Friday, June 28, 2019

Jester Baltimore Challenge 2019.

The Jester Baltimore Challenge (JBC) is an event for single handed sailors with small, approx. 20ft to 30ft, boats who get together to sail on a reasonably long (261 miles from Plymouth or 227 from Pwllheli) voyage spanning multiple nights at sea if done without stopping.

In many ways it is a counter culture event where everything is down to the skipper rather than governed by rules dictated by organisers, the Jester essentially has no rules, the course is agreed (Leave Plymouth, turn right and go to Baltimore leaving the Wolf, Bishop and Fastnet rock lighthouses to starboard (with similar course directions for the alternate start in Pwllheli). Use of engines is only permitted in very limited circumstances if you wish to claim as having completed. That’s about it, no equipment lists, construction rules, scrutineering, entry fees, prizes, handicaps or anything else. And if you want you can stop off on the way.

“Jester, not 'a bl**dy joke', but a work of genius!”
A tribute to the great innovations of Blondie Hasler

This, of course, refers to the much longer Jester Challenges to the US and to the Azores but the ethos is the same and reflects that of the first Observer Single Handed Transatlantic race sailed for a half crown (12.5p) bet. When the smaller boats were excluded from the OSTAR (now the Original Single Handed Transatlantic Race) the Jester challenges were set up and named after the small boat sailed in the 1st OSTAR by Blondie Hasler, no stranger to small boats, he led the “Cockleshell Heroes” in the canoe based commando attack in WWII and was one of the founders of the OSTAR.

Next section:

Jester Baltimore Challenge 2019 – Before the Start.

Many say that getting to the start is the biggest challenge not just the trip to the start, although that can be a substantial voyage in itself with challengers coming from far and wide, but also getting the boat into good repair and equipped for extended single handed sailing in potentially dangerous waters – the same that caught the Fastnet race competitors in 1979.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre"  before the Jester Baltimore

Although not done specifically for the Jester Baltimore Challenge (JBC) it took me 18 months and a lot of effort to get Sancerre ready, and she was already in good condition albeit under equipped and not set up for single handed sailing.

The next thing to do was to get to the start and the weather was not helping with multiple episodes of high winds forecast and no window long enough to guarantee getting to Plymouth from Gosport in easy steps to be fresh for the start. 

I had planned to leave on Tuesday and stop off a couple of times on the way down so as to avoid tiring overnight sailing, with strong winds forecast for Tuesday and possibly Thursday into the weekend, I started early on Monday for Portland, stayed there for 2 nights waiting for the weather to blow through and I headed off for Plymouth very early on Wednesday morning.
Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre"  in the Portland inshore route
Portland Bill inshore route

Initially it was still quite windy and getting off the pontoon without bashing the boat behind and down wind was a bit of a challenge but thereafter everything went smoothly with the wind dropping as I came out of the harbour. I took the inshore route around the Bill of Portland with a number of boats leaving Weymouth for their summer cruises.  I even got the big spinnaker up for the only time on the outbound trip.  

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre"  crossing Lyme Bay
Crossing Lyme Bay.
Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre"  of Start Point
Start Point
Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre"  off Cawsand Bay
Cawsand Bay on arrival

Mike leaving Cawsand
I anchored in Cawsand Bay in the outer part of Plymouth Sound at 20:30 and woke in the morning to find that Mike had arrived from Falmouth a few hours after me in "Tranquillity", another Achilles 9m.
I was booked into Mayflower Marina for Friday and Saturday night so I stayed at Cawsand the next day and night before moving to the Marina on Friday morning to meet up with some of the other Jesters including John in Pippin, who I had previously met up with in Alderney, Bernie in his Achilles 24 (ft) “Mischief" and a number of others, one of whom negotiated a very generous discount for the challengers, Well done Bob!

Over the next couple of days we were checking weather forecasts at every opportunity as they were showing gusts well in excess of 30 Knts for Sunday and we were debating whether to start at the official time on Sunday morning or to delay until Monday which was my intention until forecasts coming out on Saturday evening predicting F4-5 occasionally 6 moderating 3 - 4, the Sunday morning forecast confirmed this although it was going to be bumpy for the first 12 hours, that proved optimistic!
Slide show of all my pictures getting to the start, page through by clicking the arrows or click in the centre of the pic to view from Flickr in a new window or full screen:
2019 JBC to Plymouth
Next section:

Jester Baltimore Challenge 2019 – Getting to Baltimore.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre"  at the start  the Jester Baltimore
The start, inside the breakwater.
Pics by John W from Pippin
Sunday dawned blustery but it appeared to be acceptable so many of us went to the start, and it was certainly rather windy, the photos here were taking inside the Plymouth breakwater and, after 3 days of strong winds, it rapidly got uncomfortable outside with the tide running against the wind.
The committee boat was meant to be anchored to identify the western end of the mile long start line extending from the western end of the breakwater, with the weather however they motored in circles so it was a question of chase the committee boat. After the start (2 minute early according to my GPS!) a number of boats went straight into Cawsand bay to anchor and wait for better winds, I carried on, not wanting to get caught in possible light winds coming.

Jester Baltimore Challenge 2019 – In Baltimore.

Pre dinner drinks, me (left), Austin and Bernie.
(Photo by Tom)
Thursday and Friday was about unwinding and waiting for the big event on Saturday evening, the local Pirate festival and hoping everyone would arrive in time, I think the last to arrive came in early on Friday morning. The last to arrive direct, after a delayed start due to problems getting off a pontoon mooring was George in "Good Report" who arrived in time for lunch on Friday, and remarkably he made it through the main festivities that evening.

Saturday dinner at the sailing club was followed by a quiz night at a local pub - of which there are many!

The weather was getting a bit iffy and Sunday was spent on the boat sheltering from constant rain and strong winds.

Jesters at the Pirate festival

Flying a pirate flag (and some washing) for the festival.

Lunchtime drink with Bernie (Mischief) pic by Tom (Arctic Smoke)

Slide show of all my pictures whilst in Baltimore including many of the boats, page through by clicking the arrows or click in the centre of the pic to view from Flickr in a new window or full screen:

Jester Baltimore Challenge 2019 – The Return.

Achilles 9 metre "Sancerre"  off Wolf Rock
North of Wolf Rock Lighthouse when I had a few hours
peace and quiet whilst sailing.
Again the wind forecast was a big issue, strong on Sunday with very strong winds forecast mid week so there was not enough time to safely head direct for Gosport and time at anchor in the Isles of Scilly could be a bit bouncy. Also winds were forecast to be very light on Monday and Tuesday and probably easterly.

I did not want to be stuck in Ireland for a week and then perhaps find the wind still to be a problem so, having plenty of fuel, I left at 04:30 on Monday and suffered noisy motoring most of the way to Fowey arriving at 22:00 on Tuesday.

Lots of Dolphins on the way back:

Dolphins in the Celtic Sea (it starts a bit slow but quickly gets better) 
unfortunately the high resolution original was too big for Blogger 
but this is reasonable full screen on a medium laptop or iPad.
The promised stiff easterly winds came in on Wednesday morning peaking with very strong winds (F8 & F9s being reported) on Thursday and Friday so it was 3 days sitting out the weather on a mooring in Fowey, with some boat maintenance and these blog postings passing the time.

Mooring buoys in Fowey are very close together!
And in high season boats are rafted up!!!
I left Fowey early on Saturday with a decent wind... which lasted less than an hour and I was motoring again well into Lyme Bay, a F4 then came in from the west and I sailed into the Solent, the sea got nasty surprisingly quickly even allowing for the wind being against the tide so it was another tiring trip. I arrived at Gosport about 10:30 having sailed (and motored 😒 ) 835 nautical miles.

Slide show of all my pictures of the trip home, page through by clicking the arrows or click in the centre of the pic to view from Flickr in a new window or full screen:

Jester Balitimore Challenge 2019 - Issues, Lessons learned etc.


Sancerre stood up to some heavy seas very well, the only issue occurred running down from the Fastnet when a jib sheet caught on the snap shackle pull ring on the preventer as I was rigging it and pulled the pin completely out. A quick knot sorted that until I got into Baltimore when I spliced on a new shackle. This is not the first time this has happened to me, last time it was a spinnaker guy, but I have not come up with a solution except to buy stupidly expensive snap shackles without rings, not many companies make them, those by Wichard start at £130 and those by Tylaska at £160, and especially with 7 vulnerable shackles (excluding the spinnaker Halyard) that does not appeal.

Modifications & Additions being made:

Galley: I had already installed a crash bar in front of the cooker and thought that I could wedge myself in whilst using it, that proved optimistic when on port tack in the conditions we experienced. 

A spare life line and a folding pad eye from Boson's stores solved that with the pad eye on the aft bulkhead and the webbing line tied to the vertical hand hold forward. The loop on one end of the harness line serving as a convenient place to hang the clip when not in use.

Subsequently I added a second pad eye to the left of the companion way so the  safety belt can be used when using the sink.

Cockpit hand holds: I spent the best part of a day on deck almost all of the time because of the number of boats around - in addition to fishing boats etc, going round the Lizard 3 Jesters (Sancerre, Tranquillity & Drifter of Mochras) were within 1 - 200 yds. and at least a couple more (Guppy Unchained & Flamingo Lady) were close by.

Close hauled in 20knts + with a nasty sea I was pretty knackered holding on to a coach roof winch to stay in place, made more difficult on the long port tack by the Plotter & VHF being on the port bulkhead so I could not lean again it.

I have installed a couple of stainless grab handles that are low enough to go across the  top of the coach roof and not interfere with the winches. Also teak grab handles either side of the main hatch which are reachable when sat down.

Subsequently I put stainless grab handles on the edge of the cockpit seats to enable me to pull myself up from leeward (Arthritis makes that difficult) and as another place to hang on too.

Nav Table: Ok in normal circumstances and on starboard tack but on port tack when I was doing serious navigation I was sliding to starboard and my head was banging on the side of the coach roof.

A thick double kapok cockpit cushion on the outboard side solves that problem but it has to be a dedicated one as mine at least are permanently damp.

Subsequently I have installed additional storage for small items, principally my reading glasses, and additional security for the laptop on the chart table .

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Jester Challenge - Baltimore

Approaching the Fal, earlier this year.
Off very early on Monday 10th June towards Plymouth for the Jester (single handed) Challenge to Baltimore in southern Ireland which starts on the 16th. Light winds forecast getting stronger during the week so I will probably be motoring, at least to start with.

For Iridium position tracking (from Monday) in a new window click this link.