A beautiful day to be back...
Fri, 2 Oct 15 12:26
Today started with a lovely, blue and crisp Autumn morning. When the alarm went off I commented to Helena how dark it now was at 6 A.M. We had our own special brew of coffee, jumped in the van and drove down to the Sailing Academy. It's only just over a mile away. The sun wasn't quite up and there was little action. We opened the creaky doors of the container and let the dawns early light flood in. The container had been taken over as a workshop and home to the Sailrocket 3 models but now they have served their purposes and been cleared out. The "box" belonged to Sailrocket 2 again... and today was all about her.
We had a request to put her on display at this years Advanced engineering Show up at the NEC in Birmingham later in the year. Both Alex and I went to this show last year and found it very impressive on many levels. The shows organisers loved our project and what it represented and insisted we come. For me personally, it's a bit of an honor to have our teams achievements be displayed in such a context ( I never did finish that Engineering degree). She was often better received as a feat of design and engineering than as a feat of sailing. Not one sailing magazine world-wide put ever put her on the cover and yet she appeared on the cover of engineering publications. It was to to be the first public display of the Sailrocket 2 since she did the business back in November 2012. We got the forward fuselage out briefly earlier on in the year just to check there were no shockers going on corrosion-wise but apart from that she's been in the box for nearly three years.
Alex joined us as the sun came up and together we looked inside and pondered the puzzle. There are so many good memories attached to this boat and project that it's always a joy for us. The thought of giving her some love and putting her back together is invigorating.
She is unsponsored now as our focus has been on what comes next i.e. Sailrocket 3. There has been very little resource dedicated to Sailrocket 2. In so many ways we consider the speed sailing box to be very satisfyingly ticked. The end result was incredible. It brings us joy on a daily basis, especially as we know every minute of what it took out of us to achieve... However, some time has passed... and their do remain a few boxes unticked-
1/ The boat is structured to go much faster. 65 knots was well within her comfort zone and achieved very quickly once we got a few aspects sorted. The last run was awesome... but in some respects messy. It was simply the last day of the record attempt and the sponsorship dollars. She's got more to offer.
2/ Helena hasn't had her shot. The cockpit was built from the get-go to accomodate two frame sizes.
3/ This ones a little more obscure but emerging nonetheless. We originally came to Weymouth to campaign a speed sailing yacht with a view to breaking some records in the UK in 2004. Portland Harbour is the original home of speed-sailing and yet no one has ever done a 40 knot run here. Granted, it's not worth going for a ratified attempt, but Weymouth Speed week has run continuously since 1972 and that milestone hasn't been reached. It should be easy for a number of craft... and yet it remains to be done. Shortly after we built the wing for Sailrocket 1 we got tired of waiting for the elusive good days and headed for Walvis Bay. Conditions wise, Walvis bay is worlds better. it just is... pick any reason. But we live here... and 5 years at the Walvis grind stone sharpened the worlds fastest speed sailing knife that now resides here as well.
The original plan was to simply get Sailrocket out, assemble her
and make sure she's fit for display later in the year. Nothing more. I figured that in her un-sponsored state there wouldn't be the resource or capability to get her on the water. Why would we risk damaging her for no big agenda? What's the point?
Bit by bit we took her out of the container into the warm sunshine and bit by bit I was reminded of what a great and well sorted boat she was. She's tough and practical. She's user friendly. We know her inside out. Campaigning her with a small team in Africa meant we had to keep her robust and simple and be as self sufficient as possible. Everything we need is in "the Box" she lives in. We had taken care putting her away and hence she went back together very quickly. Alex knows her intimately. Throughout this process I began to realise I was looking for reasons not to put her on the water when really, from what we've seen so far, there aren't any. At the end of the day she's a well built, tough boat practically designed to be used to do a specific job. She did three runs on that last day and each peaked over 60 knots. We hosed her off and put her away unbroken. She's good to go.
I think Helena, Alex and I all took great pleasure in our work today. It's such a pleasure to be working on something that has done what we said it would rather than having to explain and justify the effort and potential. The numbers have spoken.
WE PLUGGED IN THE COSWORTH BOX AND THE LITTLE COCKPIT DISPLAYS LIT UP... LIKE THE EYES OF THE TERMINATOR. SHE'S ALIVE!
I sent texts and photos to many old friends of the project and got many warm replies. Towards the end of the day when the platform sat fully assembled on her three launch trolleys, I climbed into the cockpit for the first time since Walvis bay... and breathed out. I shut my eyes and enjoyed the warmth of the setting sun on my face whilst my mind happily floated amongst the memories wondering which one to settle on.
It occured to me that during a run the sun was never in my face as the course ran to the East. The only time I had the sun in my face was during the long slow tows back up the course. These were times I was often left hunkered down in the cockpit to my own thoughts. They were very personal times I hadn't really considered since. The moments where you ponder deeper thoughts about what you are doing and why you are doing it. I thought of all the times I got slowly dragged up past the timing hut where Helena so patiently watched, waited and prepared the cameras and loggers waiting for god-knows-what to come hurtling by... or not. Day in, week out, month in, year out. So many hours spent with the sun in my face, wind and spray blowing, deep in thought... and dreaming that one day it might all come together. So many memories all blended together and pushed aside as the dream eventuated. They came vividly back today. Damn that was a hard, challenging, fun and glorious project.
So the idea of potentially going sailing has grown on me. Not for the purpose of sailing down memory lane... or any desperate grab at something meaningless... but simply because this great sailing boat should be sailed and we, who call ourselves sailors, have the great opportunity to do so. We now have a boat beyond the dreams of our dreams when we first entered Sailrocket 1 11 years ago. I was inspired enough by the rich history of the event to join the fraternity and now call Weymouth home. The chance to write our own page in its history is simply too good to pass up. It's worth a shot.
... is loose and will remain reactive to how we perceive the condition of the boat as we re-assemble her and of course, the weather. The course is tricky and we may get overwhelmed by the logistics of the course but we will keep heading in that direction.
The platform is assembled. Tomorrow we will put the wing together and see what parts need re-skinning. We will continue to go over various parts of the platform to make sure we can set her up as she was on her last run. It looks like the weekend will be light which should allow us to do a full rig up of the wing on the boat to make sure all the systems are functioning properly. The systems that allow us to launch, raise, lower and retrieve the boat are all equally important as those used whilst sailing. We are a team of three now so we need to keep it realistic as to what can be achieved. We need things to go smoothly. I'm sure we'll get help but this needs management and can be distracting as well (That doesn't mean you shouldn't offer if so inclined).
If a good weather and tide opportunity presents itself then we may well go out for a look. Weymouth is a difficult place for this craft to be launched and retrieved from. It's a short course with heaps of obstacles from large shallows to moored yachts. Any day that is good for us is also great for everyone else and it gets busy.
POTENTIAL COURSES. YOU CAN SEE THE SHALLOW AREAS IN CLOSE TO THE SHORE. YOU CAN ALSO SEE THE MOORED YACHTS DOWN NEAR WHERE THE RED LINES CROSS. I WILL NEED TO SLOW SAILROCKET AND PARK HER SOMEWHERE DOWN THERE. THIS WILL BE A GOOD PLACE TO TOW HER TO SHORE AND LOWER THE RIG. PROVIDED IT'S NOT TOO SHALLOW AT THIS END... AND THE TRAFFIC IS WELL MANAGED THEN I'M NOT TOO WORRIED ABOUT THIS. THE HARD BIT WILL BE GETTING THE RIG UP AT THE TOP OF THE PICTURE AND EASING THE BOAT OUT SO I CAN LINE UP WITH EITHER OF THOSE TWO RED LINES/COURSES. THE OTHER OPTION IS TO SAIL OUTSIDE THE MOORED BOATS IN THE ROUGHER WATER. THE BOATS TOUGH AND CAN HANDLE SOME CHOP. WE'LL SEE.
Despite all her practical attributes, great visibility and control whilst sailing, she wasn't designed for this course. It needs to be towed to the shore to raise and lower the wing. Certain tides might hamper this at both ends. Gusty conditions will make her vulnerable during some stages of the process. If it's not right... it's not right. No pressure but we would like to go for a run if we can. So let's head in that direction and see how far we get. Whatever happens it will be a pleasure to simply get her battle ready again. It will also be a pleasure to have her on display in front of sailors at Speed-week. Yeah, Why not eh?