nautical miles round the Isle of Wight (marks to port!), and invited Tim Trent, volunteer and our Safety Officer, to join the crew.
The race did not go as planned.
On Friday 30 June Keith met Tim from the RedJet ferry at West Cowes at lunchtime and they planned getting the Marathon ready for the race. There was to be a crew of seven for the race, no bad thing, she's a big boat and heavy to operate even though Keith sails her solo on challenges, but racing is a very different thing from solo challenges. During the afternoon that seven dwindled to four, but four was fine to race her.
Friday afternoon saw Keith and Tim rigging a new staysail (the inner jib, Marathon is cutter rigged) and changing the configuration of the mast cars for the luff of the newly acquired pre-loved mainsail to get the best out of the sail, a sail Keith had not set before the race. They made new battens, and did several hours of substantial boat readying.
At about 6:30pm they were joined by the two other crew members, another Keith (Keith II), and Rob, who'd come over with Rob's other half, Donna, in a gorgeous Fairey Spearfish. We have two of these in the harbour in Dartmouth, they are a true 'Gentleman's Powerboat'.
Race start on the first for the class was at 6:40am, so the traditional early night was missed by all, also a tradition! 5:30am saw Tim waiting on Shepards Wharf for a space to appear in the vast number of competing yachts for Keith, Keith II, and Rob to collect him. The aim was for a 6am collection, and that was only missed by the equally traditional ten minutes!
Then the Marathon with Tim at the helm made it to the start line, all three sails set, bang on time. She spent some time filling the screen of the Island Sailing Club's live feed, too, Tim's wife reported later. The start signal was given and the race started. Bizarrely, the majority of the fleet, about 120 boats in the 6:40am three class start, were well upwind, perhaps hoping for a close reach to The Needles, where every boat was to turn to port and start the second sector of the race. Earlier fleets were well ahead, the first start having left at 5am! The bopat that set the new record had almost finished! Those were the big boats the ones who would fly around the course. The rest of the fleet was expecting to take about nine hours, give or take.
With wind at force 4 gusting 5, and easing to 3 or less at times, there wasn't enough wind to get the best out of the 20 tonne 44+ foot Marathon , she needs a good force 6 or ideally more, and goes well in a nastier sea than the other boats like, but she was still making over 8 knots over ground, and pointing a little higher than the fleet as she and they closed together, all aiming for the narrowing bottleneck in the Solent off Hurst Castle. About half way there Tim swapped with Keith II who
helmed for the next five miles or so.
During that five miles Keith W started to feel feverish. He took a couple or paracetamol and settled down to be a passenger on a pleasant cruise until he felt better, allowing the others to do the work. But things were about to take a dramatic turn. Keith II handed the helm to Tim and went below with Rob. They had both sailed with Keith often before and were becoming concerned.
As they reappeared Keith crumpled to the cockpit sole in agony. He's had a grumbling appendix since at least December and the sudden severe pain led him to thing two words, “Appendix” and “Ruptured” the latter meaning EMERGENCY.
Then he said “Call the RNLI.”
As the skipper was in a foetal position on the cockpit sole Keith II was on the radio to Solent Coastguard, declaring a Pan Pan call for Medical Assistance. The challenge he had was to explain the Marathon's position to the coastguard in a way that would distinguish us from the racing fleet! Not a simple thing to do, that. The emergency was declared just north of the Sconce cardinal buoy (located at 50 degrees 42.54 minutes North, 001 degrees 31.43 degrees West), but where the Marathon was and all around her was also where the entire fleet was heading West, the Marathon included
The first decision was to furl both jibs. It was then immediately obvious to everyone else that the Marathon was different from the rest of the fleet, and then to start the engine to give the manoeuvrability needed for what was to be the forthcoming RNLI rescue.
Next step was to find a gap in the fleet to turn around to face back to Cowes, necessary again to make the vessel unique to observers. Keith II traded the radio with Tim and swapped to the helm. The only radio in the boat that worked was a very crackly hand-held, the two main radio aerials having been disturbed and made unusable south of Ireland in Keith White's solo challenge when a fishing boat rammed him.
Tim found he was talking to Lymington Coastguard who acted as a communications relay to Solent Coastguard because the Marathon's radio transmissions were difficult to decipher. Even better, Lymington Coastguard had the Marathon under observation. They had identified her from the team's efforts to distinguish her from the rest of the fleet, plus her sail numbers, GBR3803L which Tim gave to the coastguard. Otherwise it was justr a sea of mostly white sails, all alike. He had earlier regretted not having his personal hand-held vhf because it has a GPS in it for full lat/long, but he hadn't expected to need it! Lat/long had to be relayed from the main chart plotter down below.
Yarmouth Lifeboat, an All Weather Lifeboat, was in view heading at full speed towards the Marathon and also heard on vhf and Solent Coastguard requested orange smoke be made to identify the casualty absolutely. Rob got the canister from below, but the top was jammed, seized solid. No smoke was available. Yarmouth Lifeboat closed from ahead as the crew of the Marathon concentrated on her, to be joined by a smaller RNLI RIB which closed on the Marathon unseen and from astern. Lymington Lifeboat was also in attendance. Tim hadn't heard them on the radio, but lifeboats communicate using channel 0, the private Search and Rescue channel, and the Pan Pan call was on channel 16
Solent Coastguard had already discussed with Yarmouth Lifeboat that a helicopter medical
evacuation was required and Tim had heard that being set in motion over the radio. Meanwhile Keith II steered under motor to an upwind position clear of the racing fleet to give the RNLI the best possible access.
The paramedic crewmember was transferred from the Yarmouth Boat to the smaller Lymington Boat, and then to the Marathon , where he assessed Keith as being very sick indeed, requiring immediate hospital transfer. The challenge was then whether to do it from the yacht or from a lifeboat. Since Keith, with support, could just about stand and walk, a ship to ship transfer was made to the big Yarmouth Boat helped by many RNLI hands grabbing hold.
Then all the three sailors left aboard the Marathon had to do was to watch and wait for the helicopter transfer. Keith had instructed them to complete the race, but two things were against that. First, hearts were no longer in it because everyone was worried about him, and second the Marathon had received outside assistance, and also could not finish with the same number aboard as she started with. Retirement was the correct option.
The Marathon's 2017 Round the Island Race ended up with an autopilot motor-sail home and her skipper in Southampton General Hospital being assessed. Fortunately his appendix had not ruptured, but any further medical details are private. The suspected condition is only public because it was broadcast for the world to hear on the radio to Solent Coastguard.
After mooring up back in Cowes, Tim called Solent Coastguard to thank them, and also called Yarmouth and Lymington Lifeboats to thank them. As each said, their involvement usually ends when a casualty is rescued, It's great to be thanked, and great to hear the outcome as well.
The timings of the whole thing were amazingly compressed. The race started at 6:40am. Keith's tracker shows that conversations with Solent Coastguard started at about 06:50UTC, of 7:50am, and the lifeboat was preparing to come alongside at 8:20am as the Marathon got clear of the fleet. Not long after that Keith was on his way to hospital.
What it takes to become a Keelboat Instructor!
Did you think it was just the ability to sail?
Five of us and Ed from Noss Marine Academy have been finding out.
We're refilling our pool of instructors to make sure Dart Sailability is always ready to teach members, new and established, the nuances of sailing. We need Keelboat instructors because we use the Sonar racing 7 metre keelboat, and the Hansa 303 boats that look very like tiny dinghies, but are miniature keelboats. We also have the Hawk 20, a boat that has a heavy metal centreplate and behaves far more like a keelboat than a dinghy.
Bob, our Chief Sailing Instructor for the past several years, has asked Anna, Ian H, Julie, Keith C and Tim to put themselves into the field of fire, and we've been joined by Ed to make us a round half dozen. Secretly we're trying to recruit Ed as a volunteer, too, but its a secret, Don't tell him!
Each of us has a different set of sailing experiences, a different background and a different level of boat competence. We range from a couple who tried out for their home nation's respective olympic sailing teams far more years ago that either cares to recall (neither were selected!), experienced offshore racers, club racers, hairy, scary dinghy sailors (the dinghies, not the sailors... Hmmm, actually I'm not so sure about that with a certain moustache....). We have a lapsed senior dinghy instructor, an existing and experienced dinghy instructor, a lapsed dinghy instructor, a fireball sailor, perhaps two, a cruising yachtsman who's never been on a sailing dinghy in anger, at least one powerboat instructor, people who've helmed and crewed on trapeze balanced dinghies, someone who's capsized an International 10 Square Metre Canoe a lot in the middle of Lake Windermere, a Finn sailor, a Flying Dutchman sailor, a Tornado sailor, so quite a skills portfolio. If you count carefully you will see more than six. Yes, some have done more than one thing!
There are two hurdles to leap before being allowed to take the course. Hurdle one is the RYA's safeguarding course. It's online, and common sense, but it's also multiple choice, and you only get two goes. Luckily Dart Sailability gives us a good concept already on safeguarding, so it's just a case of extending it to include those under 18 as a very special case. It's as much about protecting ourselves and Dart Sailability as it is about safeguarding young people and vulnerable adults. The RYA's Disability Awareness course we all take covers some of the same ground, but in a different manner.
Hurdle two is the pre-assessment. This is a day with a very grown up RYA person who decides whether the candidate is actually as competent as the centre putting them forward thinks they are. All six of us had to prove, or not, our competence at the core tasks we will be trained to teach. Not passing that gives rise to a discussion about whether the candidate should go forward to the course proper.
For this it's essential to be able to demonstrate manoeuvres simple and complex.
Simple is the correct RYA method of tacking, gybing, understanding the five essentials:
• Sail Set – do we have it right for the wind direction?
• Trim – fore and aft, are we too bow or too stern heavy? Why does it matter?
• Balance – is the boat being sailed as flat as possible for the conditions? Do we use it to control steering?
• Centreboard – we don't have one except on the Hawk, so can we explain the theory?
• Course Made Good – do we sail the best and shortest distance from where we are to where
we want to be?
Complex are manoeuvres to come back alongside, to pick up a mooring, to know how to slow the boat down, and to pick up a crew member (we use a weighted buoy, not a real crew member) who has fallen overboard.
So we need to know how to sail almost instinctively before we're taught how to pass those skills on to novices.
And that has given even the most experienced of us pause for thought! So we've been practicing on our Sonars to do our best to refine our skills and those of our colleagues so we can pass the pre-assessment. Well, all except Keith C, that is. He had a prior engagement trying to swim round the island of Crete. And not on Monday 16th October, when we were hit by the remains of Hurricane Ophelia. We could have sailed in the wind, heavily reefed, and it would have been great experience, but pointless in the global scheme of things. Besides, it was too close to the course itself to risk gear failures.
Tim was watching the developing weather over the weekend and kept the gang informed with the probability of cancelling top of his mind. He even went up river to check the moorings of all the Dart Sailability boats, Sonars, Farries Flyer, and all the vessels moored on the Noss Marina pontoons for the winter during the Sunday morning. He waited until the late afternoon and checked weather sources:
Tim and Bob and Keith C have been puzzling about mooring the two Sonars alongside each other, especially in the hard blows of this and probably next winter, and keeping them safe and well fendered.
With a couple of caveats, Tim's probably solved it, with a little help from Dart Harbour and a lot from Compass Marine. Here he is carryig the buoys in the same way he carried them to his car from Compass on Friday 20th October 2017, feeling very much like a cross between a weightlifter and a Barbie Doll.
Dart Sailability Needs You!
As a member of Dart Sailability we would like your help in raising much needed funds through participating in this year's "Movember".
If you are not familiar with Movember, it is a world-wide initiative which involves men growing moustaches just for the month of November and getting sponsored by family, friends, neighbours, etc. to raise funds for charity with a goal of promoting wellbeing. Keith Cockburn already has a great head start! I did it previously and raised £100 for Dart Sailability.
Previous years have had Movember themes such as prostate cancer, mental health and suicide prevention. This year, let's do it for our great organisation Dart Sailability for providing boating, sailing and wellbeing for anybody with any kind of disability.
For our male members, please take part and get those whiskers growing. Please try to raise at least £20, but any amount is welcome.
For our female members, please "adopt a man" and again try to raise at least £20 through encouraging their efforts and getting sponsorship.
If all members raise £20 it will give us £2,000 towards our boats, facilities, engines, maintenance, etc. In addition we could qualify for 25% extra as Gift Aid. As a reminder we do not receive any funding from government sources and are completely reliant on donations and funds we raise ourselves.
Attached is a sponsorship form that you can use if you wish to. I will send a further email during November with details of what to do with the funds raised.
For anybody who would like to, please take "before and after" photos and send them to Jo Heaton. Jo will make a collage of the photos received and put them on the Dart Sailability website for us all to enjoy.
Please contact me if you have any queries. Many thanks and good luck!
With best regards
Trustee & Fundraising Coordinator
Sunday 1 October 2017 dawned pretty miserable, with a proper mizzle, and breezy. A small group of us set off by river for Totnes just after 10am. Our mission? To be part of the safety squad for the Dart Struggle Raft Race. Our patch was from the downhill side of Totnes Weir to the Rowing Club slipway.
Every year Dart Sailability offers to be part of the safety squad for this stretch of the race, and every year we try to field a mixture of ability and disability on our boats. It's not only part of being good citizens of the river Dart, it's part of continuing to prove that folk with disabilities deliver value to others, and it's partly a Public Relations exercise, to tell those who may need us that we exist and can help folk with all kinds of disabilities get afloat and have fun. It's not a fund raising exercise, that would dilute the Dart Struggle's own charitable efforts, it's just firmly a part of our own charitable objectives. We do receive a fuel reimbursement, though. It's cost neutral for us and offers us great training opportunities, too.
As Farries Flyer arrived at Vire Island she made her first rescue! A large banner saying “200 yards to go” had fallen from the bridge and was trying to wrap itself around a moored boat. The folk on Vire Island asked us to rescue it.
An hour and a half or so after our departure the Farries Flyer was tiptoeing its way through the shallows to anchor in the weir pool. It's the first time we've taken the largest vessel in the fleet up there for the event. Its role was to be a base and a control point for the two other boats, Support 3 and the aptly named Safety, our main safety boat. The first rafts had already completed the course. This is normal. Safety cover is mainly required by tired crews on big heavy rafts. Early crews are usually far more self sufficient, and safety cover for these is usually kayak based. Even so we have a plan to get a vessel there even earlier for 2018.
About two thirds of the way through the 51 or so rafts coming over the weir one arrived that resembled a submarine rather than a raft. Six seats under water and the paddlers, exhausted, wet, and cold, were half submerged when they remounted. A kayak safety team member came and told us that she was worried about two of the crew, but that they all wanted to finish. Tim and Roger on Farries Flyer called Andrew, Steve, Mike and Nicky on Safety and Support 3, and they escorted the raft to the finish, taking any crew who were too cold and tired to paddle aboard. Those rescued grateful enjoyed the crew's chocolate snacks and blankets.
The final raft of the 2017 Dart Struggle was a bit of a wreck, or we think it was. It was hard to tell! Three exhausted paddlers, though they said they had lost one earlier (no-one said where!!!), an upside down raft, and two tiny paddles. A chap in a Canadian canoe came up to us and told us it was the final raft. “I'm the sweeper,” he said, looking grimly happy. We named him “The Grim Sweeper” at once!
This was the time to weigh anchor and trickle down to Vire Island keeping that last raft safe for the final part of its trip. The three guys aboard forced themselves to finish the race. Go them!!! The Grim Sweeper picked one of them up in his canoe after the finish, and Safety transferred the two remaining crew to Farries Flyer in order to return to the raft to tow it to the Rowing Club.
Then our three crews took the next hour and a half or so to get back to base at Noss, put the boats away, and then declared it a job well done. The Dart Sailability logo was in front of new eyes, and quiet PR had been achieved, plus training our own folk. At the same time we'd helped other people to achieve their own objectives.
Would you like to be part of the safety squad next year? We might even enter a raft!! Who's up for either of those things