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Mini Fastnet - A race of firsts for Jessica Watson

by Scott Cavanough amended Sail-World.com on 28 Jun 2011
Jessica Watson helming "Skippy" during the Mini Fastnet scott cavanough
Scott Cavanough has now qualified for the Transat Race in September and Jessica Watson has finished her first ever Offshore Yacht race.

Scott Cavanough:

I'm sorry there been a delay but Jessica and I both had commitments to compete in the Round The Island Yacht immediately after the Mini Fastnet race.

Having been sent on the southern course of the Mini Fastnet race because of a low sitting of Northern Ireland meant that we were sent south away from the worst of the weather yet we were warned of a possible second front which could be a problem. The race started in 20 knots from the south. Jessica drove for the start she did a fantastic job and it was a excellent start but just about when the start gun went and I look up at the head of the mainsail and the head car had broken and it was just the start and also the start of the problems for the race.

The race start was also in thick fog you could barely see the other end of the line and with first mark position announced on the VHF in French we really had no chance. On the second leg out to Point Du Raz we caught up a lot by going very close to the light houses with four knots of current with us, in by the now 30 knots, it was a very risky manoeuvre but it paid off. The first night was a very tough night getting the code 0 up without losing too much, then changing to the A5 early morning and it was then we had our second set of problems. A system I had changed recently for the spinnaker was just not up to being pushed so hard with the A5 at such a tight angle, we lost some time but I was much happier for it to happen now rather than in September.

The second day ended, becoming a very tight two sail reach, then we made the turning mark at BXA at 1:00 am. The third day was tight reaching with the code 0 and a short change to the A5 every now and again between the clouds, this made for a very tough day. Going into the night we were expecting a second cold front with pressure which eventually hit very early morning and strengthen to I think 30-35 but by this time my new fuel cell had given up and decided not too charge the batteries, so everything was turned off except for the GPS. Not much later we were onto the spare GPS hand held.

After a very tough early morning rounding the west of Island of Sein in what was 4-6 metre seas, it's always strange in 30 knots and above in a mini, you go into survival mode and we backed off somewhat - there's only so many times you can drop off the back of such a big wave in a small boat before something will eventually give.

After rounding the west of Sein, it was spinnaker up again and the torture of the last few hours was forgotten, especially at the finish when had 20 knts and Skippy was alive again.

I'm very sure that at this point Jessica would have been more than happy to keep sailing but then we finished and the ride was over. We finished as the 21st proto after three days of sailing, which is not so bad for a 21 foot yacht. The best thing is that Jessica Watson not only completed the race, but that it had many firsts for her; her first offshore yacht race, her first race in a Classe Mini, her first Sydney to Hobart race equivalent and her first offshore yacht race out of Australia. I'm very sure it will not be her last.

Having now finished our fourth race of the season and done enough miles to qualify for the Transat Race we are now on the official entry list. However there will be no time for a holiday the next three months. They will be like the last few; very busy, lots of training and loads of work to make sure that we have no problems in the Transat Race.

Just to make sure that there's no sitting around, I will be onboard a Class 40 for the real Fastnet Race.
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