Phil skippers Class 40 entry to podium finish in Rolex Fastnet with former F1 Technical Director, Mike Gascoyne.
Jersey sailor Phil Sharp was skipper and navigator in a crew of four aboard the Class 40 Silvi Belle 2, which including James French, Adrian Kuttal, as well as former F1 Technical Director and keen offshore sailor, Mike Gascoyne. They helped push the boat near its limits around the 600 mile course from Cowes to Plymouth, via the Fastnet Rock off Ireland, in the biennial offshore highlight of the yachting calendar.
Phil describes the race:
“Overall it was a challenging race and offered a bit of everything, testing our patience in very light airs to testing our stamina in the heavier winds coming back from the Fastnet. We were a crew that were new to the boat and so we were delighted with 3rd place out of the 24 boats in Class 40, which is one of the largest and most exciting classes in the race.
“At the start we had so little wind we actually drifted across the line on the tide. Fortunately though the wind filled in early so we could escape from the Solent and work our way upwind along the South Coast. We were kept busy with looking for wind most of the time and making sure we tacked inshore at the correct time to take advantage of sea breezes.
“The second night we chose to go around the west side of the Scillies in order to seek new wind and find better current, whereas the rest of the fleet chose to go to the east. Upon arrival the breeze promptly shut down close to the islands and we spent the whole night wallowing around in the middle of a high pressure ridge waiting for new wind to arrive. Occasionally the odd dolphin popped up to see what we were up to, but in the absence of any bow wave soon left, unimpressed!
“Although struggling to move, the night actually went very well for us. The next morning, to our delight, we found that we had moved up from 5th to take a narrow lead in the fleet, and we held this lead all the way to the Fastnet. The rounding of the famous Irish lighthouse is always something to look forward to but when we got there it was the dead of night, strong winds, uncomfortable seas, and torrential rain. It was as if to say “Sorry no summer in Ireland this August – please come back next year…”, and a few miles later as we started heading back towards England, the rain promptly stopped!
“On the return leg we were overtaken by two of the more powerful Class 40’s, Tales II and Concise 8, who were nipping at our heels up to the Rock. We had some issues with our halyards and were delayed in setting the correct reaching sail until dawn. This was frustrating to watch them sail away from us, but frankly the other crews knew their boats and sails onboard a lot better than us, and so were one step ahead. We had managed only 1 day of training on the boat before the Fastnet, so were very much learning the ropes as we raced.
“Despite this we had a very fast and exciting ride back from the Rock to the Scillies, when we eventually set our gennaker and found the ideal setup. We were sitting at speeds of 15 knots and regularly touching 18 knots, surfing down the building waves.
“Just after midnight on Thursday we were all very pleased to cross the finish line in Plymouth in 3rd place to complete the Class 40 podium. We had a good mix of people with different skill-sets on board and this really contributed to our success. Personally it was a great opportunity to develop my navigation skills and weather strategy which is so important for short-handed sailing, particularly for the oceanic races such as the TJV and Vendee Globe.”
The next focus for Phil and the team is to progress to the 60 foot Ocean Masters series over the next couple of months, as part of their campaign, the Vendée Globe Energy Challenge, an exclusive Zero Emissions entry in the 2016 Vendée Globe. The team are now looking forward to announcing some exciting developments as part of the 15 month build up to world’s toughest sporting challenge.
For more information on the Vendée Globe Energy Challenge, please contact Gordon Ritchie at email@example.com or 07973 101534.