March 28th saw Martin Indge and I down on the Isle of Wight for a Three Peaks Yacht Race training weekend.
We met the sailors at 1am on Lightning Reflex (the team yacht!) in Cowes and proceeded to talk and catch up over a few cold ones. Getting to sleep at 2:30am was probably not the best preparation for a long Saturday.
After a cold night aboard, I was kicked out of my berth at 7am. I dreamt of bacon butties (as promised by Gary, one of the sailors), but they were not forthcoming (although there seemed to be a lot of activity around the galley). Breakfast consisted of some nice Original Crunchy for me, but Martin mistook my description of us having muesli for breakfast to mean that we were going to eat cold Quaker porridge oats. He chomped valiantly. It didn't look appetising.
We were doing the Junior Offshore Group Nab Tower race. This is a race for offshore yachts from Cowes, round the Nab Tower and back. The Nab Tower is an old fort that was sunk onto the Nab Rock in 1920, lying some 5 miles off the east tip of the Isle of Wight. They built the tower on land, floated it out into position and then sank it. Maybe their marine surveying was not up to today's standards, but the Nab Tower leans at an angle of 3 degrees and hence has the air of a nautical Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The yacht race down to the Nab Tower was fantastic. We were powering along under spinnaker with the boat humming nicely (Lightning Reflex seems to hum when she's going well). Going downwind, everything's calm and you feel like you are going really quickly. Things changed as we turned around the Nab Tower and tacked back to the finish line. We were now going upwind and hanging off the weather rail of the yacht (the rail is the edge of the yacht and the weather rail is the top rail when you're sailing upwind, as opposed to the lee rail which will be the one dipping into the water on the other side), with Lightning Reflex heeling over at 40 degrees. Going upwind is traditionally considered to be harder on the crew than downwind sailing and I was pleased that Martin and I still felt good after a 4 hour pounding in the boat.
Martin and I left the sailors in Cowes and drove over to Yarmouth in the west of the island for a run. By the afternoon, the skies had cleared, though there was still a brisk wind. The running into the wind was hard, but we seemed to be greeted by fantastic views around every corner: the beaches around Totland, the multi-coloured cliffs of Alum Bay, the distant hills of the Isle of Purbeck, The Needles, the south coast of the Isle of Wight sweeping off into the distance. I think we were running pretty well, trotting up all the hills at a nice pace. We covered nearly 20 hills miles in just under 3 hours. The skipper, Geoff, decided this wasn't good enough and told us we'd have to run faster up Snowdon. I think this is good: no room for complacency and he obviously wants to be competitive. For me, it was a training run: getting used to sailing and then running, so I was pleased with how we went (and we actually did OK). We'll get some harder training in before the big event though.
A gruesome drive back to Wiltshire and Bristol followed and, feeling somewhat tired on the Sunday, it struck me that a good short sharp little run would be a good way of simulating the Three Peaks Yacht Race. I thus put in 9 miles along the Portishead coast path. It was another beatiful evening, with the sun setting over the Holm Islands with Exmoor in the distance. It's going to be nice getting out to sea again. The Bristol Channel is going to be a good Three Peaks training ground for us. We'll be able to sail to Cardiff and do the South Glamorgan coast path or go running in the Portishead / Clevedon areas after a day out at sea in my yacht. First things first though, there's some more hill training to be done.....