Just four days to go until the start of the 2013 OSTAR, and we are still racing to get to the start, even if we won't be competing this year. At T-minus 10 days I made the difficult decision to withdraw my entry when it became clear that there would not be enough time to finish all the work needed to prepare Zest for a safe 3000 mile passage across the North Atlantic.
I notified the race committee at the Royal Western Yacht Club of England via email. David Southwood, the race director, sent a sympathetic response, encouraging us to come take part in all the pre-race festivities just the same. This was a most welcome suggestion, as it meant I wouldn't have to completely disappoint my friends from London who had planned the whole holiday weekend around seeing me off from Plymouth. I would also be happy for the opportunity to meet the other skippers in person, after getting to know a number of them online. Perhaps we will be able to make ourselves useful to them, helping out with last minute errands and jobs.
But first we would need to get to Plymouth, and to do so it might be helpful to have some sails. After discussions with five different sailmakers, we had decided to go with Peter Kay and his team at OneSails in Hamble. We ordered three new headsails: a blade jib to go on a furler, a storm jib for the removable inner forestay and a code zero to be flown from the new bowsprit. As the newest mainsail that had come with Zest was of a good spec for the job and hardly used, we decided to let OneSails make a few alterations to that rather than buy a new one.
We cast off and motor down the Medina and out into the Solent. It's a grey afternoon with not much in the way of wind. We're punching against the tide, but even so we make good time, barely finishing our sandwiches before it's time to get the fenders and warps out for our arrival at Hamble Point Marina. OneSails' sailmaking sports psychologist Ian Brown helps us get the main and jib bent on. I get him to sign my copy of his excellent book "The Psychology of Sailing" before he has to run off to meet with another customer. He is replaced by Peter Kay, who has kindly agreed to fit a quick test sail into his busy schedule.
Back out in Southampton water we try out the new jib hard on the wind. The wind has strengthened since the trip over, so it's not ideal for the code 0, but we hoist it on a reach just to have a look. Peter makes a few quick adjustments to it, and then we roll it away. I am amazed at how quick and easy the new furler makes this. We then drop the furled code 0 and coil it into its bag.
We drop Peter off at Hamble Point, and then head back across the Solent. We hoist the old (A2) asymmetric spinnaker and make between three and four knots in 6 knots of true wind. I savour the peacefulness. As we approach Cowes, the sun comes out and lights up the sails of the Island Sailing Club's Tuesday night racing fleet who are mostly crossing ahead of us. I look forward to joining in with Zest one of these weeks, but first, Plymouth is still calling.