Helgoland to Edinburgh race report (Report from Cathy Sedgeworth)

The Helgoland to Edinburgh race is the climax of the Nordseewoche (North Sea Week) event which starts with feeder races to Helgoland, which is 50 miles off the North German coast. The Helgoland regatta attracts a large fleet, around 1500 sailors, and of these some 33 yachts had entered for the Offshore series race to Edinburgh on Monday 20th May. The weather forecast for the week further depleted the entry list as there were very strong NW winds of up to 45knots a possibility for Friday and the starter field reduced to 19.

The initial stages of the race were in light winds and poor visibility but the wind soon picked up into Tuesday morning and increased through Wednesday. On the Nordseewoche website news link there are various reports from the yachts about their experiences. Arrabbiata, a Sunfast 3320 at 10m, has written a very powerful report of their time in the North Sea:

On Tuesday they experienced idyllic sailing with dolphins alongside the yacht. On Wednesday the wind had increased to force 7- 8 and one of their 4 crew was confined below deck with sea-sickness. Through Wednesday night the temperature was icy cold, with everything wet from frequent showers, heavily reefed with small jib or storm sail, no food or fluid for hours.  Through Thursday the wind increased with squally icy showers, but the coast of Northern England was in sight. This had the effect of piling up the waves with breakers and they are 5-8m high, with the deck streaming with water. It was painfully slow progress tacking out from the shore with tacking angles like the ‘days of windjammers’. In these battling conditions things started to break,  the mainsail tore,  the mast electrics were all damaged, with the other electrics all haywire.

By Thursday night the crew were all taking turns to shelter below with only a helm on deck for 15 minute spells. Decks were awash in the troughs, but there was a new forecast that showed the wind going northeast. Edinburgh remained a possibility until later that evening as the predicted 45 knots were exceeded and the first of 3 knock downs occurs. The wind the turned Northeast and strengthened and this makes the Firth a lee shore. After 2 further knock downs the crew turn for Blyth and surf down huge waves to reach safe harbour at 2am Friday.

There were only 6 yachts made it to Edinburgh of which 5 were finishers, Scho-ka-kola, NRV, Magic, Pogo 1 and Charisma.

The crew of the first yacht in, Magic gathered at the bar, tired but happy.

The last yacht, Charisma, made it in at nearly 4pm on Saturday after a passage that took them nearly to Norway in an attempt to evade the worst of the waves and weather. They just had time for a shower before the BBQ!

The other yacht to arrive was Brainwash which was Dutch registered with a Russian crew who very nearly made it but a damaged mainsail meant they finished under engine power.

Saturday night was a perfect BBQ night with sunshine and light winds and it was great to have the support of so many members and friends to swell the numbers from a heroic but depleted group of around 35 sailors.

There was meant to be a race back to Kiel but as only 2 of the entrants were in Edinburgh and the rest in the wrong harbours it was decided to cancel this race.  It normally is run every 4 years but it may be considered again for 2015.

All those involved in the organisation, race finish teams and regatta office and the club organisation has been thanked for all the efforts made. The good news seems to be that there were no serious injuries despite the weather and wave conditions experienced. Susan and Simon Peakman were on board Helena and returned to Helgoland on Wednesday after experiencing extreme conditions and we look forward to their first hand account of their experience.

We can only hope for better conditions for 2015!

Helgoland Products for Sale
With the small arrival numbers there are a number of jackets left over from the event and they will be on display on the clubhouse rack for anyone interested.  These are mainly size XL, but this is actually closer to an L size.  Try one on and see how it fits.  They are very good value – reduced now to £25.  Contact the Office or see the poster on club notice board for details.