There I was sitting in the train from Soton to London (where I had to change stations and trains to get to Ipswich) when the train came to a halt and nothing happened for 45 minutes…

That’s a good start to an 185nm offshore where no wind is predicted. However the train started moving again and I arrived in Ipswich where I got picked up by the van of the Eclectic Sailing team. Some new faces and a lot of familiar ones were to be greeted upon arrival at the Royal Harwich Yacht Club and soon it was as if I’d never been gone except for the contents of the conversations. The wind predictions had become a bit better as well and a Sunday arrival was no longer expected. Friday morning and all the preparations, especially by the navigator Joost Smit seem to be top notch.

The start is okay and safe and already the first beat shows the preparation of the afterguard as the correct side is chosen and the mark is rounded very close to the leaders of the fleet (but who are sailing in a different class and are thus no competition). With the rounding of the first mark the team was in a nice position and the real offshore stuff could start. The winds were doing exactly what naviguessor Joost told us (and had used in the strategy planning together with Gerd-Jan) and it paid off during the race towards Smits Knoll. Upon rounding the mark we heard teams notifying the race committee and we were very close to the much faster boats of the fleet and were well ahead in our class. However with the predictions for a close to 36 hour race the gap between us and the other boats behind us still had to grow overnight. When dawn broke early on Saturday morning we could still see the bigger, faster boats from the faster class ahead of us which was promising. Less promising was the fact we could still vaguely see some boats behind us.

After rounding MSP just of the IJmuiden coast the race for the finish started and the ETA became more and more reliable and as a result the required gap as well. The tension on board increased as the finish drew nearer and our closest rival kept being visible behind us. Gaps were timed and showed it was going to be tight… about 4 hours of racing were left and the gap had to grow by about 16 minutes. As we crossed the finish after 30 hours, 30 minutes and 35 seconds we waited anxiously for the Roark to finish keeping a hopeful eye on the stopwatch. It wasn’t to be and with ten minutes to spare Roark finished first on corrected time in our class as well as taking the overall win for IRC handicapped classes in the race. The second place in the race showed that the team can do well in these races, wether it is very windy like the ’07 race (also 2nd place) or pretty light. For the overall classification of the North Sea Regatta series I think the result is a 4th spot (two boats in a different class for the race rate in the same group for the regatta). That should allow the team to get a great result after next week’s inshore races.

For me it is back to home and back to work on Monday morning. Plenty of stuff to do throughout the week especially as I am heading back to Scheveningen on Thursday night. I can be found on the bow of the English X-35 ‘Cool Runnings’ and after this offshore look forward to more sailing!