ARCing across the Atlantic: In 2008 three of us crossed the Atlantic from Gran Canaria to St Lucia aboard ‘Equinox’. a Moody 38 skippered by Gordon Campion, following a delivery trip from Lagos in Southern Portugal. The crossing was as part of the annual ‘Atlantic Rally for Cruisers’ (ARC). Of course it’s not really a race, but for the record we came 61st out of 147 on handicap. Gordon went on to circumnavigate the world in Equinox, which makes the Atlantic crossing in gentle trade winds look like a gentle stroll. His story about his epic journey is here...  and a video of dolphins I snapped in the middle of the Atlantic here.


I did just over 7000 nautical miles in 2008, at an average speed somewhat less than 5 knots. All in all the hours spent at sea in 2008 were round about the same as the average working year for most people.


Flying Elephant to Cornwall: In 2009 I helped Fiona Harrison in her circumnavigation of England and Wales in Dumbéa (AKA ‘Dumbo’) her Albin Vega. I sailed the section from Largs to Penzance via Ireland. Fiona’s log of her voyage is here...  anbd there’s three dolphin videos I took aboard Dumbo here.



Also in 2009 I sailed from Majorca to Sicily, via Menorca and Sardinia, aboard Andy and Pam Burns’ Ronautica 40 ‘Grand Slam’. Andy’s log of the trip is here...


Zoph’s tour of the west coast took in the Mull of Kintyre, the mainland as far as the Summer Isles and the outer Hebrides from Stornoway to South Uist. Returning via the Caley Canal.



Racing Rant: I’m far, far too competitive to race my boat. I would lose and then become bitter and twisted about the unfairness of it all. Casual observation would also suggest that many racing sailors are not actually terribly keen on sailing. In order to curry favour with them I wrote the following piece to extol the virtues of and lay down some ground rules for proper sailing





Text Box: OK I’m convinced and I promise to mend my ways. It is now abundantly clear to me that proper sailing involves racing repeatedly around some orange footballs moored on the inner Forth. Merely ‘going for a sail’ - be it round Inchcolm or round the world - is a decadent and sinful pursuit only valid as a prelude to racing.

That racing is the highest form of the art of sailing is a lesson that can clearly be drawn from history.
Take the Vikings for example. Yes they sailed the oceans conquering, pillaging and what have you, but all their greatest heroes were best known for their intimate knowledge of the racing rules. We can all be inspired by the great saga of Thorfinn the Frequently Broached, who came second in Division Two (Displacement Longboats) in the Reykjavik Autumn Series in 1284.

You will probably be aware that Christopher Columbus was said to have ‘discovered’ America, which doubtless came as a surprise to the people who lived there. But is he remembered for that? Of course not! Columbus is chiefly celebrated for his commendable ‘3rd overall in Class, Planing Sports Galleons’ at the 1487 Regatta of the Lisbon Yacht Club.

It’s a little known fact that Ferdinand Magellan was the first skipper to circumnavigate the earth. It appears he got lost after he visited the Straits of Magellan out of curiosity when he heard there was a place with the same name as his. Turning right instead of left the idiot ended up having his fleet sail right round the world. Typically for an irresponsible cruising sailor he went and died halfway round, leaving his crew to finish the trip. He would of course be unknown to history were it not for his memorable performance in the Seville Sailing Club Sunday Afternoon Pursuit Series of 1518, which he would have won had he not done a spectacular spinnaker broach in the last race, after his bow man died suddenly of scurvy.

The list of great racing sailors is too long and venerable to go into in detail here. Vasco de Gama, Francis Drake, Abel Tasman (so called because he came from Tasmania) and the travel agent Captain James T. Cook (who famously published his ‘Captains’s Logs’), all gained notoriety for their exploits round the cans on a Sunday afternoon.

In more recent times Francis Chichester became famous for racing a topper round and round an olympic course in Chichester Harbour, which is of course named after him. Who would remember his name today, however, if he’d only been a cruising sailor?

For us it is a sine qua non of becoming respected seamen to sail three times round the Beamer then park ourselves firmly on Society Bank at low tide. That’s sailing for real men. Not your namby pamby Southern Ocean cruising sailors, with their constant whingeing about the supposed 60ft breaking seas round Cape Horn. They should try getting their Dubarry wellies slightly splashed by some spray from a light chop on the inner Forth if they really want to know what it’s like to sail to hell and back.

Apparently, people who merely cruise across the oceans and don’t do proper racing spend quite a lot of time looking at things called ‘charts’ and ‘navigating’ instead of actually sailing. They should remember that if you’re not sitting on the rail wearing Musto HPX gear, wrap-around shades and a slight sneer directed at the slower boats, you’ve no right to call yourself a sailor.

§	So here are my Twelve Commandments to follow if you want to become a proper sailor....
§	Never go out for a sail when there isn’t a race on, for example on a Saturday afternoon, no matter how perfect the breeze.
§	Never leave the marina without a crew of at least eight.
§	Never hoist the sails until ten minutes before the race start.
§	Drop all sail the instant you cross the finish line and go back onto your pontoon until the next race. On no account be tempted to ‘go for a nice little sail because the weather is nice’ between races.
§	Never sail with the tide - for example down river on the ebb and back on the flood. Real seamen always sail against the tide. Preferably spending a couple of hours trying to sail up river against a spring ebb in two knots of wind, with prizes awarded to the last boat to drift backwards through both bridges.
§	Learn to shout very loudly at your crew. Some voice projection training may help.
§	Empty the diesel and water tanks to cut down on weight.
§	Get a better paying job and/or win the lottery so that you can afford to pay for all the damage your boat will sustain.
§	Buy a bigger house in order to store the dinghy, outboard, petrol can, liferaft, bunk cushions, cooker, gas bottles, spare warps, kedge anchor and chain, all but one of the batteries, all the food, crockery, cutlery and pans, charts, pilot books, almanac, self-steering gear, 200 cans of beer, wind turbine, CDs, toolkit, engine spares, clothing, bow anchor and chain and indeed anything else that makes your boat both seaworthy and enjoyable to be on. All this weight must go if you are to sail anywhere near your handicap. (By the way, a teaspoon tied to a length of string makes a suitable replacement anchor for racing).
§	Buy an entirely different boat.
§	If you aspire to be a proper crew member then specialise. The expression ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’ is apposite here. The truly great sailor trains in one task and one task only. For some it is steering the boat. For others it is knowing where they are. For others it is grinding a winch (port side) and for still others their chief skill lies in sitting on the rail and being heavy. So pick the skill that’s right for you and learn only that. After all, nobody likes a smartarse.
§	If you find yourself actually enjoying sailing stop it immediately, thrash yourself vigorously about the face with a wet rope end and don’t take the boat out again until it’s raining hard. I cannot stress enough that proper sailing is not about enjoying the experience of being at sea.
I hope this helps. I’m off now to stand under a cold shower in my leaky wet gear to simulate the experience of crewing on the Forth in December.