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Kit Guide

Dave Birch, The Laser 150 Challenge, Completed it Mate!

By Rooster Sailing 2nd October 2020
It started with a 4am Alarm and a 2.5 hour drive to Falmouth - like my day wasn't going to be long enough already! A reasonable forecast of predominantly NW F4+ winds, occasional F3, the bottom end of the acceptable wind range. My Brother and wingman, Brian helping to set things up to get me underway. I was equipped with a solar-powered compass, digital battery powered speedo from Rooster and a GPS to do my own navigation, along with enough nutrients and fluids for 48 hours.
09:10 and I was underway into the rainy Falmouth River. It wasn't until clear of the estuary that the winds developed.
A relatively calm sail to the Eddystone Lighthouse took all day, I caught a glimpse of the Navy mid-exercise with their new aircraft carrier. Past the Eddystone Lighthouse, I was graced with so many dolphins, all vowing for a place under the bow of my small dinghy!
I pushed my hand into the water with my GoPro firmly gripped, unsure of what I would capture...
Into the evening and getting further offshore, the sea state increased, as did the winds, giving speed surfing down a confused 6ft sea. Given that I had been sailing deep downwind, the risk of capsizing in the dark was such that I opted not to maintain my South Easterly course and headed due South, keeping the winds safely just aft of beam. Although I was not cold in the crisp night air, I put this down to my Rooster base layer, hat and gloves. My safety team onboard the support vessel were never more than 100 metres away keeping a close eye.
As day broke, so the wind faded away. It was just unfortunate that I was upon the approaches to the Eastbound shipping lanes that had 5 large container ships inbound. Creeping along at just 2-3 knots, I broke out the paddle to increase boat speed and out of the path the never-ending stream of ships pouring into the channel.
It was good to be clear, with sight of a squally rain cloud approaching. When it finally reached us, it brought just 20 knots but was truly exhilarating surfing a now 8ft rolling swell at up to 10 knots!
Alas, the winds faded again as the rain cloud moved away and never built above 8 knots which meant progress was slow with boat speeds only reaching 1-4knots and the use of the paddle once more as the speed dropped low.
My second day at sea was slow and long with winds lighter than forecast.
It seemed to take forever to reach the Hanois lighthouse at the South Western point of Guernsey as dusk drew in. As night engulfed us for another time, it faded to nothing. With just a couple of hours of favourable tide left, there was no possibility of reaching St Peter Port under sail for some time, and the ebbing tide swept me back West, further away from my destination. After 143.2 miles, I took the last resort: taking a tow to the finish, just 10 miles away. The tow was interesting - sleep deprivation had a strong grasp of me and it was a struggle to remain awake, hallucinations were bizarre: I saw cows and goats rolling in the wake of the towing vessel, then a cascade of glistening gold coins flowing from the towboat cockpit doorway where my Brother stood keeping a close eye on me, aware of my state.
Inside the harbour and close to shore, I cast the tow line and paddled hard to beach. At 1am there was a small gathering of friends and well-wishers. I jumped off the boat and into the shallow water but could not stand, only stagger. I beached the challenge dinghy then promptly showered with bubbly to mark the achievement. It was done. This discomfort of squatting on the back quarter of the laser combined with sleep deprivation was considerable to the point that I vowed never to put myself through that again! However, a day later...
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