The Eddystone Pursuit

When Aphrodite was moved to Plymouth I learned about the Eddystone Pursuit and as a member of the Ocean Youth Trust South Volunteer Sea Staff decided to participate in the event, raising some money for the charity allowing others to sail with us.

Arrangements had been made with three sailing friends to make up a crew of four and I drove down to the boat on Friday, shopped for the sail, met up with one of the crew and headed off to the National Marine Aquarium for the skippers briefing, a bite to eat and a beer.

The excellent briefing was conducted in front of the Eddystone Reef tank. It is a bit strange watching some huge fish swimming behind the presenter as he was informing us of the weather, start and finish times. Feeling "fully briefed" we left in search of a decent fish supper and a beer.

The plan was to sleep on the boat and the other crew members meet up in the morning, Steve in his own boat, Stuart and Jane Hall driving down to Plymouth. I settled down to sleep but was not to have a comfortable night as the wind piped up and the boat moved round on her mooring lines. It has always been quite flat in the marina so it must be quite rough at sea.

The alarm went at 0500 UTC and I poked my head out of the cabin, a drech day greeted me! The rain was horizontal and I could not see Plymouth Breakwater! Checked both the Met Office and MetoFrance forecasts and as usual they were not agreeing, no change there then! Both were saying it was sailable but nothing like what I was seeing. I grabbed my wash kit and headed off for a shower.

Back at the boat I started a brew and there was a knock on the hull, Steve who had attended the briefing the night before was not feeling well and felt it was best not to put to sea leaving the crew down to three.

Stuart arrived with apologies that Jane was not 100% so we were down to two - time for another brew. We talked over what had been said at the briefing and prepped the boat for an 0730 UTC departure from the pontoon. By some miracle the skies cleared and the weather looked more like the forecast, we slipped the pontoon and motored into Plymouth Sound, raised the mainsail and headed up to the start line for our 0825 UTC departure time.

Listening to the countdown on Channel M we crossed the line and headed towards the first mark, N E Winter, which had to be passed to our port. Lets just say we messed up the turn, something to do with not enough wind and water moving in the wrong direction - well that is my excuse and I am sticking to it. Finally, passing the mark we headed towards the eastern entrance to Plymouth Sound in really fluky winds and the equivalent of Kew Gardens hanging on for dear life to the hull! Aphrodite had not been moved for a while and there was a huge amount of weed on the bottom.

On passing the breakwater the wind sorted itself out and we started a long beat towards Eddystone Lighthouse, boats zooming past us at some speed, which was a bit unnerving but they let the faster boats out last. Slowly the hull speed picked up as the weed finally let go of the hull.

As a cruising sailor I usually sail to a course but today was different, it was all about boat speed and sailing to the wind. Steering really close to the wind was both challenging and frustrating. I don't think I've spent so long looking at the windex and to cap it all there was a distinct lack of tea on this leg!

We finally rounded the Eddystone at 1400 UTC and turned the boat north thus could sail in a straight line back to Plymouth with the wind at our backs. The boat settled down and we eventually sorted out lunch and get a brew on.

The cut off time for the event was 1600 UTC by which time we were just outside the breakwater! I advised Pursuit Control where we were and that we were planning to cross the finish line. Forty-five minutes later we crossed the finish line to a long blast on their hooter, we gave a big wave and knew we had completed the event.

Turning the boat round we headed back to King Point where we tied up and headed over to the National Marine Aquarium for a meal and mementos, a lovely Dartington Glass Whisky Tumbler.

Much to our delight we were awarded a Special Prize of £250 for the OYT South.

Stuart headed home and I wandered back to the boat for a sound night's sleep.

Crew: Sandy Garrity, Stuart Hall

Trip Stats: Distance sailed: 35 nm, Avg speed: 3.75 knots, Max speed: 7 knots, Underway: 9h 36m

Weather: Inshore waters forecast to 12 miles offshore 01:00 (UTC+1) on Sat 15 Jun 2019 to 01:00 (UTC+1) on Sun 16 Jun 2019

Lyme Regis to Lands End including the Isles of Scilly - Strong wind warning

24 hour forecast: Southerly or southwesterly 4 or 5, increasing 6 for a time at first, then veering westerly 3 for a time in west. Rough at first near the Isles of Scilly, otherwise moderate in west and slight or moderate in east. Rain then showers. Good, occasionally poor at first.